Renewal

by on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Comments

This month, we celebrate the passing of the seasons and in preparing for the arrival of spring with its deluge of transformations, hopes and renewal. In search of a different evocation of spring, I stumbled on a poem by Mallarme...

Now sickly spring has sadly driven away
Winter, season of art serene, pure winter,
In my being that gloomy blood does temper
Impotence stretches with a yawn all day.
Misty white dawns grow tepid in my brain
Gripped in an iron ring like a tomb
As sad I seek a fine if hazy dream,
Among the fields where sap supplies the grain.
Then I fall sated with the scent of trees
And digging with my face my fancy’s grave
Bite into the warm earth where lilacs thrive,
Abasing myself, awaiting boredom’s ease . . .
—Meanwhile the Azure blue smiles on the hedge
Rousing birds to sing the sun’s diurnal pledge.

Stéphane Mallarmé, 1866 (Translated by David Scott, Shearsman Books, 2008)*

As Mallarme emphasizes in his poem, spring is a paradoxical season, a time of imbalance and, above all, a time of change. Indeed, spring like autumn is a season of transition, for spring marks the departure from a "serene, pure" winter full of certainty. This time of year is also characterized by the awakening of Nature. With flowers blossoming in our buttonholes, we watch as the leaves start to reappear on trees and the animals awaken from their winter hibernation, whether it be the biological slumber of bears or groundhogs, or the languor kindled in man by the fireside on cold winter nights. Winter is a time of self-reflection and appraisal, spring is, in contrast, the time of invention and renewal, the time to sow seeds that are yet to bear fruit. So, even if spring seems the right time to start new projects and launch new ideas, the expectations of results and achievements to come hang, fragile and uncertain as is suggested in Mallarme’s poem. After a serene and lucid winter, it is at first a “sick” spring that succeeds the winter, just as the poet has to face his own impotence. Nevertheless, the poem follows on with a sort of ascendant movement; the symbolic act of burying the poet’s dream takes place in a “warm earth where lilacs thrive” and the last lines of the poem evoke all the clichéd images associated with spring time - the Azure of the blue sky, the sun and the birdsong, but they appear renewed and somehow altered from their usual usage.

Like Mallarme, we would like to share a different and more personal vision of this season which receives special attention in Asia, as it is the most important festival of the year. Of course we are obliged to evoke images of flowers, youth and beauty, but we would like to look awry, so to speak: the ephemeral nature of beauty suggested by the short life of Japan’s blossoming plum and cherry flowers, the vigor and energy of youth which goes hand in hand with impetuosity and immoderation, and the necessary balance between loss and gain that any change and transformation imply. Let us celebrate spring in our own way then, be it through music, photography or poetry; spring is a symbol of hope, hope itself is bound inextricably, however, with the fear and uncertainty that constitute change, which rouses us from the apathy of modern life, be it for better or for worse.

*Read the poem in the French original

Photo by Eli Duke

Cerise Phiv (張俐紫)

Former Managing Editor of eRenlai.com

前e人籟執行主編

Tweets @cerisefive

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