The Tomb of Edgar Poe

uch as into Himself at last eternity changes him,
the Poet with a naked sword provokes
his century appalled to not have known
death triumphed in that strange voice!

They, like an upstart hydra hearing the angel once
purify the meaning of tribal words
proclaimed out loud the prophecy drunk
without honour in the tide of some black mixture.

From soil and hostile cloud, what strife!
if our idea fails to sculpt a bas-relief
to ornament the dazzling tomb of Poe,

calm block fallen down here from an unseen disaster,
let this granite at least set for all time a limit
to the black flights of Blasphemy scattered in the future.

by Stéphane Mallarmé, translated by Peter Manson

This week we begin a series of four poems taken from the shortlist for The Corneliu M Popescu Prize. The Prize, run by the Poetry Society, was formerly called the European PoetryTranslation Prize. The first winner of the Prize, in 1983, was Tony Harrison for The Oresteia. The prize was relaunched in 2003, and renamed in honour of the Romanian translator Corneliu M Popescu, who died in an earthquake in 1977 at the age of 19. The Popescu Prize 2013 has a shortlist of seven books, and the winner will be announced on 29 November.

This translation of ‘The Tomb of Edgar Poe’ is copyright © Peter Manson, 2012. It is reprinted fromStéphane Mallarmé: The Poems in Verse, translated by Peter Manson and published by Miami University Press in 2012. You can read more about the book on the press’s website.

From the judges of the Popescu Prize, Karen Leeder and David Wheatley: ‘Mallarmé is the strong enchanter of French symbolism, and in these versions Peter Manson has carried an entire body of work across into English with authority, conviction and compulsive readability.’

Stéphane Mallarmé was born in Paris on 18 March 1842, the son of Numa Mallarmé and Élisabeth Desmolins. He had one sister, Maria. After a short spell in the Registry Office at Sens, he trained as a teacher of English, working at schools in Tournon, Besançon and Avignon before settling in Paris in 1871. He married Maria Gerhard in 1863, and they had two children, Geneviève and Anatole. He retired from teaching in 1893, and died, at Valvins (now Vulaines-sur-Seine), on 9 September 1898. His books include Poésies (limited ‘photolithographic’ edition 1887, trade edition 1899), the prose book Divagations (1897), school textbooks on the English language (Les Mots anglais, 1878) and on mythology (Les Dieux antiques, 1879), and a French translation of the poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1888). He wrote widely on contemporary literature, visual art and theatre, and briefly became the editor (and main contributor to) a fashion magazine, La Dernière mode (1874). His groundbreaking visual poem, ‘Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard’ (‘A throw of the Dice never will abolish Chance’), was published in the journal Cosmopolis in 1897, and in book form in 1914. Works published posthumously include the prose tale Igitur (1925) and the surviving notes towards three unfinished projects: ‘Le Livre’ (‘The Book’, 1957), ‘Les Noces d’Hérodiade’ (‘The Marrying of Hérodiade’, 1959) and ‘Pour un Tombeau d’Anatole’ (‘For Anatole’s Tomb’, 1961).

Peter Manson lives in Glasgow. His books include Between Cup and Lip (also from Miami University Press), For the Good of Liars and Adjunct: an Undigest (both from Barque Press). Another book,Poems of Frank Rupture, is due soon. More information about his work can be found on Peter Manson’s website.

Miami University Press publishes poetry, poetry in translation, novellas and short fiction, and books about Miami University history or conferences held at the university. For more details, visit the press’s website.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.