The Occasion of poetry/Poetry of the occasion

Stéphane Mallarmé 1842–1898, Carte de Visite

Stéphane Mallarmé
1842–1898, Carte de Visite

“In historiography the prosaic element [lies] especially in the fact that…its actual form ha[s] to appear accompanied in many ways by relative circumstances, clustered with accidents, and sullied by arbitrariness, although the historian ha[s] no right to transform this form of reality which [is] precisely in conformity with what immediately and actually happened. The task of this transformation is one in which poetry is chiefly called if in its material it treads on the ground of historical description. In this case it has to search out the inmost kernel and meaning of an event, an action, a national character, a prominent historical individual, but it has to strip away the accidents that play their part around them, and the indifferent accessories of what happened, the purely relative circumstances and traits of character, and put in their place things through which the inner substance of the thing at issue can clearly shine.” – Hegel, Aesthetics.

Text reproduced from The Poetics of the Occasion: Mallarmé and the Poetry of Circumstance, Sugano, M.Z. Stanford University Press: California 1992, pp.1 Image reproduced from