Winter Shivers


[Hammershoi]

That Dresden china clock, which is running slow and strikes thirteen amid its flowers and gods -- to whom did it belong? Just think how it came from Saxony by the slow stagecoaches of olden days.

(Curious shadows are hanging from the wornout windopanes.)

And your Venetian mirror, deep as a cold spring of water, with once-gilt wyverns on its shore -- who has gazed at herself in it? Ah! I am sure that more than one woman has bathed the sin of her beauty in those waters; and perhaps, if I looked for a long time, I might see a naked wraith.

'You often say such naughty things, you rascal.'

(I can see spiderwebs atop the tall casements.)

Our travelling chest is also very old: see how that fire is reddening its melancholy wood; the faded curtains are equally old, and the discoloured armchair upholstery, and the antique engravings on the walls, and all our old things? Don't you feel that even the Bengal birds and the bluebirds have faded with time?

(Don't indulge in any dreams about those spiderwebs quivering atop tall casements.)

You love all such things, which is why I can live in your company. Dear sister with the look of bygone times, didn't you wish that, in one of my poems, these words should appear: 'the grace of faded things'? New things displease you; their brazen shrillness frightens you, just as it does me; you feel obliged to wear them out -- which is far from easy if you don't enjoy activity.

Come now, close the old German almanac that you are reading so attentively, even though it appeared more than a hundred years ago and the kings mentioned in it are all dead; and, lying on the old carpet with my head resting on your kindly knees, I shall talk for hours, O placid chils, in your dress that has lost its colour; there are no longer any fields, and the streets are empty, I shall speak to you of your possessions .... Is your mind wandering?

(Those spiderwebs are shivering atop the tall casements.)

--Mallarmé