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The Winter Tremble

blank verse by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898),  my translation


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>The Winter Tremble

blank verse by Stéphane Mallarmé 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.)

Photo of painting by Julius Sergius von Klever (1850-1924)
Painting by Julius Sergius von Klever (1850-1924)


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