"Autumn Plaint" Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
Since Maria left me to go to another star - which one, Orion, Altair -or you, green Venus? - I have always loved solitude. How many long days I have passed alone with my cat. By alone I mean without a material being, and my cat is a mystic companion, a spirit. I can say then that I have passed long days alone with my cat and alone with one of the last authors of the Roman decadence; for since the white creature is no more, I have loved, uniquely and strangely, everything summed up in the word: fall. So, in the year, my favourite season is the last, slow part of summer that just precedes autumn, and, in the day, the hour when I walk is when the sun hesitates before vanishing, with rays of yellow bronze over the grey walls, and rays of red copper over the tiles. Likewise, the literature from which my spirit seeks voluptuousness is the agonised poetry of Rome's last moments, so long as it does not breathe a breath of the reinvigorated stance of the Barbarians or stammer in childish Latin like Christian prose. I was reading, then, one of those dear poems (whose flakes of rouge have more charm for me than young flesh), and dipping a hand into the pure animal fur, when a hurdy-gurdy sounded with languorous sadness under mywindow. It was playing in the wide avenue of poplars whose leaves, even in spring, seem mournful to me since Maria passed by them bearing her candles for the last time. The instrument of sadnesses, yes, certainly: the piano flashes, the violin gives light to torn fibres, but the hurdy-gurdy, in memory's dim light, made me dream despairingly. Now it murmured a delightfully common song that filled the suburbs with joy, an old, banal tune: why did its words enter my soul and make me cry, like any romantic ballad? I savoured it slowly and did not throw a coin through the window, for fear of troubling my spirit and discovering that the instrument was not singing alone.
-- Adapted from a translation by A. S. Kline
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