Charles Baudelaire

Damned Women

Lying on the sand like ruminating cattle, They turn their eyes toward the horizon of the sea, And their clasped hands and their feet which seek the other's Know both sweet languor and shudders of pain. Some, whose hearts grew amorous from long confessions, In the depth of the woods, among the babbling brooks, Spell out the love of their timid adolescence By carving the green wood of young saplings; Others, like sisters, walk gravely and with slow steps Among the high rocks peopled with apparitions, Where Saint Anthony saw the naked, purple breasts Of his temptations rise up like lava; There are some who by the light of crumbling resin In the silent void of the old pagan caverns Call out for help from their screaming fevers to you O Bacchus, who lull to sleep the ancient remorse! And others, whose breasts love the feel of scapulars, Who, concealing a whip under their long habits, Mingle, in the dark woods and solitary nights, The froth of pleasure with tears of torment. O virgins, O demons, O monsters, O martyrs, Great spirits, contemptuous of reality, Seekers of the infinite, pious and satyric, Sometimes full of cries, sometimes full of tears, You whom my spirit has followed into your hell, Poor sisters, I love you as much as I pity you, For your gloomy sorrows, your unsatisfied thirsts, And the urns of love with which your great hearts are filled! Translated by - William Aggeler The Damned Women Lounging like pensive cattle on the sand, They turn their eyes to the horizon of seas, And their feet seek each other and their close hands Now languish with softness, now quiver with gall. Some, their hearts captivated by slow secrets In the depths of bushes chattering with streams, Go gathering the first loves of timid childhoods Exploring the green wood of tender trees; Others, like nuns, slow and grave, move Over rocks swarming with visions, Where St. Anthony saw rise up the lava Of the purple naked breasts of his temptations; There are some who, to the resin's shaking glimmer, Call, from the silent hollows of old pagan caverns, To you, O Bacchus, who soothe remorse, For help out of their shouting fevers. And others, whose bosoms crave the scapular, Who hide a whip under their long clothes And mingle, in the dismal wood and lonely night, The foam of pleasure with the twists of pain. To you, virgins, demons, monsters, martyrs, To your great spirits spurning reality, Searchers of the infinite, devotees and satyrs, Now full of cries, now full of tears, To you whom to your hell my soul has followed My poor sisters, I give you my love and pity, For your dark sorrows, your unslakeable thirsts, And the caskets of your love of which your hearts are full! Translated by - Geoffrey Wagner Damned Women They lie like pensive cattle on the sands, And as their gaze to the far sea's edge clings, Their feet which twine, and their enclasped hands Suffer sweet swoons and bitter shudderings. But some, enamoured of long converse, stray Where the streams wander through the coppices, Spell out the loves of timid childhood's day, And carve the green wood of the little trees. Others like sisters wander slow and grave Across the rocks where phantom shapes flit dim, Where Anthony saw, surging wave on wave. The naked purple breasts which tempted him. Some there are who, by crumbling torches' light In the dumb gulfs of pagan caverns deep. Pray thee to put their fever-throes to flight, Bacchus! who drownest old remorse in sleep. And others, fain of scapularies, roam With a long whip beneath their garments' fold, And in lone woods at midnight mingle foam Of joy with cries of anguish manifold. O virgins, demons, monsters, martyrs! ye Who scorn reality through all the years; Soiled holy ones who seek infinity So full of cries and, ah! so full of tears! Poor sisters whom my soul has tracked in hell, I love you and I weep for all your woe: Your burning thirst, your pains unspeakable. The wells of love with which your hearts o'erflow. Translated by - Jack Collings Squire 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. 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. Translated by - Cyril Scott Damned Women Like pensive cattle lying on the sand They scan the far horizon of the ocean, Foot seeking foot, hand magnetising hand, With sweet or bitter tremors of emotion. Some with their hearts absorbed in confidences, Deep in the woods, where streamlets chatter free, Spell the loved names of childish, timid fancies, And carve the green wood of the fresh, young tree. Others, like sisters wander, slow and grave, Through craggy haunts of ghostly emanations, Where once Saint Anthony was wont to brave The purple-breasted pride of his temptations. Some by the light of resin-scented torches In the dumb hush of caverns seek their shrine, Invoking Bacchus, killer of remorses, To liven their delirium with wine. Others who deal with scapulars and hoods Hiding the whiplash under their long train, Mingle, on lonely nights in sombre woods, The foam of pleasure with the tears of pain. O demons, monsters, virgins, martyrs, you Who trample base reality in scorn, Whether as nuns or satyrs you pursue The infinite, with cries or tears forlorn, You, whom my soul has tracked to lairs infernal, Poor sisterhood, I pity and adore, For your despairing griefs, your thirst eternal, And love that floods your hearts for evermore! Translated by - Roy Campbell

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