Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire

The Enemy

My youth has been nothing but a tenebrous storm,

Pierced now and then by rays of brilliant sunshine;

Thunder and rain have wrought so much havoc

That very few ripe fruits remain in my garden.

I have already reached the autumn of the mind,

And I must set to work with the spade and the rake

To gather back the inundated soil

In which the rain digs holes as big as graves.

And who knows whether the new flowers I dream of

Will find in this earth washed bare like the strand,

The mystic aliment that would give them vigor?

Alas! Alas! Time eats away our lives,

And the hidden Enemy who gnaws at our hearts

Grows by drawing strength from the blood we lose!

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

The Carcass: Stanza 10

Yet you’ll resemble this infection too

One day, and stink and sprawl in such a fashion,

Star of my eyes, sun of my nature, you,

My angel and my passion!

— Et pourtant vous serez semblable à cette ordure,

À cette horrible infection,

Etoile de mes yeux, soleil de ma nature,

Vous, mon ange et ma passion!

Lethe

Rest on my heart, deaf, cruel soul, adored

Tigress, and monster with the lazy air.

I long, in the black jungles of your hair,

To force each finger thrilling like a sword:

Within wide skirts, filled with your scent, to hide

My bruised and battered forehead hour by hour,

And breathe, like dampness from a withered flower,

The pleasant mildew of a love that died.

Rather than live, I wish to sleep, alas!

Lulled in a slumber soft and dark as death,

In ruthless kisses lavishing my breath

Upon your body smooth as burnished brass.

To swallow up my sorrows in eclipse,

Nothing can match your couch’s deep abysses;

The stream of Lethe issues from your kisses

And powerful oblivion from your lips.

Like a predestined victim I submit:

My doom, to me, henceforth, is my delight,

A willing martyr in my own despite

Whose fervour fans the faggots it has lit.

To drown my rancour and to heal its smart,

Nepenthe and sweet hemlock, peace and rest,

I’ll drink from the twin summits of a breast

That never lodged the semblance of a heart.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

Semper Eadem: stanza 4

so let my heart be lost within a lie,

as in a sweet dream, plunge into your eyes

and sleep a long time in your lashes’ shade.

Confession: Stanza 5

A wistful note, a note bizzare,

and shy,

slipped almost haltingly away

The sun has blackened candles of the night (le soleil a noirei la flamme des bougies)

Evening Harmony

Now is the time when trembling on its stem

Each flower fades away like incense;

Sounds and scents turn in the evening air;

A melancholy waltz, a soft and giddy dizziness!

Each flower fades away like incense;

The violin thrills like a tortured heart;

A melancholy waltz, a soft and giddy dizziness!

The sky is sad and beautiful like some great resting-place.

The violin thrills like a tortured heart,

A tender heart, hating the wide black void.

The sky is sad and beautiful like some great resting-place;

The sun drowns itself in its own clotting blood.

A tender heart, boring the wide black void,

Gathers all trace from the pellucid past.

The sun drowns itself in clotting blood.

Like the Host shines O your memory in me!

Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)

The Perfume Flask

There are strong perfumes for which all matter

Is porous. One would say they go through glass.

On opening a coffer that has come from the East,

Whose creaking lock resists and grates,

Or in a deserted house, some cabinet

Full of the Past’s acrid odor, dusty and black,

Sometimes one finds an antique phial which remembers,

Whence gushes forth a living soul returned to life.

Many thoughts were sleeping, death-like chrysalides,

Quivering softly in the heavy shadows,

That free their wings and rise in flight,

Tinged with azure, glazed with rose, spangled with gold.

That is the bewitching souvenir which flutters

In the troubled air; the eyes close; Dizziness

Seizes the vanquished soul, pushes it with both hands

Toward a darkened abyss of human pollution:

He throws it down at the edge of an ancient abyss,

Where, like stinking Lazarus tearing wide his shroud,

There moves as it wakes up, the ghostly cadaver

Of a rancid old love, charming and sepulchral.

Thus, when I’ll be lost to the memory

Of men, when I shall be tossed into the corner

Of a dismal wardrobe, a desolate old phial,

Decrepit, cracked, slimy, dirty, dusty, abject,

Delightful pestilence! I shall be your coffin,

The witness of your strength and of your virulence,

Beloved poison prepared by the angels! Liqueur

That consumes me, O the life and death of my heart!

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Causerie/Conversation

Le souvenir cuisant de son limon amer. (on my sad lip, the smart of memory)

Parisian Dream

La pendule aux accents funèbres

Sonnait brutalement midi,

The clock proclaimed

the time was noon

in accents brutal and perverse

The Clock

Impassive clock! Terrifying, sinister god,

Whose finger threatens us and says: “Remember!

The quivering Sorrows will soon be shot

Into your fearful heart, as into a target;

Nebulous pleasure will flee toward the horizon

Like an actress who disappears into the wings;

Every instant devours a piece of the pleasure

Granted to every man for his entire season.

Three thousand six hundred times an hour, Second

Whispers: Remember! — Immediately

With his insect voice, Now says: I am the Past

And I have sucked out your life with my filthy trunk!

Remember! Souviens-toi, spendthrift! Esto memor!

(My metal throat can speak all languages.)

Minutes, blithesome mortal, are bits of ore

That you must not release without extracting the gold!

Remember, Time is a greedy player

Who wins without cheating, every round! It’s the law.

The daylight wanes; the night deepens; remember!

The abyss thirsts always; the water-clock runs low.

Soon will sound the hour when divine Chance,

When august Virtue, your still virgin wife,

When even Repentance (the very last of inns!),

When all will say: Die, old coward! it is too late!”

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

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