The latest Pléiade edition by Bernard Marchal is definitive, but heavy going in many ways, despite its excellent commentary. I recommend Selon Mallarmé
by Paul Bénichou as the best entry point available at this time.
I would not expect simplicity, since even the early poems are loaded up with abstruse allusions, whereas all mature productions are quite deliberately constructed as riddles. Thus in the above, the light borne aloft by Anxiety is the Moon, the Phoenix that leaves no ashes is the Sun, and the septet composition is the Pléiades constellation. Finally, ptyx, the derivation of πτύξ in ancient and modern Greek, standing there for a fold, is the feminine creative and erotic principle, the Mother (μήτηρ) and Receptacle (ὑποδοχή) of this generated world (Timaeus 51a
). and an indestructible space (χώρα) that provides a seat (ἕδρα) for all things that have birth (52a-b
); or less portentously, a decorative marine proxy for the vagina standing as a hackneyed decorative knickknack in a well-appointed drawing room:
Adolphe William Bouguereau (1825-1905), Le Coquillage, oil on canvas, 131 x 89.5 cm, 1871, Private collection
Less euphemistically, it is the organ known as the origin of the world
. It was so designated
by Gustave Courbet in his 1866 painting for Khalil Bey:
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, L’Origine du Monde, 1866, oil on canvas, 55 cm x 46 cm, 1866, Musée d’Orsay
It is the part ratified by Ali G
in his 2004 commencement speech at my alma mater
: “Let’s make it happen I look out and I see 1000s of people wiv different hopes and different dreams ― but it is important never to forget where u all came from ― becoz black, white, brown or pakistani we all come from de same place ― de punani.
What I enjoy the most about Mallarmé is his ability to traverse the Thomistic ladder of meanings
connecting the decorative, organic elements of everyday bourgeois experience, the salacious verging on the ridiculous, to timeless Platonic sublimity:
Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
Moralia quid agas, quo tendas anagogica.
Good luck in your reading.Edited at 2008-01-31 08:32 am (UTC)