Charles Baudelaire

CHARLES BAUDELAIREThe sky is, there above the roof,
        so blue! so calm!
The tree-top, there above the roof
        is swaying its twigs.
The bell is, through the cloistral hush,
        churning its sweet tones.
The bird is, from out of the tree-top
        chanting its sorrow.
My Lord, my Lord, there is the Life,
        simple and calm;
this peaceful noise
        derives from the city.
What have you done, o you,
        crying all the time
tell me, what have you done, o you
        with Youth?


Tender, the young auburn woman,
By such innocence aroused,
Said to the blonde young girl
These words, in a soft low voice:
"Sap which mounts, and flowers which thrust,
Your childhood is a bower:
Let my fingers wander in the moss
Where glows the rosebud
"Let me among the clean grasses
Drink the drops of dew
Which sprinkle the tender flower, —
"So that pleasure, my dear,
Should brighten your open brow
Like dawn the reluctant blue."
Her dear rare body, harmonious,
Fragrant, white as white
Rose, whiteness of pure milk, and rosy
As a lily beneath purple skies?
Beauteous thighs, upright breasts,
The back, the loins and belly, feast
For the eyes and prying hands
And for the lips and all the sense
"Little one, let us see if your bed
Has still beneath the red curtain
The beautiful pillow that slips so
And the wild sheets. O to your bed!"
Translation by Roland Grant and Paul Archer


From heaven or hell, O Beauty, come you hence?
Out from your gaze, infernal and divine,
Pours blended evil and beneficence,
And therefore men have likened you to wine.

Sunset and dawn within your eyes are fair;
Stormlike you scatter ferfume into space;
Your kiss, a philtre from an amphora rare,
Charms boys to courage andmakes heroes base.

Whence come you, from what spheres, or inky deeps,
With careless hand joy and distress to strew?
Fate, like a dog at heel, behind you creeps;
You govern all things here, and naught you rue.

You wald upon the dead with scornful glances,
Among your gems Horror is not least fair;
Murder, the dearest of your baubles, dances
Upon your haughty breast with amorous air.

Mothlike around your flame the transient, turning,
Crackles and flames and cries, "Ah, heavenly doom!"
The quivering lover o'er his mistress yearning
Is but a dying man who woos his tomb.

From heaven or the abyss? Let questioning be,
O artlesss monster wreaking endless pain,
So that your smile and glance throw wide to me
An infinite that I have loved in vain.

From Satan or from God? Holy or vile?
Let questioning rest. O soft-eyed sprite, my queen,
O rhythm, perfume, light — so you bequile
Time from his slothfulness, the world from spleen.


The Moon more indolently dreams tonight
Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,
Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,
Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.
Upon her silken avalanche of down,
Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;
And watches the white visions past her flown,
Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.
And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,
Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,
Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,
Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow
Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,
And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart


The dark-eyed ancient tribe that never rests
Took up the age-old journey yesterday,
The young on the women's hacks, and — should they cry
— Treasure awaits them at the hanging breasts.
On foot, the men, whose shouldered weapons gleam,
Trudge by the wagons where their families lie.
Their gaze is heavy as they scan the sky
With nameless shadows of a distant dream.
The cricket, watching from its sandy bower,
Greets their approach with loudest eloquence;
Cybele makes earth greener for their sake;
The rock becomes a spring, the deserts flower
Before these wanderers, as they march to take
The constant empire of the unknown hence.


Always, unfettered man, you will cherish the sea!
The sea your mirror, you look into your mind
In its eternal billows surging without end,
And as its gulfs are bitter, so must your spirit be.
You plunge with joy into this image of your own:
You hug it with your eyes and arms; your heart
Forgets for a time its noisy beat, becomes a part
Of a greater, more savage and less tameable moan.
In your own ways, you both are brooding and discreet:
Man, no one has mapped your chasm's hidden floor,
Oh sea, no one knows your inmost riches, for
Your jealousy hides secrets none can repeat.
As the uncounted swarm of centuries gathers
You two have fought without pity or remorse, both
From sheer love of the slaughter and of death
Oh, eternal wrestlers, oh, relentless brothers!


The darling one was naked, and knowing my wish,
Had kept only the regalia of her jewelry
Whose resonant charms can lure and vanquish
Like a Moorish slave-girl's in her moment of glory.
A world of dazzling stones and of precious metals
Flinging, in its quick rhythm, glints of mockery
Ravishes me into ecstasy, I love to madness
The mingling of sounds and lights in one intricacy.
Naked, then, she was to all of my worship,
Smiling in triumph from the heights of her couch
At my desire advancing, as gentle and deep
As the sea sending its waves to the warm beach.
Her eyes fixed as a tiger's in the tamer's trance,
Absent, unthinking, she varies her poses
With an audacity and wild innocence
That gave a strange pang to each metamorphosis.
Her long legs, her hips, shining smooth as oil,
Her arms and her thighs, undulant as a swan,
Lured my serene, clairvoyant gaze to travel
To her belly and breasts, the grapes of my vine.
With a charm as powerful as an evil angel
To trouble and calm where my soul had retreated,
They advanced slowly to dislodge it from its crystal
Rock, where its loneliness meditated.
With the hips of Antiope, the torso of a boy,
So deeply was the one form sprung into the other
It seemed as if desire had fashioned a new toy.
Her farded, fawn-brown skin was perfection to either!
— And the lamp having at last resigned itself to death,
There was nothing now but firelight in the room,
And every time a flame uttered a gasp for breath
It flushed her amber skin with the blood of its bloom.

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