Baudelaire
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Charles Baudelaire - French poetry with English translation
Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Portrait par Deroy (1843)

‘N’EST CE PAS QU'IL EST DOUX’


Is it not pleasant, now we are tired,
and tarnished, like other men, to search for those fires
in the furthest East, where, again, we might see
morning’s new dawn, and, in mad history,
hear the echoes, that vanish behind us, the sighs
of the young loves, God gives, at the start of our lives?

IL AIMAIT Á LA VOIR

It was in her white skirts that he loved to see
her run straight through the branches and leaves, gracefully,
but still gauche, and hiding her leg from the light,
when she tore her dress, on the briars, in her flight.

INCOMPATIBILITY

Higher there, higher, far from the ways,
from the farms and the valleys, beyond the trees,
beyond the hills and the grasses’ haze,
far from the herdtrampled tapestries,

you discover a sombre pool in the deep
that a few bare snowcovered mountains form.
The lake, in light’s, and night’s, sublime sleep,
is never disturbed in its silent storm.

In that mournful waste, to the unsure ear,
come faint drawnout sounds, more dead than the bell,
of some faroff cow, the echoes unclear,
as it grazes the slope, of a distant dell.

On those hills where the wind effaces all signs,
on those glaciers, fired by the sun’s pure light,
on those rocks, where dizziness threatens the mind,
in that lake’s vermilion presage of night,

under my feet, and above my head,
silence, that makes you wish to escape;
that eternal silence, of the mountainous bed
of motionless air, where everything waits.

You would say that the sky, in its loneliness,
gazed at itself in the glass, and, up there,
the mountains listened, in grave watchfulness
to the mystery nothing that’s human can hear.

And when, by chance, a wandering cloud
darkens the silent lake, moving by,
you might think that you saw some spirit’s robe,
or else its clear shadow, travelling, over the sky.

Albatross

THE ALBATROSS

Often, for their amusement, bored sailors
take albatrosses, vast seabirds, that sleep
in the air, indolent fellow travellers,
following the ship skimming the deep.

No sooner are they set down on the boards,
than those kings of the azure, clumsy, shamefully
let their vast white wings, like oars,
trail along their sides, piteously.

Winged traveller, gauche, gross, useless, laughable,
now, one of them, with a pipe stem, prods you,
who, a moment ago, were beautiful:
Another, limping, mimics the cripple who flew.

The Poet bears a likeness to that prince of the air,
who mocks at slingshots, and haunts the winds:
On earth, an exile among the scornful, where
he is hampered, in walking, by his giant wings.

CORRESPONDENCES

Nature is a temple, where, from living pillars, a flux
of confused words is, sometimes, allowed to fall:
Man travels it, through forests of symbols, that all
observe him, with familiar looks.

Like far echoes that distantly congregate,
in a shadowy and profound unity,
vast as the night air, in its clarity,
perfumes, colours, sounds reverberate.

There are fresh perfumes, like the flesh of children,
mellow as oboes, green as prairies,
and others, rich, glorious and forbidden,

having the expansive power of infinities,
amber, musk, benjamin and incense,
that sing of the ecstasies of spirit and sense.

THE BALCONY

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses,
O you, all my pleasures! O you, all my learning!
You will remember the joy of caresses,
the sweetness of home and the beauty of evening,
Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!

On evenings lit by the glow of the ashes
and on the balcony, veiled, rosecoloured, misted,
how gentle your breast was, how good your heart to me!
We have said things meant for eternity,
on evenings lit by the glow of the ashes.

How lovely the light is on sultry evenings!
How deep the void grows! How powerful the heart is!
As I leaned towards you, queen of adored ones
I thought I breathed perfume from your blood’s kiss.
How lovely the light is on sultry evenings!

The night it was thickening and closing around us,
and my eyes in the dark were divining your glance,
and I drank your nectar. Oh sweetness! Oh poison!
your feet held, here, in these fraternal hands.
The night it was thickening and closing around us.

I know how to summon up happiest moments,
and relive my past, there, curled, touching your knees.
What good to search for your languorous beauties
but in your dear body, and your heart so sweet?
I know how to summon up happiest moments!

Those vows, those perfumes, those infinite kisses,
will they be reborn, from gulfs beyond soundings,
as the suns that are young again climb in the sky,
after they’ve passed through the deepest of drownings?
O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!


A VOYAGE TO CYTHEREA

My heart soared with joy, like a bird in flight,
haunting the rigging sliding by:
The ship swayed under a cloudless sky,
like an angel, dazed by radiant light.

What island is that, dark and sad? Cytherea,
in verse, it’s famous you understand,
every aged child’s golden land.
Look, after all, there’s nothing here.

Isle of sweet secrets and the heart’s delight!
Ancient Venus’s marvellous shadow,
like perfume, covers the sea, around you,
fills the mind with love, and the languorous night.

Isle of green myrtle and flowers, wide open,
beautiful, revered by every nation,
where the sighs, of the heart’s adoration,
glide like incense, over a rose garden,

or are cooing, like doves, in scented air!
Cytherea, now a desert, to mock,
full of piercing calls, a barren rock.
But I saw a strange thing there!

It was not a temple, shaded by trees,
where the young priestess, with flowerlike desires,
her body alight with secret fires,
goes, opening her robes to the passing breeze.

But a shore where our white sails moving by
disturbed the birds, and we saw, like jet,
the black of a cypress tree’s silhouette,
a threebranched gibbet, against the sky.

A fierce bird, perching, on the head
of a hanged man, rent him, surely,
planting its impure beak, in fury,
in the bloody corners of the dead.

The eyes were two holes: from the cavernous belly
the weight of his guts poured down his sides,
and his torturers, gorged on hideous delights,
had castrated him, most efficiently.

Beneath his feet, circling, spun a jealous pack
their muzzles lifted, of whirling beasts,
one large one, leaping in their midst,
an executioner, with cohorts at his back.

Inhabitant of Cytherea, son, of that lovely sky,
you suffered their insults, silently,
to expiate your infamy,
lacking the tomb your crimes deny.

Hanged man, grotesque sufferer, your pain is mine!
I felt at the sight of your dangling limbs,
the long stream of gall, old sufferings,
rise to my teeth like acid bile.

Before you, poor devil, of dear memory,
I felt all the beaks, and ravening claws,
of swooping ravens, dark panthers’ jaws,
that were once so fond of tearing at me.

The sky was entrancing, so calm the sea,
but, to me, all was dark, and smeared with blood.
Alas! My heart was buried, for good,
in the depths, the winding sheet, of an allegory.

O Venus, in your island, what I found, was just
a symbolic gallows, with my image, in suspense.
O God! Give me the courage, and the strength,
to contemplate my heart, and body, without disgust!


Note: The island of Cytherea in the Aegean Sea
is the symbolic isle of Venus Aphrodite, who was
born from the seafoam, near the island.


THE INVITATION TO THE VOYAGE

My sister, my child
imagine, exiled,
The sweetness, of being there, we two!
To live and to sigh,
to love and to die,
In the land that mirrors you!
The misted haze
of its clouded days
Has the same charm to my mind,
as mysterious,
as your traiterous
Eyes, behind glittering blinds.

There everything’s order and beauty,
calm, voluptuousness, and luxury.

The surface gleams
are polished it seems,
Through the years, to grace our room.
The rarest flowers
mix, with fragrant showers,
The vague, amber perfume.
The dark, painted halls,
the deep mirrored walls,
With Eastern splendour hung,
all secretly speak,
To the soul, its discrete,
Sweet, native tongue.

There, everything’s order and beauty,
calm, voluptuousness and luxury.

See, down the canals,
the sleeping vessels,
Those nomads, their white sails furled:
Now, to accomplish
your every wish,
They come from the ends of the world.
The deep sunsets
surround the west,
The canals, the city, entire,
with blueviolet and gold;
And the Earth grows cold
In an incandescent fire.

There, everything’s order and beauty,
calm, voluptuousness and luxury.

FOR MADAME SABATIER

What will you say tonight, poor soul in solitude,
what will you say my heart, withered till now,
to the so beautiful, so sweet, so dear one,
whose divine gaze recreated the flower?

We will set Pride now to singing her praises:
Nothing outdoes her sweet air of authority.
Her spiritual flesh has the perfume of angels,
and her eye surrounds us in robes of infinity.

Whether in the night, and alone, and in solitude,
Whether in the street, and among the multitude,
her phantom dances in air, like a flame.

Sometimes it speaks and it says ‘I am beautiful.
You, for the love of me, must love beauty alone:
for I am your Madonna, Muse, Guardian Angel.

HYMN

To the toodear, to the toobeautiful,
who fills my heart with clarity,
to the angel, to the immortal idol,
All hail, in immortality!

She flows through my reality,
air, mixed with the salt seaswell:
into my soul’s ecstasy,
pours the essence of the eternal;

Everfresh sachet, that scents
the dear corner’s atmospheric light,
hidden smoke, of the burning censer,
in the secret paths of night.

How, incorruptible love,
to express your endless verities?
Grain of musk, unseen, above,
in the depths of my infinities!

To the toodear, to the toobeautiful,
who is my joy and sanity,
to the angel, to the immortal idol,
All hail in immortality!

MOESTA ET ERRABUNDA

Tell me, does your heart sometimes soar, Agathe,
far from the dark sea of the sordid city,
towards another sea, a blaze of splendour that
is blue, bright, deep as virginity?
Tell me, does your heart sometimes soar, Agathe?

The sea, the vast sea, consoles us for our efforts!
What demon entrusted the sea, that hoarse singer
that accompanies the immense roar of tempests,
with being the sublime sleepbringer?
The sea, the vast sea, consoles us for our efforts!

Carry me wagons! Take me, frigate!
Far, far! Here the city slime is made of our weeping!
Is it true that your sad heart, Agathe,
cries: ‘Far from remorse, from crime, from suffering,
carry me wagons, take me frigate!

How far perfumed paradise, you are removed
from us, where the clear blue is all love and happiness,
where what one loves is worthy of being loved,
where the heart drowns in pure voluptuousness!
How far, perfumed paradise, you are removed!

But the green paradise of childhood’s thrill,
the games, the songs, the kisses, and the flowers,
the violin making music behind the hill,
and the wine glass, under the trees, in twilight hours,
But the green paradise of childhood’s thrill,

the innocent paradise full of secret yearning,
is it already further than India or China?
Can we call it back, with cries of longing,
and recreate it, with its voice of silver,
the innocent paradise full of secret yearning?


Note: 'Moesta et Errabunda' = Sad and Restless.
‘Agathe’ is pronounced as ‘Agat’, to rhyme with ‘that'.


SEMPER EADEM

‘Where does it come from,’ you ask, ‘this strange sadness,
that climbs, like the sea, over black, bare stone?’
When our heart has once reaped the harvest,
life is an evil. That’s known,

as the simplest of miseries, and nothing mysterious,
and seen by everyone, like your ecstasy.
Stop searching, you, beauty, so curious!
And, though your voice is sweet, sit, silently!

Be quiet, fool! Everravished soul!
Lips of childish laughter! Often, more than the whole
of Life, Death grips us, with subtle ties we have made.

Let me, let my heart, then, be drunk on its lies,
plunge as into a beautiful dream, into your eyes,
and, forever, sleep, in your eyelids’ shade.


Note: Semper eadem - 'Always the Same'


OBSESSION

Great forests you frighten me, like vast cathedrals:
You roar like an organ, and in our condemned souls,
aisles of eternal mourning, where past deathrattles
sound, the echos of your De Profundis rolls.

I hate you, Ocean! My mind, in your tumultuous main,
sees itself: I hear the vast laughter of your seas,
the bitter laughter of defeated men,
filled with the sound of sobs and blasphemies.

How you would please me without your stars, O Night!
I know the language that their light employs!
Since I search for darkness, nakedness, the Void!

But the shadows themselves seem, to my sight
canvases, where thousands of lost beings, alive,
and with a familiar gaze, leap from my eyes.

EPILOGUE

With quiet heart, I climbed the hill,
from which one can see, the city, complete,
hospitals, brothels, purgatory, hell,

prison, where every sin flowers, at our feet.
You know well, Satan, patron of my distress,
I did not trudge up there to vainly weep,

but like an old man with an old mistress,
I longed to intoxicate myself, with the infernal delight
of the vast procuress, who can always make things fresh.

Whether you still sleep in the morning light,
heavy, dark, rheumatic, or whether your hands
flutter, in your pure, goldedged veils of night,

I love you, infamous capital! Courtesans
and pimps, you often offer pleasures
the vulgar mob will never understand.

LAMENT OF AN ICARUS

Lovers of whores don’t care,
happy, calm and replete:
But my arms are incomplete,
grasping the empty air.

Thanks to stars, incomparable ones,
that blaze in the depths of the skies,
all my destroyed eyes
see, are the memories of suns.

I look, in vain, for beginning and end
of the heavens’ slow revolve:
Under an unknown eye of fire, I ascend
feeling my wings dissolve.

And, scorched by desire for the beautiful,
I will not know the bliss,
of giving my name to that abyss,
that knows my tomb and funeral.

CALM

Have patience, O my sorrow, and be still.
You asked for night: it falls: it is here.
A shadowy atmosphere enshrouds the hill,
to some men bringing peace, to others care.

While the vile human multitude
goes to earn remorse, in servile pleasure’s play,
under the lash of joy, the torturer, who
is pitiless, Sadness, come, far away:

Give me your hand. See, where the lost years
lean from the balcony in their outdated gear,
where regret, smiling, surges from the watery deeps.

Underneath some archway, the dying light
sleeps, and, like a long shroud trailing from the East,
listen, dear one, listen to the soft onset of night.

Preceding translations by A. S. Kline

©Copyright 2000 A.S.Kline. All Rights Reserved.
This work may be FREELY reproduced, stored
and transmitted, electronically or otherwise,
for any NON-COMMERCIAL purpose.
Queries to tonykline@yahoo.com

THE WINE OF THE LOVERS

Today the space is magnificent !
Without bit, without spurs, without rein;
Let us leave on horseback on the wine,
For a sky, magical and divine.

As two angels tortured
By a merciless heat-wave;
Let us follow the distant mirage !
In the blue morning crystal.

Gently being rocked on the wing
Of the smart whirlwind,
In a parallel frenzy.

My sister, swimming side by side,
Restless escaping on the tide,
Towards the paradise of my dreams !

© Translated by Lepus

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)





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