15+ Best Charles Baudelaire Poems You Need To Read

Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of most known William Ernest Henley poems, greatest Eugene Field poems, and best known Ted Hughes poems.

Famous Charles Baudelaire Poems

Réversibilité (Reversability)

Ange plein de gaieté, connaissez-vous l’angoisse,
La honte, les remords, les sanglots, les ennuis,
Et les vagues terreurs de ces affreuses nuits
Qui compriment le coeur comme un papier qu’on froisse?
Ange plein de gaieté, connaissez-vous l’angoisse?

Ange plein de bonté, connaissez-vous la haine,
Les poings crispés dans l’ombre et les larmes de fiel,
Quand la Vengeance bat son infernal rappel,
Et de nos facultés se fait le capitaine?
Ange plein de bonté connaissez-vous la haine?

Ange plein de santé, connaissez-vous les Fièvres,
Qui, le long des grands murs de l’hospice blafard,
Comme des exilés, s’en vont d’un pied traînard,
Cherchant le soleil rare et remuant les lèvres?
Ange plein de santé, connaissez-vous les Fièvres?

Ange plein de beauté, connaissez-vous les rides,
Et la peur de vieillir, et ce hideux tourment
De lire la secrète horreur du dévouement
Dans des yeux où longtemps burent nos yeux avide!
Ange plein de beauté, connaissez-vous les rides?

Ange plein de bonheur, de joie et de lumières,
David mourant aurait demandé la santé
Aux émanations de ton corps enchanté;
Mais de toi je n’implore, ange, que tes prières,
Ange plein de bonheur, de joie et de lumières!

Reversibility

Angel full of gaiety, do you know anguish,
Shame, remorse, sobs, vexations,
And the vague terrors of those frightful nights
That compress the heart like a paper one crumples?
Angel full of gaiety, do you know anguish?

Angel full of kindness, do you know hatred,
The clenched fists in the darkness and the tears of gall,
When Vengeance beats out his hellish call to arms,
And makes himself the captain of our faculties?
Angel full of kindness, do you know hatred?

Angel full of health, do you know Fever,
Walking like an exile, moving with dragging steps,
Along the high, wan walls of the charity ward,
And with muttering lips seeking the rare sunlight?
Angel full of health, do you know Fever?

Angel full of beauty, do you know wrinkles,
The fear of growing old, and the hideous torment
Of reading in the eyes of her he once adored
Horror at seeing love turning to devotion?
Angel full of beauty, do you know wrinkles?

Angel full of happiness, of joy and of light,
David on his death-bed would have appealed for health
To the emanations of your enchanted flesh;
But of you, angel, I beg only prayers,
Angel full of happiness, of joy and of light!

— Translated by William Aggeler

Reversibility

Angel of gaiety, have you known anguish,
Shame and remorse, tears, boredom, and dismay,
Vague horrors of the nights in which we languish,
Which crumple hearts like papers thrown away?
Angel of gaiety, have you known anguish?

Angel of kindness, have you met with hate?
Fists clenched in gloom, eyes running tears of gall,
When Vengeance beats his drum to subjugate
Our faculties, the captain of them all?
Angel of kindness, have you met with hate?

Angel of health, have you beheld the Fevers?
Across pale walls of wards they limp and stumble,
Like exiles wan, with agues, chills, and shivers,
Seeking the scanty sun with lips that mumble.
Angel of health, have you beheld the Fevers?

Angel of beauty, do you know Old Age,
The fear of wrinkles, and the dire emotion,
In eyes we’ve pierced too long, as on a page,
To read the secret horror of devotion?
Angel of beauty do you know Old Age?

Angel of goodness, radiance, and delight,
The dying David would have begged to share
The emanations of your body bright.
But all I wish to ask of you is prayer,
Angel of goodness, radiance, and delight.

— Translated by Roy Campbell

The Angelic One

Spirit of happiness, hast thou heard tell of woe?
Hast thou heard tell of anguish, and remorse, and care —
Of those long nights when in the black fist of Despair
The heart is crumpled up like paper? Dost thou know,
Spirit of happiness? Hast thou heard tell of woe?

Spirit of kindliness, hast thou heard tell of hate,
The clenched hands in the darkness, the silent bitter tears,
With Vengeance beating in the arteries of our ears
Its dogged tom-tom, irresistible as fate?
Spirit of kindliness, hast thou heard tell of hate?

Spirit of health, hast thou heard whisper of Disease,
Whose pallid children, in the courtyard gray with soot
Of the bleak hospital, go dragging a slow foot
To find a patch of sunlight? Host thou heard of these?
Spirit of health, hast thou heard whisper of Disease?

Spirit of beauty, hast thou heard of ugliness,
Of the long secret torment of growing old — above
All else, the pain of reading in the eyes we love
A wordless horror, even while the lips say ‘yes?’
Spirit of beauty, hast thou heard of ugliness?

Spirit of joy, spirit of beauty, spirit of light,
David, grown old, would have thought nothing to implore
Thy healing touch, thy warm young presence in the night;
But, spirit, I only ask of thee thy prayers, no more —
Spirit of joy, spirit of beauty, spirit of light!

— Translated by George Dillon

Reversibility

Angel, teeming with gaiety, do you know grief,
Anguish, remorse and shame, their ravages and blights,
And the vague terrors of those panic-stricken nights
Which squeeze the heartstrings dry as a sere crumpled leaf?
Angel, teeming with gaiety, do you know grief?

Angel, teeming with kindliness, do you know hate,
Fists tight-clenched in the shadows, scalding tears of gall,
When Vengeance roars with his infernal battle-call,
Making himself the captain of our acts and fate?
Angel, teeming with kindliness, do you know hate?

Angel, teeming with healthfulness, do you know Fever
Who like an exile lopes with dragging step towards
The wan stark walls of hospitals and public wards,
Mumbling, seeking rare sunlight for a brace or lever?
Angel, teeming with healthfulness, do you know Fever?

Angel, teeming with loveliness, do you know wrinkles,
The fear of growing old, and, like a poisoned potion,
The dread of seeing love turn into fond devotion
In eyes adored, once blue and pure as periwinkles?
Angel, teeming with loveliness, do you know wrinkles?

Angel, teeming with happy, blithe, luminous airs,
David upon his deathbed would have craved for power
From the suave emanations of your body’s flower,
But I, angel, beseech of you only your prayers,
Angel, teeming with happy, blithe, luminous airs!

Le Cygne (The Swan)

À Victor Hugo

I

Andromaque, je pense à vous! Ce petit fleuve,
Pauvre et triste miroir où jadis resplendit
L’immense majesté de vos douleurs de veuve,
Ce Simoïs menteur qui par vos pleurs grandit,

A fécondé soudain ma mémoire fertile,
Comme je traversais le nouveau Carrousel.
Le vieux Paris n’est plus (la forme d’une ville
Change plus vite, hélas! que le coeur d’un mortel);

Je ne vois qu’en esprit tout ce camp de baraques,
Ces tas de chapiteaux ébauchés et de fûts,
Les herbes, les gros blocs verdis par l’eau des flaques,
Et, brillant aux carreaux, le bric-à-brac confus.

Là s’étalait jadis une ménagerie;
Là je vis, un matin, à l’heure où sous les cieux
Froids et clairs le Travail s’éveille, où la voirie
Pousse un sombre ouragan dans l’air silencieux,

Un cygne qui s’était évadé de sa cage,
Et, de ses pieds palmés frottant le pavé sec,
Sur le sol raboteux traînait son blanc plumage.
Près d’un ruisseau sans eau la bête ouvrant le bec

Baignait nerveusement ses ailes dans la poudre,
Et disait, le coeur plein de son beau lac natal:
«Eau, quand donc pleuvras-tu? quand tonneras-tu, foudre?»
Je vois ce malheureux, mythe étrange et fatal,

Vers le ciel quelquefois, comme l’homme d’Ovide,
Vers le ciel ironique et cruellement bleu,
Sur son cou convulsif tendant sa tête avide
Comme s’il adressait des reproches à Dieu!

II

Paris change! mais rien dans ma mélancolie
N’a bougé! palais neufs, échafaudages, blocs,
Vieux faubourgs, tout pour moi devient allégorie
Et mes chers souvenirs sont plus lourds que des rocs.

Aussi devant ce Louvre une image m’opprime:
Je pense à mon grand cygne, avec ses gestes fous,
Comme les exilés, ridicule et sublime
Et rongé d’un désir sans trêve! et puis à vous,

Andromaque, des bras d’un grand époux tombée,
Vil bétail, sous la main du superbe Pyrrhus,
Auprès d’un tombeau vide en extase courbée
Veuve d’Hector, hélas! et femme d’Hélénus!

Je pense à la négresse, amaigrie et phtisique
Piétinant dans la boue, et cherchant, l’oeil hagard,
Les cocotiers absents de la superbe Afrique
Derrière la muraille immense du brouillard;

À quiconque a perdu ce qui ne se retrouve
Jamais, jamais! à ceux qui s’abreuvent de pleurs
Et tètent la Douleur comme une bonne louve!
Aux maigres orphelins séchant comme des fleurs!

Ainsi dans la forêt où mon esprit s’exile
Un vieux Souvenir sonne à plein souffle du cor!
Je pense aux matelots oubliés dans une île,
Aux captifs, aux vaincus!… à bien d’autres encor!

The Swan

To Victor Hugo

I

Andromache, I think of you! — That little stream,
That mirror, poor and sad, which glittered long ago
With the vast majesty of your widow’s grieving,
That false Simois swollen by your tears,

Suddenly made fruitful my teeming memory,
As I walked across the new Carrousel.
— Old Paris is no more (the form of a city
Changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart);

I see only in memory that camp of stalls,
Those piles of shafts, of rough hewn cornices, the grass,
The huge stone blocks stained green in puddles of water,
And in the windows shine the jumbled bric-a-brac.

Once a menagerie was set up there;
There, one morning, at the hour when Labor awakens,
Beneath the clear, cold sky when the dismal hubbub
Of street-cleaners and scavengers breaks the silence,

I saw a swan that had escaped from his cage,
That stroked the dry pavement with his webbed feet
And dragged his white plumage over the uneven ground.
Beside a dry gutter the bird opened his beak,

Restlessly bathed his wings in the dust
And cried, homesick for his fair native lake:
‘Rain, when will you fall? Thunder, when will you roll?’
I see that hapless bird, that strange and fatal myth,

Toward the sky at times, like the man in Ovid,
Toward the ironic, cruelly blue sky,
Stretch his avid head upon his quivering neck,
As if he were reproaching God!

II

Paris changes! but naught in my melancholy
Has stirred! New palaces, scaffolding, blocks of stone,
Old quarters, all become for me an allegory,
And my dear memories are heavier than rocks.

So, before the Louvre, an image oppresses me:
I think of my great swan with his crazy motions,
Ridiculous, sublime, like a man in exile,
Relentlessly gnawed by longing! and then of you,

Andromache, base chattel, fallen from the embrace
Of a mighty husband into the hands of proud Pyrrhus,
Standing bowed in rapture before an empty tomb,
Widow of Hector, alas! and wife of Helenus!

I think of the negress, wasted and consumptive,
Trudging through muddy streets, seeking with a fixed gaze
The absent coco-palms of splendid Africa
Behind the immense wall of mist;

Of whoever has lost that which is never found
Again! Never! Of those who deeply drink of tears
And suckle Pain as they would suck the good she-wolf!
Of the puny orphans withering like flowers!

Thus in the dim forest to which my soul withdraws,
An ancient memory sounds loud the hunting horn!
I think of the sailors forgotten on some isle,
— Of the captives, of the vanquished!…of many others too!

— Translated by William Aggeler

The Swan

To Victor Hugo

Andromache! — This shallow stream, the brief
Mirror you once so grandly overcharged
With your vast majesty of widowed grief,
This lying Simois your tears enlarged,

Evoked your name, and made me think of you,
As I was crossing the new Carrousel.
— Old Paris is no more (cities renew,
Quicker than human hearts, their changing spell).

In mind I see that camp of huts, the muddle
Of rough-hewn roofs and leaning shafts for miles,
The grass, green logs stagnating in the puddle,
Where bric-a-brac lay glittering in piles.

Once a menagerie parked there.
And there it chanced one morning, when from slumber freed,
Labour stands up, and Transport through still air
Rumbles its sombre hurricane of speed, —

A swan escaped its cage: and as its feet
With finny palms on the harsh pavement scraped,
Trailing white plumage on the stony street,
In the dry gutter for fresh water gaped.

Nervously bathing in the dust, in wonder
It asked, remembering its native stream,
‘When will the rain come down? When roll the thunder?’
I see it now, strange myth and fatal theme!

Sometimes, like Ovid’s wretch, towards the sky
(Ironically blue with cruel smile)
Its neck, convulsive, reared its head on high
As though it were its Maker to revile.

II

Paris has changed, but in my grief no change.
New palaces and scaffoldings and blocks,
To me, are allegories, nothing strange.
My memories are heavier than rocks.

Passing the Louvre, one image makes me sad:
That swan, like other exiles that we knew,
Grandly absurd, with gestures of the mad,
Gnawed by one craving! — Then I think of you,

Who fell from your great husband’s arms, to be
A beast of freight for Pyrrhus, and for life,
Bowed by an empty tomb in ecstasy —
Great Hector’s widow! Helenus’s wife!

I think, too, of the starved and phthisic negress
Tramping the mud, who seeks, with haggard eye,
The palms of Africa, and for some egress
Out of this great black wall of foggy sky:

Of those who’ve lost what they cannot recover:
Of those who slake with tears their lonely hours
And milk the she-wolf, Sorrow, for their mother:
And skinny orphans withering like flowers.

So in the forest of my soul’s exile,
Remembrance winds his horn as on he rides.
I think of sailors stranded on an isle,
Captives, and slaves — and many more besides.

— Translated by Roy Campbell

Le Cygne

I

Andromache, of thee I think! and of
the dreary streamlet where, through exiled years,
shone the vast grandeur of thy widow’s love,
that false Simois brimmed with royal tears

poured like the Nile across my memory strange,
as past the Louvre new I strolled, apart.
— Old Paris is no more (for cities change
— alas! — more quickly than a mortal’s heart);

only my memory sees the capitals,
the shafts unfinished once, in pools of rain,
the slimy marble blocks, weeds, market-stalls
with old brass gleaming through each dusty pane.

that corner houses a whole menagerie once;
and here one day I saw, when ‘neath the fair
cold heavens, Toil awoke, and over the stones
the storm of traffic rent the silent air,

a swan which from its cage had made escape
patting the torrid blocks with webby feet,
trailing great plumes of snow, while beak agape
fumbled for water in the parching street;

wildly it plunged its wings in dust again,
mourning its native lake, and seemed to shrill:
‘lightning, when comest thou? and when, the rain?’
strange symbol! wretched bird, I see it still,

up to the sky, like Ovid’s fool accurst,
up to the cruelly blue ironic sky
raising its neck convulsed and beak athirst,
as though reproaching God in each mad cry.

II

towns change… but in my melancholy naught
has moved at all! new portals, ladders, blocks,
old alleys — all become symbolic thought,
in me, loved memories turn to moveless rocks.

so, crushing me, the Louvre gates recall
my huge white swan, insane with agony,
comic, sublime, like exiles one and all
by truceless cravings torn! I think of thee

Andromache, a slave apportioned, whom
proud Pyrrhus took from hands more glorious,
in ecstasy bent o’er an empty tomb;
great Hector’s widow, wed to Helenus!

I think of thee, consumptive Nubian,
wading the mire, wan-eyed girl, agog
to find the absent palms of proud Soudan
behind the boundless rampart of the fog;

I think of all who lose the boons we find
no more! no more! who feed on tears and cling
to the good she-wolf Grief, whose tears are kind!
— of orphans gaunt like flowers withering!

thus, in the jungle of my soul’s exile,
old memories wind a horn I’ve heard before!
I think of sailors wrecked on some lost isle,
of prisoners, captives!… and many more!

Le Léthé (Lethe)

Viens sur mon coeur, âme cruelle et sourde,
Tigre adoré, monstre aux airs indolents;
Je veux longtemps plonger mes doigts tremblants
Dans l’épaisseur de ta crinière lourde;

Dans tes jupons remplis de ton parfum
Ensevelir ma tête endolorie,
Et respirer, comme une fleur flétrie,
Le doux relent de mon amour défunt.

Je veux dormir! dormir plutôt que vivre!
Dans un sommeil aussi doux que la mort,
J’étalerai mes baisers sans remords
Sur ton beau corps poli comme le cuivre.

Pour engloutir mes sanglots apaisés
Rien ne me vaut l’abîme de ta couche;
L’oubli puissant habite sur ta bouche,
Et le Léthé coule dans tes baisers.

À mon destin, désormais mon délice,
J’obéirai comme un prédestiné;
Martyr docile, innocent condamné,
Dont la ferveur attise le supplice,

Je sucerai, pour noyer ma rancoeur,
Le népenthès et la bonne ciguë
Aux bouts charmants de cette gorge aiguë
Qui n’a jamais emprisonné de coeur.

Lethe

Come, lie upon my breast, cruel, insensitive soul,
Adored tigress, monster with the indolent air;
I want to plunge trembling fingers for a long time
In the thickness of your heavy mane,

To bury my head, full of pain
In your skirts redolent of your perfume,
To inhale, as from a withered flower,
The moldy sweetness of my defunct love.

I wish to sleep! to sleep rather than live!
In a slumber doubtful as death,
I shall remorselessly cover with my kisses
Your lovely body polished like copper.

To bury my subdued sobbing
Nothing equals the abyss of your bed,
Potent oblivion dwells upon your lips
And Lethe flows in your kisses.

My fate, hereafter my delight,
I’ll obey like one predestined;
Docile martyr, innocent man condemned,
Whose fervor aggravates the punishment.

I shall suck, to drown my rancor,
Nepenthe and the good hemlock
From the charming tips of those pointed breasts
That have never guarded a heart.

— Translated by William Aggeler

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.

— Translated by Roy Campbell

Lethe

Come to my arms, cruel and sullen thing;
Indolent beast, come to my arms again,
For I would plunge my fingers in your mane
And be a long time unremembering —

And bury myself in you, and breathe your wild
Perfume remorselessly for one more hour:
And breathe again, as of a ruined flower,
The fragrance of the love you have defiled.

I long to sleep; I think that from a stark
Slumber like death I could awake the same
As I was once, and lavish without shame
Caresses upon your body, glowing and dark.

To drown my sorrow there is no abyss,
However deep, that can compare with your bed.
Forgetfulness has made its country your red
Mouth, and the flowing of Lethe is in your kiss.

My doom, henceforward, is my sole desire:
As martyrs, being demented in their zeal,
Shake with delightful spasms upon the wheel,
Implore the whip, or puff upon the fire,

So I implore you, fervently resigned!
Come; I would drink nepenthe and long rest
At the sweet points of this entrancing breast
Wherein no heart has ever been confined.

— Translated by George Dillon

Lethe

Tigress adored, indolent fiend, lie there,
There on my heart now, merciless and strong,
I wish to run my trembling fingers long
Through the black tangles of your heavy hair,
To plunge my aching head amorous of
Your skirts as into secret, perfumed bowers,
To breathe your scent as from pale withered flowers
The after-flavor of my defunct love.

I wish to sleep rather than live, alas!
In slumber deep and sweet as death, O lover,
As my fierce and remorseless kisses cover
Your lovely body, bright as burnished brass,
To bury my stilled sobs in the abysses
Of your anodyne bed, to feast upon
Your lips that shed potent oblivion,
To drink the Lethe flowing in your kisses.

I shall delight in following my fate,
Obeying it gladly as a man contemned,
O docile martyr, innocent condemned
To tortures that his fervors aggravate.
With suckling lips to quell my spleen and rancor,
Nepenthe I shall drain, and hemlock’s sweets,
Out of the magic tips of pointed teats
That never served a human heart for anchor.

— Translated by Jacques LeClercq

Le Léthé

come to my heart, cold viper-soul malign,
beloved tiger, hydra indolent;
long will I drag my hands incontinent
and quivering, through this vast loosed mane of thine;

long will I bury throbbing brow and head
among thy skirts all redolent of thee,
and breathe — a blighted flower of perfidy —
the fading odour of my passion dead.

I’ll sleep, not live! I’ll lose myself in sleep!
in slumber soft as Death’s uncertain shore,
I’ll sleep and sow my drowsy kisses o’er
thy polished coppery arms and bosom deep.

to drown my sobs and still my spirit — o!
no boon but thine abysmal bed avails;
poppied oblivion from thy mouth exhales
and through thy kisses floods of Lethe flow.

so to my doom, henceforward my desire,
I shall submit as one predestinate;
and like a martyr, calm, immaculate,
whose fervour prods again his flickering pyre,

I’ll suck, to drown my hate’s eternal smart,
Nepenthe, and good bitter hemlock brew,
from the sharp rose-buds of thy breast, anew,
thy breast that never did contain a heart.

— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks

Lethe

Come on my heart, cruel and insensible soul,
My darling tiger, beast with indolent airs;
I want to plunge for hours my trembling fingers
In your thick and heavy mane;

In your petticoats filled with your perfume
To bury my aching head,
And breathe, like a faded flower,
The sweet taste of my dead love.

I want to sleep, to sleep and not to live,
In a sleep as soft as death,
I shall cover with remorseless kisses
Your body beautifully polished as copper.

To swallow my appeased sobbing
I need only the abyss of your bed;
A powerful oblivion lives on your lips,
And all Lethe flows in your kisses.

I shall obey, as though predestined,
My destiny, that is now my delight;
Submissive martyr, innocent damned one,
My ardor inflames my torture,

And I shall suck, to drown my bitterness
The nepenthe and the good hemlock,
On the lovely tips of those jutting breasts
Which have never imprisoned love.

— TRanslated by Geoffrey Wagner

Lethe

Come to my heart, cruel, insensible one,
Adored tiger, monster with the indolent air;
I would for a long time plunge my trembling fingers
Into the heavy tresses of your hair;

And in your garments that exhale your perfume
I would bury my aching head,
And breathe, like a withered flower,
The sweet, stale reek of my love that is dead.

I want to sleep! sleep rather than live!
And in a slumber, dubious as the tomb’s,
I would lavish my kisses without remorse
Upon the burnished copper of your limbs.

To swallow my abated sobs
Nothing equals your bed’s abyss;
Forgetfulness dwells in your mouth,
And Lethe flows from your kiss.

My destiny, henceforth my pleasure,
I shall obey, predestined instrument,
Docile martyr, condemned innocent,
Whose fervour but augments his torment.

I shall suck, to drown my rancour,
Nepenthe, hemlock, an opiate,
At the charming tips of this pointed breast
That has never imprisoned a heart.

Sisina

Imaginez Diane en galant équipage,
Parcourant les forêts ou battant les halliers,
Cheveux et gorge au vent, s’enivrant de tapage,
Superbe et défiant les meilleurs cavaliers!

Avez-vous vu Théroigne, amante du carnage,
Excitant à l’assaut un peuple sans souliers,
La joue et l’oeil en feu, jouant son personnage,
Et montant, sabre au poing, les royaux escaliers?

Telle la Sisina! Mais la douce guerrière
À l’âme charitable autant que meurtrière;
Son courage, affolé de poudre et de tambours,

Devant les suppliants sait mettre bas les armes,
Et son coeur, ravagé par la flamme, a toujours,
Pour qui s’en montre digne, un réservoir de larmes.

Sisina

Imagine Diana in elegant attire,
Roaming through the forest, or beating the thickets,
Hair flying in the wind, breast bare, drunk with the noise,
Superb, defying the finest horsemen!

Have you seen Théroigne that lover of carnage,
Urging a barefoot mob on to attack,
Her eyes and cheeks aflame, playing her role,
And climbing, sword in hand, the royal staircase?

That is Sisina! But the sweet amazon’s soul
Is as charitable as it is murderous;
Her courage, exalted by powder and by drums,

Before supplicants, knows how to lay down its arms,
And her heart, ravaged by love, has always,
For him who is worthy, a reservoir of tears.

— Translated by William Aggeler

Sisina

Picture Diana, gallantly arrayed,
Ranging the woods, elated with the chase,
With flying hair and naked breasts displayed,
Defying fleetest horsemen with her pace.

Know you Theroigne whom blood and fire exalt,
Hounding a shoeless rabble to the fray,
Up royal stairways heading the assault,
And mounting, sword in hand, to show the way?

Such is Sisina. Terrible her arms.
But charity restrains her killing charms.
Though rolling drums and scent of powder madden

Her courage, — laying by its pikes and spears,
For those who merit, her scorched heart will sadden,
And open, in its depth, a well of tears.

Translated by Roy Campbell

La Béatrice

Dans des terrains cendreux, calcinés, sans verdure,
Comme je me plaignais un jour à la nature,
Et que de ma pensée, en vaguant au hasard,
J’aiguisais lentement sur mon cœur le poignard,
Je vis en plein midi descendre sur ma tête
Un nuage funèbre et gros d’une tempête,
Qui portait un troupeau de démons vicieux,
Semblables à des nains cruels et curieux.
A me considérer froidement ils se mirent,
Et, comme des passants sur un fou qu’ils admirent,
Je les entendis rire et chuchoter entre eux,
En échangeant maint signe et maint clignement d’yeux :

—«Contemplons à loisir cette caricature
Et cette ombre d’Hamlet imitant sa posture,
Le regard indécis et les cheveux au vent.
N’est-ce pas grand’pitié de voir ce bon vivant,
Ce gueux, cet histrion en vacances, ce drôle,
Parce qu’il sait jouer artistement son rôle,
Vouloir intéresser au chant de ses douleurs
Les aigles, les grillons, les ruisseaux et les fleurs,
Et même à nous, auteurs de ces vieilles rubriques,
Réciter en hurlant ses tirades publiques ?»

J’aurais pu (mon orgueil aussi haut que les monts
Domine la nuée et le cri des démons)
Détourner simplement ma tête souveraine,
Si je n’eusse pas vu parmi leur troupe obscène,
Crime qui n’a pas fait chanceler le soleil!
La reine de mon cœur au regard non pareil,
Qui riait avec eux de ma sombre détresse
Et leur versait parfois quelque sale caresse.

The Ransom

Man, with which to pay his ransom,
has two fields of deep rich earth,
which he must dig and bring to birth,
with the iron blade of reason.
To obtain the smallest rose,
to garner a few ears of wheat,
he must wet them without cease,
with briny tears from his grey brow.
One is Art: Love is the other.To render his propitiation,
on the day of conflagration,
when the last strict reckoning’s here,
full of crops’ and flowers’ displays
he will have to show his barns,
with those colours and those forms
that gain the Angels’ praise

The Warner

Every man worth the name
has a yellow snake in his soul,
seated as on a throne, saying
if he cries: ‘I want to!’: ‘No!’
Lock eyes with the fixed gaze
of Nixies or Satyresses, says
the Tooth: ‘Think of your duty!’
Make children, or plant trees,
polish verses, or marble frieze,
the Tooth says: ‘Tonight, where will you be?’
Whatever he likes to consider
there’s never a moment passing
a man can’t hear the warning
of that insufferable Viper.

Sonnet Of Autumn

HEY say to me, thy clear and crystal eyes:
‘Why dost thou love me so, strange lover mine?’
Be sweet, be still! My heart and soul despise
All save that antique brute-like faith of thine;

And will not bare the secret of their shame
To thee whose hand soothes me to slumbers long,
Nor their black legend write for thee in flame!
Passion I hate, a spirit does me wrong.

Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat,
Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow,
And I too well his ancient arrows know:

Crime, horror, folly. O pale marguerite,
Thou art as I, a bright sun fallen low,
O my so white, my so cold Marguerite.

The Eyes Of Beauty

YOU are a sky of autumn, pale and rose;
But all the sea of sadness in my blood
Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lips morose,
Salt with the memory of the bitter flood.

In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o’er,
That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate
By woman’s tooth and talon; ah, no more
Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate.

It is a ruin where the jackals rest,
And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay-
A perfume swims about your naked breast!

Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way!
With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared
Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared

The living flame

THEY pass before me, these Eyes full of light,
Eyes made magnetic by some angel wise;
The holy brothers pass before my sight,
And cast their diamond fires in my dim eyes.

They keep me from all sin and error grave,
They set me in the path whence Beauty came;
They are my servants, and I am their slave,
And all my soul obeys the living flame.

Beautiful Eyes that gleam with mystic light
As candles lighted at full noon; the sun
Dims not your flame phantastical and bright.

You sing the dawn; they celebrate life done;
Marching you chaunt my soul’s awakening hymn,
Stars that no sun has ever made grow dim!

The Soul Of Wine

One eve in the bottle sang the soul of wine:
‘Man, unto thee, dear disinherited,
I sing a song of love and light divine-
Prisoned in glass beneath my seals of red.

‘I know thou labourest on the hill of fire,
In sweat and pain beneath a flaming sun,
To give the life and soul my vines desire,
And I am grateful for thy labours done.

‘For I find joys unnumbered when I lave
The throat of man by travail long outworn,
And his hot bosom is a sweeter grave
Of sounder sleep than my cold caves forlorn.

‘Hearest thou not the echoing Sabbath sound?
The hope that whispers in my trembling breast?
Thy elbows on the table! gaze around;
Glorify me with joy and be at rest.

‘To thy wife’s eyes I’ll bring their long-lost gleam,
I’ll bring back to thy child his strength and light,
To him, life’s fragile athlete I will seem
Rare oil that firms his muscles for the fight.

‘I flow in man’s heart as ambrosia flows;
The grain the eternal Sower casts in the sod-
From our first loves the first fair verse arose,
Flower-like aspiring to the heavens and God!’

The sky

Where’er he be, on water or on land,
Under pale suns or climes that flames enfold;
One of Christ’s own, or of Cythera’s band,
Shadowy beggar or Crœsus rich with gold;

Citizen, peasant, student, tramp; whate’er
His little brain may be, alive or dead;
Man knows the fear of mystery everywhere,
And peeps, with trembling glances, overhead.

The heaven above? A strangling cavern wall;
The lighted ceiling of a music-hall
Where every actor treads a bloody soil-

The hermit’s hope; the terror of the sot;
The sky: the black lid of the mighty pot
Where the vast human generations boil!

Destruction

At my side the Demon writhes forever,
Swimming around me like impalpable air;
As I breathe, he burns my lungs like fever
And fills me with an eternal guilty desire.

Knowing my love of Art, he snares my senses,
Apearing in woman’s most seductive forms,
And, under the sneak’s plausible pretenses,
Lips grow accustomed to his lewd love-charms.

He leads me thus, far from the sight of God,
Panting and broken with fatigue into
The wilderness of Ennui, deserted and broad,

And into my bewildered eyes he throws
Visions of festering wounds and filthy clothes,
And all Destruction’s bloody retinue.

Translated by C. F. Macintyre

Gloomy Madrigal

What’s it to me that you are sage?
Be beautiful! and be sad! Tears
Add a charm to the countenance
As a stream does to a landscape;
Storms make the flowers fresh again.
I love you most of all when joy
Flees from your oppressed brow,
When your heart is drowned in horror,
When the frightful cloud of the Past
Is spread out over your Present.
I love you when your large eyes shed
Tears as hot as blood, when
In spite of my hand which lulls you
Your unbearable pain comes through
Like a dying man’s death-rattle.
I breathe in, heavenly pleasure!
Profound, delightful hymn!
Every sob from your breast
And I believe your heart lights up
With the pearls that your eyes pour out!
II
I know, your heart, overflowing
With old, uprooted loves,
Still blazes like a forge
And that there smolders in your breast
Something of the pride of the damned;
But my sweet, so long as your dreams
Have not reflected Hell,
While in a nightmare without respite,
Dreaming of poisons and daggers,
Enamored with powder and steel,
Answering the door fearfully,
Seeing misfortune everywhere,
Convulsing when the hour strikes,
You have not felt yourself embraced
By irresistible Disgust;
You cannot, slave and queen
Who love me only with terror,
In the unhealthy night’s horror
Say to me, your soul full of cries,
‘I am your equal, O my King! ‘

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