Un coup de dés

by Pericles Lewis

In 1897, the leading symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé published A Throw of the Dice (Un coup de dés), which used typography and the spacing of words on the page as elements in the structure of the poem and abandoned regular meter altogether. For most readers, the result verged on the incomprehensible. Unlike Charles Baudelaire, who had generally used the metrical and stanzaic forms typical of French poetry, such as the alexandrine (the twelve-syllable line used by such classical French dramatists as Racine) and the sonnet, Mallarmé championed free verse, written with lines other than the alexandrine, and rare rhyme, in which (as in some limericks) the sound of a word is stretched in order to make it rhyme with another.[1]

  1. This page has been adapted from Pericles Lewis's Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge UP, 2007), p. 49.