Translations by Larisa Biyuts
The Winter Tremble
blank verse by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
Always slow, among flowers and deities, the clock striking thirteen. Who previously owned this Saxon clock? Picture them bringing it from Saxony by those old slow stagecoaches.
(Weird shadows looming over the old windowpanes.)
Who did ever look at oneself in the Venetian mirror, deep like a cold spring, enclosed in the snaky framing with the faded gilding? Surely, more than one woman used to sink the sin of her beauty in the stream of this spring and if I stayed peering for a long while I could see a naked phantom.
“Nasty, you can be so caustic…”
(The cobweb above the big windows.)
Our wardrobe trunk is very old too. Look how the glum woodwork shows purple in this lighting. Time has left traces on the faded curtains, on the embroidery of the chairs with the faded ruddy varnish, and the yellowish etchings on the walls, on all our old things. Don’t you think that even the Bengalee finches and blue bird are somewhat time-faded?
(Don’t think of the cobweb that trembles above the big windows.)
You love all this, that’s why I can live beside you. Didn’t you wish -- oh my sister whose eye turned to the Past -- the words “charm of all withering” to sound in one of my cantos? You detest new things. They frighten you with their meretricious harshness, making you feel like obliterating their counters and colours -- which is so difficult to those who are tired by every motion.
Close the old German Almanach, which you read so attentively, though it is published more than a hundred years ago and the enumerated lords are no more. Lying on the ancient carpet with my head on the faded cloth that covers your lap, oh quiet child, I shall be talking long! No fields around; the streets have got empty; I shall talk about our furniture… What are you thinking about?
(The cobweb trembling above the big windows.)
an excerpt from one of prose poems by Stéphane Mallarmé
[…] How many days I’ve spent in solitude, with my cat? Speaking “in solitude”, I mean that there is no other living thing, and my cat is a mystical friend; it’s my thought. So, I can say that I’ve spent many long days in solitude with my cat and one of the late Latin authors of decline. Since the light entity is no more, I love morbidly, and exceptionally all what can be defined by the word “fading” or “finish of blossoming”. Thus, my favourite season of a year is the last languorous days of summer, when autumn is to come right after them, and my favourite hour of a day is when I go out for a walk, when the sun lingers above the skyline, before going down, and shines yellow copper over the gray walls and red copper over the windowpanes. Similarly, the literature, in which my mind finds pleasure, is the poesy of the last moments of Rime fighting against death, while the literature never inhaled the renewing coming if the barbarians and never began babbling in the infant Latin of the first Christian prose. And so, I was reading one of those lovely epics, whose rouge is more charming to me than any roses of youth, placing my hand in the soft fur of the light animal, when suddenly […]
from “The Knight who Slept on the Snow”
by Henri de Regnier (1864-1936)
“Here lives he who had no adventures because he was too up to date to the epoch beyond our reach. Hence there are my loneliness and my seeming arrogance to the fate. The paltriness of what the fate offers justifies my abstaining from submission to that. I have confined my desires to some things that are the desires’ symbols rather than mere things. Next, I have added some flowers to them here and there. The flowers have no other meaning but themselves, and I dearly love them for this. A few glass or crystal things on the stands. Isn’t that enough since one vessel of glass can remind of all springs we have never drunk from? Similarly, in the frosting of the windowpane I see pictures of the shores I’ve never moored to, and the forests where I’ve never got lost.”
The Manuscript Found in the Bookcase
by Henri de Regnier (1864-1936)
“[…] Loneliness perhaps doesn’t exist, and whatever one thinks of loneliness of one’s desire or impassiveness, they are not lonely. They either look at themselves in the future or contemplate themselves in the past; they either foresee or recall. Their loneliness is seeming. Any loneliness is seeming. How true is my loneliness, the loneliness of the one who seems to shrink into oneself? And yet, sometimes it seems to me that I am lonely, that I am lonelier than any mortal here, in my loneliest dwelling.
[…] Today I saw leaves fall one by one into the reservoir. Maybe, it was my mistake to give myself to other pursuits but these melancholic hours of counting the leaves falling one by one into the sombre and disturbed water. Of all days in my life a recollection would remain as a tree filled up with another and a line of following ones, adjoined and going deep into my past as an alternating and prophetic vista, distant as my past.
The leaves fall faster and faster; two of them conjoin in the air. The wind weights them carefully one by one before letting them fall, as they are, fatigued and useless. In the reservoir the leaves float on the surface first, and then being soaked in little by little they grow heavy and half sink. Yesterday leaves. But there are others wandering under water. One can see them through the lucid icy water, lucid to the bottom, scaly from the deceitful bronze of the sunken leaves.
The fate of the leaves is known: how they open and become green, how they die in autumn despite their sham array of many-coloured gold and histrionic purple. The sunset shows red through the trees; the lilac-tinted decay of the twilight gnaws it by its melancholy clouds. The sadness of the moment is nearly hurting. The lamp is bright in the corner of the spacious hall with tall arched windows, and I stare at the mat glass. I see the falling leaves no longer; I feel something breaks off, piling up within me. It seems to me that I hear the fall of my own thoughts. They fall from the height one by one as a slow fall of the leaves and I meet them with my entire past that lives within me. Their dead light fall is weightless; they have nothing what they want to be. Vanity has fallen; glory has faded.
The new day. The lamplight. True, I saw the leaves fall one by one, but there were the thyrsi in the vineyards and orchards! The lips drank the juiciness of the pears. The child carried the golden apples in his hands; and when he turned round, on the threshold, in the evening, his curls were bays-crowned and the buccna sounded in the deep grottoes!
I hear the hoarse trumpets sing from the old cedar in front of the house, at the heavy stone slab. The gold of their sound is somewhat split. Their breath is jerky and out of tune. They mock at the glory which they trumpet over the world; they say they have lost something important, and the distorted sound of the fanfare slips into a throaty scream.
It’s peacocks trumpeting from their high perch, the old cedar at the stone slab. Black, they stand out against the reddish-grey twilights. Looking like agates on the Tyrrhenian sky, they seem black because they have been burnt by their own glitter and the consuming heat of their plumage and not because they have been charred by the fiery bonfire of the sunset.
Black and prophetic, they as though guard somebody’s tomb, and the stone slab looks like a tombstone this evening. Its eroded block frowns and as though grows heavier. When will you heave off the similar depressing slab, oh inconceivably lost, oh the catacombs dweller, you who are more than life, who may be possessed only after life and whom I called [...]”