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Unfolding MallarméThe Development of a Poetic Art$
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Roger Pearson

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198159179

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198159179.001.0001

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Initiation and Communion

Initiation and Communion

(p.13) 1 Initiation and Communion
Unfolding Mallarmé

Roger Pearson

Oxford University Press

Mallarmé's early works are notable for the poet's concerted endeavour to learn his craft. Not for him the gush and turpitude of adolescent introspection, nor self-indulgent posturing before the mirror of the muse: there was work to be done. He wanted to be a poet, he would learn what other poets did, and he would see if he could do better. At the Lycee de Sens it was customary on the annual day of first communion for chosen pupils to recite a poem of their own creation in celebration of the occasion. What appears to have been Mallarmé's first attempt to secure this honour, his ‘Cantate pour la première communion’ (1858), displays less the religiosity of an adolescent than the virtuosity of a promising apprentice. Taking a standard theme (angelic children as rivals of the heavenly hosts in praising the Almighty), he turns his hand to the ‘cantata’, the poetic form perfected by Jean–Baptiste Rousseau and which he had just been studying in class that year.

Keywords:   Mallarmé, poetry, first communion, Jean–Baptiste Rousseau, cantata

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