'Cette Blanche Agonie': Baudelaire, Mallarmé and the Ice of Sound

In my paper, I examine the negative trajectory delineated by two famous swan poems: Charles Baudelaire's "Le Cygne and Stéphane Mallarmé's poem on "Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd'hui. Turning to the swan as a figure for poetic language itself (Cygne/Signe), Baudelaire propels his speaker through an endless chain of images and reflections. Mallarmé's "aujourd'hui, however, situates itself at Baudelaire's one unchanging point of reference: his static "mélancholie. Culminating in the "blanche agonie of Mallarmé's impotent "fantôme, the swan pendant appears to record the loss of the representational function of figurative language and the retreat of the poetic word into a mute self-reflexivity. However, I argue that negativity ultimately serves as a vehicle through which the modern poet recuperates the very origin whose loss he mourns. (AB) 

Billone, Amy
Volume 2001 Spring-Summer, 29(3-4): 287-301.