‘En vue de plus tard ou de jamais’: Poetic Community in Stéphane Mallarmé’s Tombeaux


In 1891 Stéphane Mallarmé described his view of the widening rift between poets and modern society: ‘Pour moi, le cas d’un poëte, en cette société qui ne lui permet pas de vivre, c’est le cas d’un homme qui s’isole pour sculpter son propre tombeau.’ This article reads Mallarmé’s three tombeaux — ‘Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe’, ‘Le Tombeau de Charles Baudelaire’, and ‘Tombeau’ (for Verlaine) — as responses to this perceived rupture and isolation. These poems establish a community of poets around the departed, distinct from the society in which Mallarmé felt the poet no longer had a place. Mallarmé’s tombeaux can thus be understood in connection with his involvement in the construction of other poetic communities, such as his role in founding La Société internationale des poètes, as well as with the modest tombeau revival of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Understanding this historical moment as an interregnum, the poet developed a concept of poetic fraternity that, he hoped, could serve as a model for sociability more broadly in the future. This article emphasizes the commonalities that link the tombeaux to one another and to Mallarmé’s notion of community, using close readings to analyse the unique visions of poetic community each poem presents.