Mallarme(Poet)

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Mallarme(Poet)


Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé, a French poet, became one of the most important masters of French symbolism, a nineteenth-century movement in poetry that stressed impressions and moods rather than descriptions of reality (Online). The poetry of Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, and others strongly affected Mallarmé’s writing (Online). He used symbolism to represent human emotions to make his poems unclear, thus avoiding direct communication with his readers (Online & World Book 110,111).
Mallarmé was born in Paris on March 18, 1842 (Online). After his mother died when he was seven years old, his grandmother became his parental role model. His education included upper-class boarding schools where he often felt out of place because of his middle class background. When he was fifteen, the death of his younger sister, Maria, greatly influenced his poetic development. He turned from Romantic lyricism to much more morbid subjects like Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal. In 1860, he received his baccalaureate degree from a “lycee” in Sens. After an apprenticeship in the Registry’s office, in 1862 he had his first sonnet published in Le papillon, a literary journal. In 1862 Mallarmé married Maria Gerhard and became a teacher in Tournon.
The difficult duties of teaching often interrupted his poetic work and thoughts. Although his students made fun of him, Mallarmé was not discouraged and continued his writing. After translating Edgar Allan Poe’s English poems into French, Mallarmé’s chief influence became Poe rather than Baudelaire. He began to compose long imaginative poems and a prose poem called Herodiade, the biblical story of Salome who caused John the Baptist’s murder. Then he wrote his best-known poem L’Après-midi d’un faune (Afternoon of a Faun), which explores the difference between reality and fantasy (World Book 110,111).
After moving to Paris in 1875 and becoming a teacher at College Rollin, Mallarmé began to associate with such famous French poets as Theodore de Banville, Paul Verlaine, and Gustave Kahn (Online). These and others visited him on Tuesday evenings (les mardis), and these poets became known as les mardistes. Mallarmé spoke about using words as symbols and was considered an oracle. He became known as the “Master of Symbolism” because of the great effect he had on the poets of his age. To honor his colleagues, he later wrote Toast funebre and “Le tombeau d’Edgar Poe” (“The Tomb of Edgar Poe”), a poem telling of Poe’s “eternal genius” despite his sad life. This poem is one of the most often quoted poems in French literature.
In 1869, Mallarmé started but did not complete Igitur: ou, la folie d’Elbehnon, twelve prose fragments of different lengths (Online). Classified as a story, a prose poem, and a drama, Igitur did not appeal to feelings but to the intelligence of the reader. It shows his lifelong preoccupation with death, infinity, fantasy, and absence. Despite Mallarmé’s requests to dispose of his Igitur notes at his death, his son-in-law, Dr. Bonninot, tried to reorganize the prose fragments and published them in 1925. In his final work Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hasard (A Throw of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance), Mallarmé showed his interest in musical verse form and set his words in different typefaces to illustrate visually the subject of the poem and to stress the unity of thought and sound.
Mallarmé thought that one should not change or paraphrase the language of a poem (Americana 143). He believed that sacred things are surrounded in mystery and that poetry has secrets that should be protected, just as religion does. According to Mallarmé, poetry is not like music because the latter cannot be understood by all. To this poet, the silences in a poem are just as important as the words. He also thought that the reason for writing poetry is the creation of poetic language; therefore, poetry itself is the subject of all poems.
Although Mallarmé tried to develop a “Grand Oeuvre,” he spent so much time and energy thinking about the true nature of poetry that he was unable to write this work (Online). He sometimes suffered from depression and lack of creativity due to his changing poetic intentions, his dislike for instant pleasure in literature, and his insistence that the reader himself search for the symbolic meaning in

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