Poetry audio

Stéphane Mallarmé

Stéphane Mallarmé

Here is an audio recording of a poem called 'Brise Marine' ('Sea Breeze') by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898).

The poem is taken from the book 'Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé ' ('The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé ) that Henri Matisse was commissioned to illustrate in 1930. Some of the illustrated pages are featured in 'The Art Books of Henri Matisse' exhibition.|

'Sea Breeze' ('Brise Marine') in English

'Sea Breeze' ('Brise Marine') in French


The poem speaks of a weary spirit, disappointed hopes and blocked creativity. The narrator hopes for an escape to an exotic land. Matisse could identify with all of these themes. He travelled to Tahiti in 1930 in search of rest, inspiration and the island's tropical light.

Matisse and Stéphane Mallarmé

In 1930 Matisse received his first commission for a luxury art book. The Swiss publisher Albert Skira invited him to illustrate poems by the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). Mallarmé's work was considered challenging, like that of Matisse. It was often attacked for being inaccessible because he preferred to evoke or allude to objects, rather than name them.

Matisse selected the poems, preferring those inspired by women and nature. He made numerous drawings, experimenting with endless combinations of scale, text, borders and image. Eventually, he settled on double-page spreads with text in dense 'Garamond italic' font.

(Stéphane Mallarmé image from Wikimedia Commons)|

Audio/poem credits:

Readings in English and French by Dr. Godfried Croenen.
National Museums Liverpool is committed to respecting the intellectual property right of others. We have therefore taken reasonable efforts to ensure that the use of this material has been done with the consent of the copyright owners.

Translations taken from 'The Meaning of Mallarm é ' by Charles Chadwick, Scottish Cultural Press, 1996.