Now, Stéphane Mallarmé. Here we have a challenge. He aspired to the condition of music, and perhaps reached it. With Mallarmé, and with Jules Laforgue, even more than with Rimbaud or Corbière, I may have reached a stopping point in my rampage through French poetry. For now, for now.
Still. "Dice Thrown Will Never Annul Chance" (1895). A page of it is up above, the final page below. The translation, by Brian Coffey, is from the essential Selected Poetry and Prose, 1982, New Directions, edited by Mary Ann Caws. The poem consists of nine and a half of these pages. I am tempted to photocopy each page and arrange them from northwest to southeast, to see the full extent of the constellation of words.
Or the entire score. I have seen jazz compositions that look not unlike Mallarmé's poem. Which mental instrument should the reader assign to the giant, timpanic CHANCE, or to the reedy, italicized
normore nor lessindifferently but as much
or to the perfectly ordinary
evidence of a tot of the sum however little oneMIGHT IT ILLUMINE
I think violins followed by brass. Assuming one reads the words in order. Mallarmé allows the reader to follow the size of the words, or the spacing; to read across the page, or down it. The trick, actually, is to try to juggle two or three meanings at a time. A story emerges - a sea captain, at risk of shipwreck, rolls dice - or doesn't. I splash through the jumble of words, or simply look at the stars
What am I talking about?  Click on the images to make them a bit bigger.