Charles Baudelaire


One day as I was making complaint to nature In a burnt, ash-gray land without vegetation, And as I wandered aimlessly, slowly whetting Upon my heart the dagger of my thought, I saw in broad daylight descending on my head A leaden cloud, pregnant with a tempest, That carried a herd of vicious demons Who resembled curious, cruel dwarfs. They began to look at me coldly, And I heard them laugh and whisper to each other, Exchanging many a sign and many a wink Like passers-by who discuss a fool they admire: - "Let us look leisurely at this caricature, This shade of Hamlet who imitates his posture With indecisive look, hair streaming in the wind. Is it not a pity to see this bon vivant, This tramp, this queer fish, this actor without a job, Because he knows how to play skillfully his role, Wish to interest in the song of his woes The eagles, the crickets, the brooks, and the flowers, And even to us, authors of that hackneyed drivel, Bellow the recital of his public tirades?" I could have (my pride as high as mountains Dominates the clouds and the cries of the demons) Simply turned away my sovereign head If I had not seen in that obscene troop A crime which did not make the sun reel in its course! The queen of my heart with the peerless gaze Laughing with them at my somber distress And giving them at times a lewd caress. Translated by - William Aggeler Beatrice In a burned-over land, where not a blade or leaf Showed green, through a charred world, whetting my ancient grief Slowly upon my heart, and making sad lament To Nature, at broad noon, not knowing where I went, I walked... and saw above me a big cloud - which at first I took to be a storm - blacken, and swell and burst, And pour upon my head instead of rain a rout Of demons, dwarfed and cruel, which ringed me all about. As passersby, no matter upon what errands bent, Will always stop and stare with cold astonishment At some poor man gone mad, then bait him wittily, Just so they gaped and nudged, and jeered aloud at me. - "Come! Have a look at this! What is it, should you say? The shade of Hamlet - why, of course! — look at the way He stands! - that undecided eye! — the wild hair, too! Come here! Do look! Oh, wouldn't it wring a tear from you! This shabby bon-vivant, this pompous tramp, this hamu001f- Actor out of a job, thinking that he can cram, By ranting, stale gesticulations, crocodile-tears, His tragic fate into the ears of crickets, into the ears Of eagles! - yes, who knows? — along with brooks and flowersu001f Forgetting we invented these tricks, even into ours!" But for one thing - no mountain is taller than my pride; No demon horde can scale me - I could have turned aside My sovereign thought, and stood alone... had I not seen Suddenly, amongst this loathsome troupe, my heart's queen - And the sun did not reel, it stood unmoved above! - Her of the pure deep gaze, my life, my peerless love, Mocking and pointing, laughing at my acute distress; Or fondling some foul dwarf in an obscene caress. Translated by - Edna St. Vincent Millay My Beatrice While I was walking in a pitted place, crying aloud against the human race, letting thoughts ramble here and there apart - knives singing on the whetstones in my heart - I saw a cloud descending on my head in the full noon, a cloud inhabited by black devils, sharp, humped, inquisitive as dwarfs. They knew where I was sensitive, now idling there, and looked me up and down, as cool delinquents watch a madman clown. I heard them laugh and snicker blasphemies, while swapping signs and blinking with their eyes. "Let's stop and watch this creature at our leisure - all sighs and sweaty hair. We'll take his measure. It's a great pity that this mountebank and ghost of Hamlet strutting on his plank should think he's such an artist at his role he has to rip the lining from his soul and paralyze the butterflies and bees with a peepshow of his indecencies - and even we, who gave him his education, must listen to his schoolboy declamation." Wishing to play a part (my pride was high above the mountains and the devil's cry) like Hamlet now, I would have turned my back, had I not seen among the filthy pack (Oh crime that should have made the sun drop dead!) my heart's queen and the mistress of my bed there purring with the rest at my distress, and sometimes tossing them a stale caress. Translated by - Robert Lowell Beatrice In charred and ashen fields without a leaf, While I alone to Nature told my grief, I sharpened, as I went, like any dart, My thought upon the grindstone of my heart - When by a troop of vicious demons led, A great black cloud rushed down towards my head. As loafers at a lunatic they leered And in my face inquisitively peered. With nods and signs, like dwarfed and apish elves, They laughed, and winked, and spoke among themselves. "This parody of Hamlet, take his measure, And contemplate the travesty at leisure. Is it not sad to see the puzzled stare, The halting gait, and the dishevelled hair With which this clownish actor, on half-pay, Because he is an artist in his way, Attempts to interest, in the griefs he sings, Eagles, and crickets, flowers, and running springs, And even us, the authors of his woe, Howling his sorrows as a public show?" I could have dominated with my pride That horde of demons and the taunts they cried, Just by the mere aversion of my face - Had I not seen, amongst that evil race, (A crime that did not even daze the sun!) Queen of my heart, the peerless, only one, Laughing with them to see my dark distress, And giving them, at times, some lewd caress. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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