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Charles Baudelaire


 

Charles Baudelaire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Charles Baudelaire ca. 1863
Born 9 April 1821
Paris, France
Died 31 August 1867 (aged 46)
Paris, France

Charles Pierre Baudelaire (pronounced /ˈboʊdəlɛər/; French pronounced [ʃaʁl bodlɛʁ]) (9 April 1821 - 31 August 1867) was a nineteenth century French poet, critic, and translator. A controversial figure in his lifetime, Baudelaire's name has become a byword for literary and artistic decadence. At the same time his works, in particular his book of poetry Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), have been acknowledged as classics of French literature.

Biography

Early life
Baudelaire was born in Paris, France in 1821. His father, a senior civil servant and amateur artist, died during Baudelaire's childhood in 1827. The following year, his mother, Caroline, thirty-four years younger than his father, married Lieutenant Colonel Jacques Aupick, who later became a French ambassador to various noble courts.

Baudelaire's relationship with his mother was a close and complex one, and it dominated his life. He later stated "I loved my mother for her elegance. I was a precocious dandy". He later wrote to her "There was in my childhood a period of passionate love for you". Aupick, a rigid disciplinarian, though concerned for Baudelaire's upbringing and future, quickly came to odds with his stepson's artistic temperament.

Baudelaire was educated in Lyon, where he was forced to board away from his mother (even during holidays) and accept his stepfather's rigid methods, which included depriving him of visits home when his grades slipped. He wrote when recalling those times: "A shudder at the grim years of claustration... the unease of wretched and abandoned childhood, the hatred of tyrannical schoolfellows, and the solitude of the heart".  At fourteen, Baudelaire was described by a classmate: "He was much more refined and distinguished than any of our fellow pupils... we are bound to one another... by shared tastes and sympathies, the precocious love of fine works of literature". Later, he attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Baudelaire was erratic in his studies, at times diligent, at other times prone to "idleness".

At eighteen, Baudelaire was described as "an exalted character, sometimes full of mysticism, and sometimes full of immorality and cynicism (which were excessive but only verbal)". Upon gaining his degree in 1839, he was undecided about his future. He told his brother "I don't feel I have a vocation for anything". His stepfather had in mind a career in law or diplomacy, but instead Baudelaire decided to embark upon a literary career, and for the next two years led an irregular life, socializing with other bohemian artists and writers.


Baudelaire began to frequent prostitutes and may have contracted gonorrhea and syphilis during this period. He went to a pharmacist known for venereal disease treatments, upon the recommendation of his older brother Alphonse, a magistrate. For a while, he took on a prostitute named "Sara" as his mistress and lived with his brother when his funds were low. His stepfather kept him on a tight allowance which he spent as quickly as he received it. Baudelaire began to run up debts, mostly for clothes. His stepfather demanded an accounting and wrote to Alphonse: "The moment has come when something must be done to save your brother from absolute perdition". In the hope of reforming him and making a man of him, his stepfather sent him on a voyage to Calcutta, India in 1841, under the care of a former naval captain. Baudelaire's mother was distressed both by his poor behavior and by the proposed solution.

The arduous trip, however, did nothing to turn Baudelaire's mind away from a literary career or from his casual attitude toward life, so the naval captain agreed to let Baudelaire return home. Though Baudelaire later exaggerated his aborted trip to create a legend about his youthful travels and experiences, including "riding on elephants", the trip did provide strong impressions of the sea, sailing, and exotic ports, that he later employed in his poetry. Baudelaire returned to Paris after less than a year's absence. Much to his parents' chagrin, he was more determined than ever to continue with his literary career. His mother later recalled: "Oh, what grief! If Charles had let himself be guided by his stepfather, his career would have been very different... He would not have left a name in literature, it is true, but we should have been happier, all three of us".

Soon, Baudelaire returned to the taverns to philosophize and to recite his unpublished poems, and to enjoy the adulation of his artistic peers. At twenty-one, he received a good-sized inheritance of over 100,000 francs, plus four parcels of land, but squandered much of it within a few years, including borrowing heavily against his mortgages. He quickly piled up debts far exceeding his annual income and, out of desperation, his family obtained a decree to place his property in trust. During this time he met Jeanne Duval, the illegitimate daughter of a prostitute from Nantes, who was to become his longest romantic association. She had been the mistress of the caricaturist and photographer Nadar. His mother thought Jeanne a "Black Venus" who "tortured him in every way" and drained him of money at every opportunity.



Apollonie Sabatier, by Vincent Vidal


Career

While still unpublished in 1843, Baudelaire became known in artistic circles as a dandy and free-spender, buying up books, art and antiques he couldn't afford. By 1844, he was eating on credit and half his inheritance was gone. Baudelaire regularly implored his mother for money while he tried to advance his career. He met Balzac around this time and began to write many of the poems which would appear in Les Fleurs du mal. His first published work was his art review "Salon of 1845", which attracted immediate attention for its boldness. Many of his critical opinions were novel in their time, including his championing of Delacroix, but have since been generally accepted. Baudelaire proved himself to be a well-informed and passionate critic and he gained the attention of the greater art community.That summer, however, despondent about his meager income, rising debts, loneliness and doubtful future, because "the fatigue of falling asleep and the fatigue of waking are unbearable", he decided to commit suicide and leave the remainder of his inheritance to his mistress. However, he lost his resolve and wounded himself with a knife only superficially. He implored his mother to visit him as he recovered but she ignored his pleas, perhaps under orders from her husband. For a time, Baudelaire was homeless and completely estranged from his parents, until they relented due to his poor condition.

In 1846, Baudelaire wrote his second Salon review, gaining additional credibility as an advocate and critic of Romanticism. His support of Delacroix as the foremost Romantic artist gained widespread notice. The following year Baudelaire's novella La Fanfarlo was published.

Baudelaire took part in the Revolutions of 1848.  For some years, he was interested in republican politics; but his political tendencies were more emotional positions than steadfast convictions, spanning the Blanqui, the history of the Raison d'Ėtat of Giuseppe Ferrari and ultramontane critique of liberalism of Joseph de Maistre. His stepfather, also caught up in the Revolution, survived the mob and was appointed envoy extraordinary to Turkey by the new government despite his ties to the deposed royal family.

In the early 1850s, Baudelaire struggled with poor health, pressing debts, and irregular literary output. He often moved from one lodging to another and maintained an uneasy relationship with his mother, frequently imploring her by letter for money. (Her letters to him have not been found.)  He received many projects that he was unable to complete, though he did finish translations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe which were published in Le Pays. Baudelaire had learned English in his childhood, and Gothic novels, such as Lewis's The Monk, and Poe's short stories, became some of his favorite reading matter, and major influences.

Upon the death of his stepfather in 1857, Baudelaire received no mention in the will but he was heartened nonetheless that the division with his mother might now be mended. Still strongly tied to her emotionally, at thirty-six he wrote her: "believe that I belong to you absolutely, and that I belong only to you".




Apollonie Sabatier, by Auguste Clésinger



The Flowers of Evil

Baudelaire was a slow and fastidious worker, often sidetracked by indolence, emotional distress and illness, and it was not until 1857 that he published his first and most famous volume of poems, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), originally titled Les Limbes. Some of these poems had already appeared in the Revue des deux mondes (Review of Two Worlds), when they were published by Baudelaire's friend Auguste Poulet Malassis, who had inherited a printing business at Alençon.

The poems found a small, appreciative audience, but greater public attention was given to their subject matter. The effect on fellow artists was, as Théodore de Banville stated, "immense, prodigious, unexpected, mingled with admiration and with some indefinable anxious fear". Flaubert, recently attacked in a similar fashion for Madame Bovary (and acquitted), was impressed and wrote to Baudelaire: "You have found a way to rejuvenate Romanticism... You are as unyielding as marble, and as penetrating as an English mist".

The principal themes of sex and death were considered scandalous. He also touched on lesbianism, sacred and profane love, metamorphosis, melancholy, the corruption of the city, lost innocence, the oppressiveness of living and wine. Notable in some poems is Baudelaire's use of imagery of the sense of smell and of fragrances, which is used to evoke feelings of nostalgia and past intimacy.

The book, however, quickly became a byword for unwholesomeness among mainstream critics of the day. Some critics called a few of the poems "masterpieces of passion, art and poetry" but other poems were deemed to merit no less than legal action to suppress them. J. Habas writing in Le Figaro, led the charge against Baudelaire, writing: "Everything in it which is not hideous is incomprehensible, everything one understands is putrid". Then Baudelaire responded to the outcry, in a prophetic letter to his mother:

"You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality. Beauty of conception and style is enough for me. But this book, whose title (Fleurs du mal) says everything, is clad, as you will see, in a cold and sinister beauty. It was created with rage and patience. Besides, the proof of its positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people. Moreover, since I was terrified myself of the horror that I should inspire, I cut out a third from the proofs. They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don't care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron."

Baudelaire, his publisher and the printer were successfully prosecuted for creating an offense against public morals. They were fined but Baudelaire was not imprisoned. Six of the poems were suppressed, but printed later as Les Épaves (The Wrecks) (Brussels, 1866). Another edition of Les Fleurs du mal, without these poems, but with considerable additions, appeared in 1861. Many notables rallied behind Baudelaire and condemned the sentence. Victor Hugo wrote to him: "Your fleurs du mal shine and dazzle like stars... I applaud your vigorous spirit with all my might". Baudelaire did not appeal the judgment but his fine was reduced. Nearly 100 years later, on 11 May 1949, Baudelaire was vindicated, the judgment officially reversed, and the six banned poems reinstated in France.

In the poem "Au lecteur" ("To the Reader") that prefaces Les Fleurs du mal, Baudelaire accuses his readers of hypocrisy and of being as guilty of sins and lies as the poet:

...If rape or arson, poison or the knife
Has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff
Of this drab canvas we accept as life -
It is because we are not bold enough!
(Roy Campbell's translation)

Final years
Baudelaire next worked on a translation and adaptation of Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Other works in the years that followed included Petits Poèmes en prose (Small Prose poems); a series of art reviews published in the Pays, Exposition universelle (Country, World Fair); studies on Gustave Flaubert (in L'Artiste, 18 October 1857); on Théophile Gautier (Revue contemporaine, September, 1858); various articles contributed to Eugene Crepet's Poètes francais; Les Paradis artificiels: opium et haschisch (French poets; Artificial Paradises: opium and hashish) (1860); and Un Dernier Chapitre de l'histoire des oeuvres de Balzac (A Final Chapter of the history of works of Balzac) (1880), originally an article "Comment on paye ses dettes quand on a du génie" ("How one pays one's debts when one has genius"), in which his criticism turns against his friends Honoré de Balzac, Théophile Gautier, and Gérard de Nerval.


By 1859, his illnesses, his long-term use of laudanum, his life of stress and poverty had taken a toll and Baudelaire had aged noticeably. But at last, his mother relented and agreed to let him live with her for a while at Honfleur. Baudelaire was productive and at peace in the seaside town, his poem Le Voyage being one example of his efforts during that time.]In 1860, he became an ardent supporter of Richard Wagner.

His financial difficulties increased again, however, particularly after his publisher Poulet Malassis went bankrupt in 1861. In 1864, he left Paris for Belgium, partly in the hope of selling the rights to his works and also to give lectures. His long-standing relationship with Jeanne Duval continued on-and-off, and he helped her to the end of his life. Baudelaire's relationships with actress Marie Daubrun and with courtesan Apollonie Sabatier, though the source of much inspiration, never produced any lasting satisfaction. He smoked opium, and in Brussels he began to drink to excess. Baudelaire suffered a massive stroke in 1866 and paralysis followed. The last two years of his life were spent, in a semi-paralyzed state, in "maisons de santé" in Brussels and in Paris, where he died on 31 August 1867. Baudelaire is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris.

Many of Baudelaire's works were published posthumously. After his death, his mother paid off his substantial debts, and at last she found some comfort in Baudelaire's emerging fame. "I see that my son, for all his faults, has his place in literature". She lived another four years.

 

 


Jeanne Duval, by Édouard Manet

 


FLOWERS OF EVIL
 

Type of work: Poetry
Author: Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
First published: 1857

 

'Small hands washed, scoured, cared for like the hands of a woman—and with that, the head of a maniac, a voice cutting like a voice of steel"—thus did the observant but uncharitable Goncourt brothers describe Charles Baudelaire, who had already become the subject of innumerable legends in the Paris of the Second Empire. It was said that he had dyed his hair green; that he had been heard to remark in a cafe: "Have you ever eaten a baby? I find it pleasing to the palate!" But unfortunately for seekers after the sensational, most of the Baudelaire legends have been disproved by later research. Like Đîĺ, he enjoyed creating mystifications about himself.
Flowers of Evil, the volume on which Baudelaire's fame rests, was published in 1857, although some of the poems had appeared in magazines as much as fifteen years earlier, when the author was ruining himself financially by attempting to be a dandy of the boulevards. The book immediately become famous—or notorious—because of a prosecution brought against author and publisher on the grounds of offense against public morals. In the same year a similar charge had been brought against Flaubert for his Madame Bovary. Possibly because of the ridiculous position in which the government had found itself in the earlier case, the prosecution of Baudelaire was halfhearted, and the fine of three hundred francs was never paid. Actually, there were only six poems found to be objectionable (the subject of two of them being lesbianism); they were reprinted in a new edition published in Belgium, and are now included in all the standard texts and in some of the English translations.
When Barbey d'Aurevilly wrote of Baudelaire: "His present book is an anonymous drama in which he takes all the parts," he was saying no more than that the poet was a Romantic. No young man of his generation could escape the "Byronic attitude" that had been the Englishman's legacy to Europe—to be grand, gloomy, and peculiar was expected. In addition to international Byronism, however, Baudelaire had been exposed to other influences at that time unusual in France. As a boy, he had learned English; hence, he came to know authors such as De Quincey and the Gothic novelists. Most important, he encountered the works of Đîĺ about 1846 and translated much of that work between 1856 and 1865. It was through this translation that Đîĺ began to have an influence upon French literature far greater than any he has ever exerted in America. Baudelaire's admiration of Đîĺ was immense: He called him "the incomparable Poet, the irrefutable philosopher—who must always be quoted in regard to the mysterious maladies of the mind. . . . The Master of the Horrible, the Prince of Mystery." And yet a reading of Baudelaire's poetry does not greatly remind us of that of Đîĺ; the American was not so preoccupied with sex nor do his ethereal, idealized females suggest the tigerish women with smoldering eyes whose nude charms—"ingenuousness united to lubricity"—Baudelaire loved to describe. What Đîĺ gave him was a general interest in the macabre and a feeling for compression, the latter a welcome reaction against the overwhelming verbosity of much Romantic poetry.
Baudelaire's style, at least as it appeared to a contemporary, was described by Gautier as "ingenious, complicated, learned, full of shades and of investigations, always pushing back the limits of language, borrowing all technical vocabularies, taking its colors from all palettes. . . . This decadent style is the last word of language called upon to express everything and pushed to the utmost." It is a "gamy" style like that of late Latin, suitable for the "haggard phantoms of insomnia." This, it must be confessed, rather melodramatic description well indicates the peculiar appeal that Baudelaire held for his contemporaries, who felt that "since Louis XIV French poetry has been dying of correctness."
As for his subject matter, the word "morbid" has been applied to it with unfailing regularity. D'Aurevilly called Baudelaire an "atheistic and modern Dante" whose Muse descended into Hell as surely as Dante's had ascended therefrom. The Romantic indulgence in sensation for its own sake he carried to the point at which pleasure becomes revulsion. In what is perhaps his most famous poem, "A Voyage to Cytherea," after the gay opening of the ship setting sail for the island of Venus, we are brought up sharply by

Look at it; after all, it's a poor land,

and are carried remorselessly through the description of the gibbet from which dangles a "ridiculous hanged man" torn by birds, to the final stanza:

In thine isle, Î Venus, I found only upthrust
A Calvary symbol whereon mine image hung,
—Give me, Lord God, to look upon that dung,
My body and my heart, without disgust!

Added to all of this was the attitude of world-weariness inherited from Byron. Baudelaire compares himself to a king in whose veins "the green waters of Lethe flow"; to someone who, in a former life, lived among "vast porticoes," tended by slaves whose only task was to discover their master's secret grief. There were also the blasphemies ("Les Litanies de Satan") and the meticulous descriptions of the revolting ("Une Charogne").
Much of Baudelaire's pyrotechnics—even that part which was sincere and not merely intended to shock the bourgeoisie—has lost its effect. A modern reader, accustomed to clinically precise analyses of sex, is not particularly shocked by his lubricities; his blasphemies seem rather juvenile. One wonders what all the fuss was about.

But to contemporary poets, English as well as French, he is important as a counter-Romantic in a Romantic age; As the first modern, to quote Peter Quennell, "He had enjoyed a sense of his own age, had recognized its pattern while the pattern was yet incomplete." He enormously extended the frontiers of poetry by showing that it need not be limited to the conventionally "poetic." And there are few readers who will not be forced to admit the truth of the last line of his "Preface":

Hypocrite reader—my likeness—my brother!

 

 

 

 

 



BAUDELAIRE



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL


TRANSLATED by CYRIL SCOTT





7

Benediction

When by the changeless Power of a Supreme Decree
The poet issues forth upon this sorry sphere,
His mother, horrified, and full of blasphemy,
Uplifts her voice to God, who takes compassion on her.
" Ah, why did I not bear a serpent's nest entire,
Instead of bringing forth this hideous Child of Doom !
Oh cursed be that transient night of vain desire
When I conceived my expiation in my womb ! "
" Yet since among all women thou hast chosen me
To be the degradation of my jaded mate,
And since I cannot like a love-leaf wantonly
Consign this stunted monster to the glowing grate,"
" I'll cause thine overwhelming hatred to rebound
Upon the cursed tool of thy most wicked spite.
Forsooth, the branches of this wretched tree I'll wound
And rob its pestilential blossoms of their might ! "
So thus, she giveth vent unto her foaming ire,
And knowing not the changeless statutes of all times,
Herself, amid the flames of hell, prepares the pyre ;
The consecrated penance of maternal crimes.




8

Yet 'fieath th' invisible shelter of an Angel's wing
This sunlight-loving infant disinherited,
Exhales from all he eats and drinks, and everything
The ever sweet ambrosia and the nectar red.
He trifles with the winds and with the clouds that glide,
About the way unto the Cross, he loves to sing,
The spirit on his pilgrimage ; that faithful guide,
Oft weeps to see him joyful like a bird of Spring.
All those that he would cherish shrink from him with fear,
And some that waxen bold by his tranquility,
Endeavour hard some grievance from his heart to tear,
And make on him the trial of their ferocity.
Within the bread and wine outspread for his repast
To mingle dust and dirty spittle they essay,
And everything he touches, forth they slyly cast,
Or scourge themselves, if e'er their feet betrod his way.
His wife goes round proclaiming in the crowded quads
" Since he can find my body beauteous to behold,
Why not perform the office of those ancient gods
And like unto them, redeck myself with shining gold ? "
" I'll bathe myself with incense, spikenard and myrrh,
With genuflexions, delicate viandes and wine,
To see, in jest, if from a heart, that loves me dear,
I cannot filch away the hommages divine."
"And when of these impious jokes at length I tire,
My frail but mighty hands, around his breast entwined,
With nails, like harpies' nails, shall cunningly conspire
The hidden path unto his feeble heart to find."
" And like a youngling bird that trembles in its nest,
I'll pluck his heart right out; within its own blood drowned,
And finally to satiate my favourite beast,
I'll throw it with intense disdain upon the ground ! "





9

Towards the Heavens where he sees the sacred grail
The poet calmly stretches forth his pious arms,
Whereon the lightenings from his lucid spirit veil
The sight of the infuriated mob that swarms.
" Oh blest be thou, Almighty who bestowest pain,
Like some divine redress for our infirmities,
And like the most refreshing and the purest rain,
To sanctify the strong, for saintly ecstasies."
" I know that for the poet thou wilt grant a chair,
Among the Sainted Legion and the Blissful ones,
That of the endless feast thou wilt accord his share
To him, of Virtues, Dominations and of Thrones."
" I know, that Sorrow is that nobleness alone,
Which never may corrupted be by hell nor curse,
I know, in order to enwreathe my mystic crown
I must inspire the ages and the universe."
" And yet the buried jewels of Palmyra old,
.The undiscovered metals and the pearly sea
Of gems, that unto me you show could never hold
Beside this diadem of blinding brilliancy."
" For it shall be engendered from the purest fire
Of rays primeval, from the holy hearth amassed,
Of which the eyes of Mortals, in their sheen entire,
Are but the tarnished mirrors, sad and overcast ! "





10

Echoes
 
In Nature's temple, living columns rise,
Which oftentimes give tongue to words subdued,
And Man traverses this symbolic wood,
Which looks at him with half familiar eyes
Like lingering echoes, which afar confound
Themselves in deep and sombre unity,
As vast as Night, and like transplendency,
The scents and colours to each other respond.
And scents there are, like infant's flesh as chaste,
As sweet as oboes, and as meadows fair,
And others, proud, corrupted, rich and vast,
Which have the expansion of infinity,
Like amber, musk and frankincense and myrrh,
That sing the soul's and senses' ecstasy.


11
 

The Sick Muse

Alas my poor Muse what aileth thee now ?
Thine eyes are bedimmed with the visions of Night,
And silent and cold I perceive on thy brow
In their turns Despair and Madness alight.
A succubus green, or a hobgoblin red,
Has it poured o'er thee Horror and Love from its urn ? -
Or the Nightmare with masterful bearing hath led
Thee to drown in the depths of some magic Minturne?
I wish, as the health-giving fragrance I cull,
That thy breast with strong thoughts could for ever be full,
And that rhymthmic'ly flowing thy Christian blood
Could resemble the olden-time metrical-flood,
Where each in his turn reigned the father of Rhymes
Phoebus and Pan, lord of Harvest-times.


12
 

The Venal Muse

Oh Muse of my heart so fond of palaces old,
Wilt have when New- Year speeds its wintry blast,
Amid those tedious nights, with snow o'ercast,
A log to warm thy feet, benumbed with cold ?
Wilt thou thy marbled shoulders then revive
With nightly rays that through thy shutters peep ?
And void thy purse and void thy palace reap
A golden hoard within some azure hive ?
Thou must, to earn thy daily bread, each night,
Suspend the censer like an acolyte,
Te-Deums sing, with sanctimonious ease,
Or as a famished mountebank, with jokes obscene
Essay to lull the vulgar rabble's spleen ;
Thy laughter soaked in tears which no one sees.


13
 

The Evil Monk
 

The cloisters old, expounded on their walls
With paintings, the Beatic Verity,
The which ado'rning their religious halls,
Enriched the frigidness of their Austerity.
In days when Christian seeds bloomed o'er the land,
Full many a noble monk unknown to-day,
Upon the field of tombs would take his stand,
Exalting Death in rude and simple way.
My soul is a tomb where bad monk that I be
I dwell and search its depths from all eternity,
And nought bedecks the walls of the odious spot.
Oh sluggard monk ! when shall I glean aright
From the living spectacle of my bitter lot,
To mold my handy work and mine eyes' Delight ?




14

The Enemy

My childhood was nought but a ravaging storm,
Enlivened at times by a brilliant sun ;
The rain and the winds wrought such havoc and harm
That of buds on my plot there remains hardly one.
Behold now the Fall of ideas I have reached,
And the shovel and rake one must therefore resume,
In collecting the turf, inundated and breached,
Where the waters dug trenches as deep as a tomb.
And yet these new blossoms, for which I craved,
Will they find in this earth like a shore that is laved
The mystical fuel which vigour imparts ?
Oh misery ! Time devours our lives,
And the enemy black, which consumeth our hearts
On the blood of our bodies, increases and thrives !


Man and the Sea
 

Free man ! the sea is to thee ever dear !
The sea is thy mirror, thou regardest thy soul
In its mighteous waves that unendingly roll,
And thy spirit is yet not a chasm less drear.
Thou delight'st to plunge deep in thine image down ;
Thou tak'st it with eyes and with arms in embrace,
And at times thine own inward voice would'st efface
With the sound of its savage ungovernable moan.
You are both of you, sombre, secretive and deep :
Oh mortal, thy depths are foraye unexplored,
Oh sea no one knoweth thy dazzling hoard,
You both are so jealous your secrets to keep !
And endless ages have wandered by,
Yet still without pity or mercy you fight,
So mighty in plunder and death your delight :
Oh wrestlers ! so constant in enmity !


Beauty

I arn lovely, O mortals, like a dream of stone,
And my bosom, where each one gets bruised in turn,
To inspire the love of a poet is prone,
Like matter eternally silent and stern.
As an unfathomed sphinx, enthroned by the Nile,
My heart a swan's whiteness with granite combines,
And I hate every movement, displacing the lines,
And never I weep and never I smile.
The poets in front of mine attitudes fine
(Which the proudest of monuments seem to implant),
To studies profound all their moments assign,
For I have all these docile swains to enchant
Two mirrors, which Beauty in all things ignite :
Mine eyes, my large eyes, of eternal Light !


The Ideal

It could ne'er be those beauties of ivory vignettes ;
The varied display of a worthless age,
Nor puppet-like figures with castoncts,
That ever an heart like mine could engage.
I leave to Gavarni, that poet of chlorosis,
His hospital-beauties in troups that whirl,
For I cannot discover amid his pale roses
A flower to resemble my scarlet ideal.
Since, what for this fathomless heart I require
Is Lady Macbeth you ! in crime so dire ;
An Eschylus dream transposed from the South
Or thee, oh great " Night " of Michael-Angelo born,
Who so calmly thy limbs in strange posture hath drawn,
Whose allurements are framed for a Titan's mouth.




19

The Giantess

I should have loved erewhile when Heaven conceived
Each day, some child abnormal and obscene,
Beside a maiden giantess to have lived,
Like a luxurious cat at the feet of a queen ;
To see her body flowering with her soul,
And grow, unchained, in awe-inspiring art,
Within the mists across her eyes that stole
To divine the fires entombed within her heart.
And oft to scramble o'er her mighty limbs,
And climb the slopes of her enormous knees,
Or in summer when the scorching sunlight streams
Across the country, to recline at ease,
And slumber in the shadow of her breast
Like an hamlet 'neath the mountain-crest.


20
 

Hymn to Beauty

O Beauty ! dost thou generate from Heaven or from Hell ?
Within thy glance, so diabolic and divine,
Confusedly both wickedness and goodness dwell,
And hence one might compare thee unto sparkling wine.
Thy look containeth both the dawn and sunset stars,
Thy perfumes, as upon a sultry night exhale,
Thy kiss a philter, and thy mouth a Grecian vase,
That renders heroes cowardly and infants hale.
Yea, art thou from the planets, or the fiery womb ?
The demon follows in thy train, with magic fraught,
Thou scatter'st seeds haphazardly of joy and doom,
Thou govern'st everything, but answer'st unto nought.
O Loveliness ! thou spurnest corpses with delight,
Among thy jewels, Horror hath such charms for thee,
And Murder 'mid thy mostly cherished trinklets bright,
Upon thy massive bosom dances amorously.
The blinded, fluttering moth towards the candle flies,
Then frizzles, falls, and falters" Blessings unto thee "
The panting swain that o'er his beauteous mistress sighs,
Seems like the Sick, that stroke their gravestones lovingly.
What matter, if thou comest from the Heavens or Hell,
O Beauty, frightful ghoul, ingenuous and obscure !
So long thine eyes, thy smile, to me the way can tell
Towards that Infinite I love, but never saw.
From God or Satan ? Angel, Mermaid, Proserpine ?
What matter if thou makest blithe, voluptuous sprite
With rhythms, perfumes, visions O mine only queen !
The universe less hideous and the hours less trite.


21
 

Exotic Perfume

When, with closed eyes, on a hot afternoon,
The scent of thine ardent breast I inhale,
Celestial vistas my spirit assail ;
Caressed by the flames of an endless sun.
A langorous island, where Nature abounds
With exotic trees and luscious fruit;
And with men whose bodies are slim and astute,
And with women whose frankness delights and astounds.
By thy perfume enticed to this region remote,
A port I see, laden with mast and with boat,
Still wearied and torn by the distant brine ;
While the tamarisk-odours that dreamily throng
The air, round my slumberous senses intwine,
And mix, in my soul, with the mariners' song.


22
 

La Chevelure

O fleece, that foams down unto the shoulders bare !
O curls, O scents which lovely languidness exhale !
Delight ! to fill this alcove's sombre atmosphere
With memories, sleeping deep within this tress of hair,
I'll wave it in the evening breezes like a veil !
The shores of Africa, and Asia's burning skies,
A world forgotten, distant, nearly dead and spent,
Within thy depths, O aromatic forest ! lies.
And like to spirits floating unto melodies,
Mine own, Beloved ! glides within thy sacred scent.
There I will hasten, where the trees and humankind
With languor lull beside the hot and silent sea ;
Strong tresses bear me, be to me the waves and wind 1
Within thy fragrance lies a dazzling dream confined
Of sails and masts and flames O lake of ebony !
A loudly echoing harbour, where my soul may hold
To quaff, the silver cup of colours, scents and sounds,
Wherein the vessels glide upon a sea of gold,
And stretch their mighty arms, the glory to enfold
Of virgin skies, where never-ending heat abounds.
I'll plunge my brow, enamoured with voluptuousness
Within this darkling ocean of infinitude,
Until my subtle spirit, which thy waves caress,
Shall find you once again, O fertile weariness ;
Unending lullabye of perfumed lassitude !





23
 

Ye tresses blue recess of strange and sombre shades,
Ye make the azure of the starry Realm immense ;
Upon the downy beeches, by your curls' cascades,
Among your mingling fragrances, my spirit wades
To cull the musk and cocoa-nut and lotus scents.
Long foraye my hand, within thy heavy mane,
Shall scatter rubies, pearls, sapphires eternally,
And thus my soul's desire for thee shall never wane ;
For art not thou the oasis where I dream and drain
With draughts profound, the golden wine of memory ?


Sonnet XXVI

With pearly robes that wave within the wind,
Even when she walks, she seems to dance,
Like swaying serpents round those wands entwined
Which fakirs ware in rhythmic elegance.
So like the desert's Blue, and the sands remote,
Both, deaf to mortal suffering and to strife,
Or like the sea-weeds 'neath the waves that float,
Indifferently she moulds her budding life.
Her polished eyes are made of minerals bright,
And in her mien, symbolical and cold,
Wherein an angel mingles with a sphinx of old,
Where all is gold, and steel, and gems, and light,
There shines, just like a useless star eternally,
The sterile woman's frigid majesty.





24
 

Posthumous Remorse

Ah, when thou shalt slumber, my darkling love,
Beneath a black marble-made statuette,
And when thou'lt have nought for thy house or alcove,
But a cavernous den and a damp oubliette.
When the tomb-stone, oppressing thy timorous breast,
And thy hips drooping sweetly with listless decay,
The pulse and desires of mine heart shall arrest,
And thy feet from pursuing their adventurous way,
Then the grave, that dark friend of my limitless dreams
(For the grave ever readeth the poet aright),
Amid those long nights, which no slumber redeems
'Twill query " What use to thee, incomplete spright
That thou ne'er hast unfathomed the tears of the dead"?
Then the worms will gnaw deep at thy body, like Dread.




25

The Balcony

Oh, Mother of Memories ! Mistress of Mistresses !
Oh, thou all my pleasures, oh, thou all my prayers !
Can'st thou remember those luscious caresses,
The charm of the hearth and the sweet evening airs ?
Oh, Mother of Memories, Mistress of Mistresses !
Those evenings illumed by the glow of the coal,
And those roseate nights with their vaporous wings,
How calm was thy breast and how good was thy soul,
'Twas then we uttered imperishable things,
Those evenings illumed by the glow of the coal.
How lovely the suns on those hot, autumn nights !
How vast were the heavens ! and the heart how hale !
As I leaned towards you oh, my Queen of Delights,
The scent of thy blood I seemed to inhale.
How lovely the sun on those hot, autumn nights !
The shadows of night-time grew dense like a pall,
And deep through the darkness thine eyes I divined,
And I drank of thy breath oh sweetness, oh gall,
And thy feet in my brotherly hands reclined,
The shadows of Night-time grew dense like a pall.
I know how to call forth those moments so dear,
And to live my Past laid on thy knees once more,
For where should I seek for thy beauties but here
In thy langorous heart and thy body so pure ?
I know how to call forth those moments so dear.
Those perfumes, those infinite kisses and sighs,
Are they born in some gulf to our plummets denied ?
Like rejuvenate suns that mount up to the skies,
That first have been cleansed in the depths of the tide ;
Oh, perfumes ! oh, infinite kisses and sighs !




26
 

The Possessed One

The sun is enveloped in crape ! like it,
Moon of my Life ! wrap thyself up in shade ;
At will, smoke or slumber, be silent, be staid,
And dive deep down in Dispassion's dark pit.
1 cherish thee thus ! But if 'tis thy mood,
Like a star that from out its penumbra appears,
To float in the regions where madness careers,
Fair dagger ! burst forth from thy sheath ! 'tis good.
Yea, light up thine eyes at the Fire of Renown !
Or kindle desire by the looks of some clown !
Thine All is my joy, whether dull or aflame !
Just be what thou wilt, black night, dawn divine,
There is not a nerve in my trembling frame
But cries, " I adore thee, Beelzebub mine ! "




27
 

Semper Eadem

" From whence it comes, you ask, this gloom acute,
Like waves that o'er the rocky headland fall ? "
When once our hearts have gathered in their fruit,
To live is a curse ! a secret known to all,
A grief, quite simple, nought mysterious,
And like your joy for all, both loud and shrill,
Nay cease to clammour, be not e'er so curious !
And yet although your voice is sweet, be still !
Be still, O soul, with rapture ever rife !
O mouth, with the childish smile ! Far more than Life,
The subtle bonds of Death around us twine.
Let let my heart, the wine of falsehood drink,
And dream-like, deep within your fair eyes sink,
And in the shade of thy lashes long recline !




28

All Entire

The Demon, in my lofty vault,
This morning came to visit me,
And striving me to find at fault,
He said, " Fain would I know of thee ;
" Among the many beauteous things,
All which her subtle grace proclaim
Among the dark and rosy things,
Which go to make her charming frame,
" Which is the sweetest unto thee " ?
My soul ! to Him thou didst retort
" Since all with her is destiny,
Of preference there can be nought.
When all transports me with delight,
If aught deludes I can not know,
She either lulls one like the Night,
Or dazzles like the Morning-glow.
That harmony is too divine,
Which governs all her body fair,
For powerless mortals to define
In notes the many concords there.
O mystic metamorphosis
Of all my senses blent in one !
Her voice a beauteous perfume is,
Her breath makes music, chaste and wan.




29
 

Sonnet XLIII

What sayest thou, to-night, poor soul so drear,
What sayest heart erewhile engulfed in gloom,
To the very lovely, very chaste, and very dear,
Whose god-like look hath made thee to re-bloom ?
To her, with pride we chant an echoing Hymn,
For nought can touch the sweetness of her sway ;
Her flesh ethereal as the seraphim,
Her eyes with robe of light our souls array.
And be it in the night, or solitude,
Among the streets or 'mid the multitude,
Her shadow, torch-like, dances in the air,
And murmurs, " I, the Beautiful proclaim
That for my sake, alone ye love the Fair ;
I am the Guardian Angel, Muse and Dame ! "




30

The Living Torch

They stand before me now, those eyes that shine,
No doubt inspired by an Angel wise;
They stand, those God-like brothers that are mine,
And pour their diamond fires in mine eyes.
From all transgressions, from all snares, they save,
Towards the Path of Joy they guide my ways ;
They are my servants, and I am their slave ;
And all my soul, this living torch obeys.
Ye charming Eyes ye have those mystic beams,
Of candles, burning in full day ; the sun
Awakes, yet kills not their fantastic gleams :
Ye sing the Awak'ning, they the dark oblivion ;
The Awak'ning of my spirit ye proclaim,
O stars no sun can ever kill your flame !




31

The Spiritual Dawn

When the morning white and rosy breaks,
With the gnawing Ideal, upon the debauchee,
By the power of a strange decree,
Within the sotted beast an Angel wakes.
The mental Heaven's inaccessible blue,
For wearied mortals that still dream and mourn,
Expands and sinks ; towards the chasm drawn.
Thus, cherished goddess, Being pure and true
Upon the rests of foolish orgy-nights
Thine image, more sublime, more pink, more clear,
Before my staring eyes is ever there.
The sun has darkened all the candle lights ;
And thus thy spectre like the immortal sun,
Is ever victorious thou resplendent one !




32

Evening Harmony

The hour approacheth, when, as their stems incline,
The flowers evaporate like an incense urn,
And sounds and scents in the vesper breezes turn ;
A melancholy waltz and a drowsiness divine.
The flowers evaporate like an incense urn,
The viol vibrates like the wailing of souls that repine.
A melancholy waltz and a drowsiness divine,
The skies like a mosque are beautiful and stern.
The viol vibrates like the wailing of souls that repine ;
Sweet souls that shrink from chaos vast and etern,
The skies like a mosque are beautiful and stern,
The sunset drowns within its blood-red brine.
Sweet souls that shrink from chaos vast and etern,
Essay the wreaths of their faded Past to entwine,
The sunset drowns within its blood-red brine,
Thy thought within me glows like an incense urn.


33
 

Overcast Sky

Meseemeth thy glance, soft enshrouded with dew,
Thy mysterious eyes (are they grey, green or blue ?),
Alternately cruel, and tender, and shy,
Reflect both the languor and calm of the sky.
Thou recallest those white days with shadows caressed,
Engendering tears from th' enraptured breast,
When racked by an anguish unfathomed that weeps,
The nerves, too awake, jibe the spirit that sleeps.
At times thou art like those horizons divine,
Where the suns of the nebulous seasons decline ;
How resplendent art thou O pasturage vast,
Illumed by the beams of a sky overcast !
O ! dangerous dame oh seductive clime !
As well, will I love both thy snow and thy rime,
And shall I know how from the frosts to entice
Delights that are keener than iron and ice ?




 

Invitation to a Journey
My sister, my dear
Consider how fair,
Together to live it would be !
Down yonder to fly
To love, till we die,
In the land which resembles thee.
Those suns that rise
'Neath erratic skies,
No charm could be like unto theirs
So strange and divine,
Like those eyes of thine
Which glow in the midst of their tears.
There, all is order and loveliness,
Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.
The tables and chairs,
Polished bright by the years,
Would decorate sweetly our rooms,
And the rarest of flowers
Would twine round our bowers
And mingle their amber perfumes :.




 

 

The ceilings arrayed,
And the mirrors inlaid,
This Eastern splendour among,
Would furtively steal
O'er our sculs, and appeal
With its tranquillous native tongue.
There, all is order and loveliness,
Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.
In the harbours, peep,
At the vessels asleep
(Their humour is always to roam),
Yet it is but to grant
Thy smallest want
From the ends of the earth that they come,
The sunsets beam
Upon meadow and stream,
And upon the city entire
'Neath a violet crest,
The world sinks to rest,
Illumed by a golden fire.
There, all is order and loveliness,
Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.





 

Sisina

Imagine Diana in gorgeous array,
How into the forests and thickets she flies,
With her hair in the breezes, and flushed for the fray,
How the very best riders she proudly defies.
Have you seen Theroigne, of the blood-thirsty heart,
As an unshod herd to attack he bestirs,
With cheeks all inflamed, playing up to his part,
As he goes, sword in hand, up the royal stairs ?
And so is Sisina yet this warrior sweet,
Has a soul with compassion and kindness replete,
Inspired by drums and by powder, her sway
Knows how to concede to the supplicants' prayers,
And her bosom, laid waste by the flames, has alway,
For those that are worthy, a fountain of tears.




 

39
 

To a Creolean Lady

In a country perfumed with the sun's embrace,
I knew 'neath a dais of purpled palms,
And branches where idleness weeps o'er one's face,
A Creolean lady of unknown charms.
Her tint, pale and warm this bewitching bride,
Displays a nobly nurtured mien,
Courageous and grand like a huntsman, her stride ;
A tranquil smile and eyes serene.
If, madam, you'd go to the true land of gain,
By the banks of the verdant Loire or the Seine,
How worthy to garnish some pile of renown.
You'd awake in the calm of some shadowy nest,
A thousand songs in the poet's breast,
That your eyes would inspire far more than your brown.




 

40
 

Moesta et Errabunda

Oh, Agatha, tell ! does thy heart not at times fly away ?
Far from the city impure and the lowering sea,
To another ocean that blinds with its dazzling array,
So blue and so clear and profound, like virginity ?
Oh, Agatha, tell ! does thy heart not at times fly away ?
The sea, the vast ocean our travail and trouble consoles !
What demon hath gifted the sea with a voice from on high,
To sing us (attuned to an Eolus-organ that rolls
Forth a grumbling burden) a lenitive lullabye ?
The sea, the vast ocean our travail and trouble consoles !
Oh, carry me, waggons, oh, sailing-ships, help me depart !
Far, far, here the dust is quite wet with our showering
tears,
Oh, say ! it is true that Agatha's desolate heart,
Proclaimeth, " Away from remorse, and from crimes, and
from cares,"
Oh, carry me, waggons, oh, sailing ships, help me depart !
How distant you seem to be, perfumed Elysian fields !
Wherein there is nothing but sunshine and love and glee ;
Where all that one loves is so worthy, and lovingly yields,
And our hearts float about in the purest of ecstasy,
How distant you seem to be, perfumed Elysian fields !




41

But the green paradise of those transient infantile loves,
The strolls, and the songs, and the kisses, and bunches of
flowers,
The viols vibrating beyond, in the mountainous groves,
With the chalice of wine and the evening, entwined, in the
bowers,
But the green paradise of those transient infantile loves.
That innocent heaven o'erflowing with furtive delight,
Than China or India, is it still further away ?
Or, could one with pityful prayers bring it back to our
sight ?
Or yet with a silvery voice o'er the ages convey
That innocent heaven o'erflowing with furtive delight !





 

42
 

The Ghost

Just like an angel with evil eye,
I shall return to thee silently,
Upon thy bower I'll alight,
With falling shadows of the night
With thee, my brownie, I'll commune,
And give thee kisses cold as the moon,
And with a serpent's moist embrace,
I'll crawl around thy resting-place.
And when the livid morning falls,
Thou'lt find alone the empty walls,
And till the evening, cold 'twill be.
As others with their tenderness,
Upon thy life and youthfulness,
I'll reign alone with dread o'er thee.




 

43
 

Autumn Song

They ask me thy crystalline eyes, so acute,
" Odd lover why am I to thee so dear ? "
Be sweet and keep silent, my heart, wrifch is sear,
For all, save the rude and untutored brute,
Is loth its infernal depths to reveal,
And its dissolute motto engraven with fire,
Oh charmer ! whose arms endless slumber inspire !
I abominate passion and wit makes me ill.
So let us love gently. Within his retreat,
Foreboding, Love seeks for his arrows a prey,
I know all the arms of his battle array.
Delirium and loathing O pale Marguerite !
Like me, art thou not an autumnal ray,
Alas my so white, my so cold Marguerite !




 

44
 

Sadness of the Moon-Goddess

To-night the Moon dreams with increased weariness,
Like a beauty stretched forth on a downy heap
Of rugs, while her languorous fingers caress
The contour of her breasts, before falling to sleep.
On the satin back of the avalanche soft,
She falls into lingering swoons, as she dies,
While she lifteth her eyes to white visions aloft,
Which like efflorescence float up to the skies.
When at times, in her languor, down on to this sphere,
She slyly lets trickle a furtive tear,
A poet, desiring slumber to shun,
Takes up this pale tear in the palm of his hand
(The colours of which like an opal blend),
And buries it far from the eyes of the sun.




 

45
 

Cats

All ardent lovers and all sages prize,
As ripening years incline upon their brows
The mild and mighty cats pride of the house
That like unto them are indolent, stern and wise.
The friends of Learning and of Ecstasy,
They search for silence and the horrors of gloom ;
The devil had used them for his steeds of Doom,
Could he alone have bent their pride to slavery.
When musing, they display those outlines chaste,
Of the great sphinxes stretched o'er the sandy waste,
That seem to slumber deep in a dream without end :
From out their loins a fountainous furnace flies,
And grains of sparkling gold, as fine as sand,
Bestar the mystic pupils of their eyes.




46
 

Owls
 
Beneath the shades of sombre yews,
The silent owls sit ranged in rows,
Like ancient idols, strangely pose,
And darting fiery eyes, they muse.
Immovable, they sit and gaze,
Until the melancholy hour,
At which the darknesses devour
The faded sunset's slanting rays.
Their attitude, instructs the wise,
That he within this world who flies
From tumult and from merriment ;
The man allured by a passing face,
For ever bears the chastisement
Of having wished to change his place.



 

47
 

Music

Oft Music possesses me like the seas !
To my planet pale,
'Neath a ceiling of mist, in the lofty breeze,
I set my sail.
With inflated lungs and expanded chest,
Like to a sail,
On the backs of the heaped-up billows I rest
Which the shadows veil
I feel all the anguish within me arise
Of a ship in distress ;
The tempest, the rain, 'neath the lowering skies,
My body caress :
At times, the calm pool or the mirror clear
Of my despair !




48

The Joyous Defunct
 
Where snails abound in a juicy soil,
I will dig for myself a fathomless grave,
Where at leisure mine ancient bones I can coil,
And sleep quite forgotten like a shark 'neath the wave.
I hate every tomb I abominate wills,
And rather than tears from the world to implore,
I would ask of the crows with their vampire bills
To devour every bit of my carcass impure.
Oh worms, without eyes, without ears, black friends !
To you a defunct-one, rejoicing, descends,
Enlivened Philosophers offspring of Dung !
Without any qualms, o'er my wreckage spread,
And tell if some torment there still can be wrung
For this soul-less old frame that is dead 'midst the dead !


49
 

The Broken Bell

How sweet and bitter, on a winter night,
Beside the palpitating fire to list,
As, slowly, distant memories alight,
To sounds of chimes that sing across the mist.
Oh, happy is that bell with hearty throat,
Which neither age nor time can e'er defeat,
Which faithfully uplifts its pious note,
Like an agud soldier on his beat.
For me, my soul is cracked, and 'mid her cares,
Would often fill with her songs the midnight airs ;
And oft it chances that her feeble moan
Is like the wounded warrior's fainting groan,
W T ho by a lake of blood, 'neath bodies slain,
In anguish falls, and never moves again.




50
 

Spleen

The rainy moon of all the world is weary,
And from its urn a gloomy cold pours down,
Upon the pallid inmates of the mortuary,
And on the neighbouring- outskirts of the town.
My wasted cat, in searching for a litter,
Bestirs its mangy paws from post to post ;
(A poet's soul that wanders in the gutter,
With the jaded voice of a shiv'ring ghost).
The smoking pine-log, while the drone laments,
Accompanies the wheezy pendulum,
The while amidst a haze of dirty scents,
Those fatal remnants of a sick man's room
The gallant knave of hearts and queen of spades
Relate their ancient amorous escapades.




 

51
 

Obsession

Great forests, you alarm me like a mighty fane ;
Like organ-tones you roar, and in our hearts of stone,
Where ancient sobs vibrate, O halls of endless pain !
The answering echoes of your " De Profundis " moan.
I hate thee, Ocean ! hate thy tumults and thy throbs,
My spirit finds them in himself. This bitter glee
Of vanquished mortals, full of insults and of sobs,
I hear it in the mighteous laughter of the sea.
O starless night ! thy loveliness my soul inhales,
Without those starry rays which speak a language known,
For I desire the dark, the naked and the lone.
But e'en those darknesses themselves to me are veils,
Where live and, by the millions 'neath my eyelids prance,
Long, long departed Beings with familiar glance.





52

Magnetic Horror

" Beneath this sky, so livid and strange,
Tormented like thy destiny,
What thoughts within thy spirit range
Themselves? O libertine reply."
With vain desires, for ever torn
Towards the uncertain, and the vast,
And yet, like Ovid I'll not mourn
Who from his Roman Heaven was cast.
O heavens, turbulent as the streams,
In you I mirror forth my pride !
Your clouds, which clad in mourning, glide,
Are the hearses of my dreams,
And in your illusion lies the hell,
Wherein my heart delights to dwell.




 

53
 

The Lid

Where'er he may rove, upon sea or on land,
'Neath a fiery sky or a pallid sun,
Be he Christian or one of Cythera's band,
Opulent Croesus or beggar 'tis one,
Whether citizen, peasant or vagabond he,
Be his little brain active or dull. Everywhere,
Man feels the terror of mystery,
And looks upon high with a glance full of fear.
The Heaven above, that oppressive wall ;
A ceiling lit up in some lewd music hall,
Where the actors step forth on a blood-red soil
The eremite's hope, and the dread of the sot,
The Sky ; that black lid of a mighty pot,
Where, vast and minute, human Races boil.




 

54
 

Bertha's Eyes

The loveliest eyes you can scorn with your wondrous glow :
O ! beautiful childish eyes there abounds in your light,
A something unspeakably tender and good as the night :
O ! eyes ! over me your enchanting darkness let flow.
Large eyes of my child ! O Arcana profoundly adored !
Ye resemble so closely those caves in the magical creek ;
Where within the deep slumbering shade of some petrified
peak,
There shines, undiscovered, the gems of a dazzling hoard.
My child has got eyes so profound and so dark and so vast,
Like thee ! oh unending Night, and thy mystical shine :
Their flames are those thoughts that with Love and with
Faith combine,
And sparkle deep down in the depths so alluring or chaste.




 

55
 

The Set of the Romantic Sun

How beauteous the sun as it rises supreme,
Like an explosion that greets us from above,
Oh, happy is he that can hail with love,
Its decline, more glorious far, than a dream.
I saw flower, furrow, and brook. ... I recall
How they swooned like a tremulous heart 'neath the sun,
Let us haste to the sky-line, 'tis late, let us run,
At least to catch one slanting ray ere it fall.
But the god, who eludes me, I chase all in vain,
The night, irresistible, plants its domain,
Black mists and vague shivers of death it forbodes ;
While an odour of graves through the darkness spreads,
And on the swamp's margin, my timid foot treads
Upon slimy snails, and on unseen toads.




56

Meditation

Be wise, O my Woe, seek thy grievance to drown,
Thou didst call for the night, and behold it is here,
An atmosphere sombre, envelopes the town,
To some bringing peace and to others a care.
Whilst the manifold souls of the vile multitude,
'Neath the lash of enjoyment, that merciless sway,
Go plucking remorse from the menial brood,
From them far, O my grief, hold my hand, come this way.
Behold how they beckon, those years, long expired,
From Heaven, in faded apparel attired,
How Regret, smiling, foams on the waters like yeast ;
Its arches of slumber the dying sun spreads,
And like a long winding-sheet dragged to the East,
Oh, hearken Beloved, how the Night softly treads !




 

57
 

To a Passer-by

Around me thundered the deafening noise of the street,
In mourning apparel, portraying majestic distress,
With queenly ringers, just lifting the hem of her dress,
A stately woman passed by with hurrying feet.
Agile and noble, with limbs of perfect poise.
Ah, how I drank, thrilled through like a Being insane,
In her look, a dark sky, from whence springs forth the
hurricane,
There lay but the sweetness that charms, and the joy that
destroys.
A flash then the night. . . . O loveliness fugitive !
Whose glance has so suddenly caused me again to live,
Shall I not see you again till this life is o'er !
Elsewhere, far away ... too late, perhaps never more,
For I know not whither you fly, nor you, where I go,
O soul that I would have loved, and that you know !


58

Illusionary Love

When I behold thee wander by, my languorous love,
To songs of viols which throughout the dome resound,
Harmonious and stately as thy footsteps move,
Bestowing forth the languor of thy glance profound.
When I regard thee, glowing in the gaslight rays,
Thy pallid brow embellished by a charm obscure,
Here where the evening torches light the twilight haze,
Thine eyes attracting me like those of a portraiture,
I say How beautiful she is ! how strangely rich !
A mighty memory, royal and commanding tower,
A garland : and her heart, bruised like a ruddy peach,
Is ripe like her body for Love's sapient power.
Art thou, that spicy Autumn-fruit with taste supreme ?
Art thou a funeral vase inviting tears of grief ?
Aroma causing one of Eastern wastes to dream ;
A downy cushion, bunch of flowers or golden sheaf ?
I know that there are eyes, most melancholy ones,
Wherein no precious secret deeply hidden lies,
Resplendent shrines, devoid of relics, sacred stones,
More empty, more profound than ye yourselves, O skies ?
Yea, does thy semblance, not alone for me suffice,
To kindle senses which the cruel truth abhor ?
All one to me ! thy folly or thy heart of ice,
Decoy or mask, all hail ! thy beauty I adore !




59
 

Mists and Rains

O last of Autumn and Winter steeped in haze,
O sleepy seasons ! you I love and praise,
Because around my heart and brain you twine
A misty winding-sheet and a nebulous shrine.
On that great plain, where frigid blasts abound,
Where through the nights, so long, the vane whirls round,
My soul, more free than in the springtime soft,
Will stretch her raven wings and soar aloft,
Unto an heart with gloomy things replete,
On which remain the frosts of former Times,
O pallid seasons, mistress of our climes
As your pale shadows nothing is so sweet,
Unless it be, on a moonless night a-twain,
On some chance couch to soothe to sleep our Pain.




 

60
 

The Wine of Lovers
 
To-day the Distance is superb,
Without bridle, spur or curb,
Let us mount on the back of wine
For Regions fairy and divine !
Let's, like two angels tortured by
Some dark, delirious phantasy,
Pursue the distant mirage drawn
O'er the blue crystal of the dawn !
And gently balanced on the wing
Of some obliging whirlwind, we
In equal rapture revelling
My sister, side by side will flee,
Without repose, nor truce, where gleams
The golden Paradise of my dreams !



 

61
 

Condemned Women

Like thoughtful cattle on the yellow sands reclined,
They turn their eyes towards the horizon of the sea,
Their feet towards each other stretched, their hands
entwined,
They tell of gentle yearning, frigid misery.
A few, with heart-confiding faith of old, imbued
Amid the darkling grove, where silver streamlets flow,
Unfold to each their loves of tender infanthood,
And carve the verdant stems of the vine-kissed portico.
And others like unto nuns with footsteps slow and grave,
Ascend the hallowed rocks of ancient mystic lore,
Where long ago St. Anthony, like a surging wave,
The naked purpled breasts of his temptation saw.
And still some more, that 'neath the shimmering masses
stroll,
Among the silent chasm of some pagan caves,
To soothe their burning fevers unto thee they call
O Bacchus ! who all ancient wounds and sorrow laves.
And others again, whose necks in scapulars delight,
Who hide a whip beneath their garments secretly,
Commingling, in the sombre wood and lonesome night,
The foam of torments and of tears with ecstasy.





62

O virgins, demons, monsters, and O martyred brood !
Great souls that mock Reality with remorseless sneers,
O saints and satyrs, searchers for infinitude !
At times so full of shouts, at times so full of tears !
You, to whom within your hell my spirit flies,
Poor sisters yea, I love you as I pity you,
For your unsatiated thirsts and anguished sighs,
And for the vials of love within your hearts so true.





63

The Death of the Lovers

We will have beds which exhale odours soft,
AVe will have divans profound as the tomb,
And delicate plants on the ledges aloft,
Which under the bluest of skies for us bloom.
Exhausting our hearts to their last desires,
They both shall be like unto two glowing coals,
Reflecting the twofold light of their fires
Across the twin mirrors of our two souls.
One evening of mystical azure skies,
We'll exchange but one single lightning flash,
Just like a long sob replete with good byes.
And later an angel shall joyously pass
Through the half-open doors, to replenish and wash
The torches expired, and the tarnished glass.





64
 

The Death of the Poor

It is Death that consoles yea, and causes our lives
'Tis the goal of this Life and of Hope the sole ray,
Which like a strong potion enlivens and gives
Us the strength to plod on to the end of the day.
And all through the tempest, the frost and the snows,
'Tis the shimmering light on our black sky-line ;
'Tis the famous inn which the guide-book shows,
Whereat one can eat, and sleep, and recline ;
'Tis an angel that holds in his magic hands
The sleep, which ecstatic dream commands,
Who remakes up the beds of the naked and poor ;
'Tis the fame of the gods, 'tis the granary blest,
'Tis the purse of the poor, and his birth-place of rest,
To the unknown Heavens, 'tis the wide-open door.
 

 

 

 

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