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The Afternoon of the Faun~Stephane Mallarme

The Afternoon of a Faun


by Stephane Mallarme

Translation from French by Roger Fry

Paintings by Rebecca A. Barrington


These nymphs I would perpetuate.

So clear

Their light carnation, that it floats in the air

Heavy with tufted slumbers.

Was it a dream I loved?

My doubt, a heap of ancient night, is finishing

In many a subtle branch, which, left the true

Wood itself, proves, alas! that all alone I gave

Myself for triumph the ideal sin of roses.

Let me reflect

. . .if the girls of which you tell

Figure a wish of your fabulous senses!

Faun, the illusion escapes from the blue eyes

And cold, like a spring in tears, of the chaster one:

But, the other, all sighs, do you say she contrasts

Like a breeze of hot day in your fleece!

But no! through the still, weary faintness

Choking with heat the fresh morn if it strives,

No water murmurs but what my flute pours

On the chord sprinkled thicket; and the sole wind

Prompt to exhale from my two pipes, before

It scatters the sound in a waterless shower,

Is, on the horizon's unwrinkled space,

The visible serene artificial breath

Of inspiration, which regains the sky.

Oh you, Sicilian shores of a calm marsh

That more than the suns my vanity havocs,

Silent beneath the flowers of sparks, RELATE

"That here I was cutting the hollow reeds tamed

By talent, when on the dull gold of the distant

Verdures dedicating their vines to the springs,

There waves an animal whiteness at rest:

And that to the prelude where the pipes first stir

This flight of swans, no! Naiads, flies

Or plunges . . ."

Inert, all burns in the fierce hour

Nor marks by what art all at once bolted

Too much hymen desired by who seeks the Ia:

Then shall I awake to the primitive fervour,

Straight and alone, 'neath antique floods of light,

Lilies and one of you all through my ingenuousness.

As well as this sweet nothing their lips purr,

The kiss, which a hush assures of the perfid ones,

My breast, though proofless, still attests a bite

Mysterious, due to some august tooth;

But enough! for confidant such mystery chose

The great double reed which one plays 'neath the blue:

Which, the cheek's trouble turning to itself

Dreams, in a solo long, we might amuse

Surrounding beauties by confusions false

Between themselves and our credulous song;

And to make, just as high as love modulates,

Die out of the everyday dream of a back

Or a pure flank followed by my curtained eyes,

An empty, sonorous, monotonous line.

Try then, instrument of flights, oh malign

Syrinx, to reflower by the lakes where you wait for me!

I, proud of my rumour, for long I will talk

Of goddesses; and by picturings idolatrous,

From their shades unloose yet more of their girdles:

So when of grapes the clearness I've sucked,

To banish regret by my ruse disavowed,

Laughing, I lift the empty bunch to the sky,

Blowing into its luminous skins and athirst

To be drunk, till the evening I keep looking through.

Oh nymphs, we diverse MEMORIES refill.

"My eye, piercing the reeds, shot at each immortal

Neck, which drowned its burning in the wave

With a cry of rage to the forest sky;

And the splendid bath of their hair disappears

In the shimmer and shuddering, oh diamonds!

I run, when, there at my feet, enlaced. Lie (hurt by the languor they taste to be two)

Girls sleeping amid their own casual arms; them I seize, and not disentangling them, fly

To this thicket, hated by the frivilous shade,

Of roses drying up their scent in the sun

Where our delight may be like the day sun-consumed."

I adore it, the anger of virgins, the wild

Delight of the sacred nude burden which slips

To escape from my hot lips drinking, as lightning

Flashes! the secret terror of the flesh:

From the feet of the cruel one to the heart of the timid

Who together lose an innocence, humid

With wild tears or less sorrowful vapours.

"My crime is that I, gay at conquering the treacherous

Fears, the dishevelled tangle divided

Of kisses, the gods kept so well commingled;

For before I could stifle my fiery laughter

In the happy recesses of one (while I kept

With a finger alone, that her feathery whiteness

Should be dyed by her sister's kindling desire,

The younger one, naive and without a blush)

When from my arms, undone by vague failing,

This pities the sob wherewith I was still drunk."

Ah well, towards happiness others will lead me

With their tresses knotted to the horns of my brow:

You know, my passion, that purple and just ripe,

The pomegranates burst and murmur with bees;

And our blood, aflame for her who will take it,

Flows for all the eternal swarm of desire.

At the hour when this wood's dyed with gold and with ashes

A festival glows in the leafage extinguished:

Etna! 'tis amid you, visited by Venus

On your lava fields placing her candid feet,

When a sad stillness thunders wherein the flame dies.

I hold the queen!

O penalty sure . . .

No, but the soul

Void of word and my body weighed down

Succumb in the end to midday's proud silence:

No more, I must sleep, forgetting the outrage,

On the thirsty sand lying, and as I delight

Open my mouth to wine's potent star!

Adieu, both! I shall see the shade you became.

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