Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | May 2, 2010


The virginal, vibrant, and beautiful day,
Will a beat of its drunken wing not suffice
To rend this hard lake haunted beneath the ice
By the transparent glacier of flights never flown?

A swan of times past remembers it is the one,
Magnificent but hopelessly struggling to resist
For never having sung of a land in which to exist
When the sterile winter’s boredom has shone.

Though its neck will shake free of the white agony
Inflicted on the bird by the space it denies,
The horror of the earth will remain where it lies.

Phantom whose pure brightness assigns it this domain,
It stiffens in the cold dream of disdain
That clothes the useless exile of the Swan.

—Stéphane Mallarmé

From Raymond Federman’s remembrance of Samuel Beckett:

‘We finished our coffee, and then as I was walking with him to the nursing home, he suddenly stopped, placed his hand on my shoulder and asked: Do you remember that poem by Mallarmé, Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourdhui … I nodded. And then, right there in the middle of the street, Sam recited the entire poem to me. I didn’t say anything, but it became clear at last, as I had suspected all along, that each day he faced the sheet of paper, endured the same white agony Mallarmé reveals in that poem […] I shall never forget Sam standing there in the middle of the street reciting these lines to me, and pausing imperceptibly on ‘la blanche agonie’. The greatest gift I have ever received. And then as we parted he said: Parfois tu sais, Raymond, c’est pire de ne pas écrire que t’écrire.’

-from samuel backett: the gift of words, by Raymond Federman (1989)


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