(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In Les Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé, Mallarmé combined examples of his various poetic styles and documented his own intense relationship with the creative process. Throughout the collection, the poems’ moments of renewed optimism collide with emblems of failure.

Early poems composed in the 1860’s typify the period when Mallarmé was under the influence of Baudelaire. “Le Sonneur” (“The Bell Ringer”) uses both the sonnet form and contrast of high and low objects that had appeared often in Flowers of Evil. Here the octave of the sonnet describes the situation of a child who has been sent to ring a church bell to announce the Angelus. The call to prayer rings forth in the morning air, but the child himself, inside the church, can hear it only faintly.

In the sestet, Mallarmé likens himself to the bell ringer in that he can not hear the poetry he longs to create. Unable to sound out his ideal, he desires night, emblematic of death, and considers suicide. While this sonnet expresses Mallarmé’s continuing desire, the use of imagery in which the bell ringer and night are explicitly paired with the poet and death marks this as an early composition.

A similar theme and even more Baudelairian images appear in “L’Azur” (“The Azure”). Mallarmé sees the powerless poet traversing a sterile desert, mocked by an azure sky that is described in terms of flowers. Flowers, emblematic of both life in...

(The entire section is 460 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cohn, Robert Greer. Mallarmé’s “Divagations”: A Guide and Commentary. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

Fowlie, Wallace. Mallarmé. Chicago: University of Chicago Press/Phoenix Books, 1962.

Kinloch, David, and Gordon Millan, eds. Situating Mallarmé. French Studies of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries 10. Oxford, England: Peter Lang, 2000.

Lloyd, Rosemary. Mallarmé: “Poésies.” Critical Guides to French Texts 42. London: Grant and Cutler, 1984.

Lloyd, Rosemary. Mallarmé: The Poet and His Circle. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Michaud, Guy. Mallarmé. Translated by Marie Collins. New York: New York University Press, 1965.

Pearson, Roger. Unfolding Mallarmé: The Development of a Poetic Art. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1996.