Charles Baudelaire

Delphine and Hippolyte

In the pallid light of languishing lamps, In deep cushions redolent of perfume, Hippolyta dreamed of the potent caresses That drew aside the veil of her young innocence. She was seeking, with an eye disturbed by the storm, The already distant skies of her naivete, Like a voyager who turns to look back Toward the blue horizons passed early in the day. The listless tears from her lacklustrous eyes, The beaten, bewildered look, the dulled delight, Her defeated arms thrown wide like futile weapons, All served, all adorned her fragile beauty. Lying at her feet, calm and filled with joy, Delphine gazed at her hungrily, with burning eyes, Like a strong animal watching a prey Which it has already marked with its teeth. The strong beauty kneeling before the frail beauty, Superb, she savored voluptuously The wine of her triumph and stretched out toward the girl As if to reap her reward of sweet thankfulness. She was seeking in the eyes of her pale victim The silent canticle that pleasure sings And that gratitude, sublime and infinite, Which the eyes give forth like a long drawn sigh. "Hippolyta, sweet, what do you think of our love? Do you understand now that you need not offer The sacred burnt-offering of your first roses To a violent breath which could make them wither? My kisses are as light as the touch of May flies That caress in the evening the great limpid lakes, But those of your lover will dig furrows As a wagon does, or a tearing ploughshare; They will pass over you like heavy teams Of horses or oxen, with cruel iron-shod hooves... Hippolyta, sister! please turn your face to me, You, my heart and soul, my all, half of my own self, Turn toward me your eyes brimming with azure and stars! For one of those bewitching looks, O divine balm, I will lift the veil of the more subtle pleasures And lull you to sleep in an endless dream!" Hippolyta then raised her youthful head: "I am not ungrateful and I do not repent, Delphine darling; I feel restless and ill, As I do after a rich midnight feast. I feel heavy terrors pouncing on me And black battalions of scattered phantoms Who wish to lead me onto shifting roads That a bloody horizon shuts in on all sides. Is there something strange in what we have done? Explain if you can my confusion and my fright: I shudder with fear when you say: 'My angel!' And yet I feel my mouth moving toward you. Do not look at me that way, you, my dearest thought: The sister of my choice whom I'd love forever Even if you were an ambush prepared for me And the beginning of my perdition." Delphine, shaking her tragic mane and stamping her foot As if she were stamping on the iron Tripod, Her eyes fatal, replied in a despotic voice: "Who dares to speak of hell in the presence of love? May he be cursed forever, that idle dreamer, The first one who in his stupidity Entranced by a sterile, insoluble problem, Wished to mix honesty with what belongs to love! He who would unite in a mystic harmony Coolness with warmth and the night with the day Will never warm his palsied flesh With that red sun whose name is love! Go if you wish and find a stupid sweetheart, run To offer your virgin heart to his cruel kisses; Full of remorse and horror, and livid, You will bring back to me your stigmatized breasts... Woman here below can serve only one master!" But the girl pouring out the vast grief in her heart, Suddenly cried: "I feel opening within me A yawning abyss; that abyss is my heart! Burning like a volcano and deep as the void! Nothing will satiate that wailing monster Nor cool the thirst of the Eumenides Who with torch in hand burn his very blood. Let our drawn curtains separate us from the world And let lassitude bring to us repose! I want to bury my head in your deep bosom And find in your breast the cool of the tomb!" - Go down, go down, lamentable victims, Go down the pathway to eternal hell! Plunge to the bottom of the abyss where all crime Whipped by a wind that comes not from heaven, Boil pell-mell with the sound of a tempest. Mad shades, run to the goal of your desires; You will never be able to sate your passion And your punishment will be born of your pleasures. Never will a cool ray light your caverns; Through the chinks in the walls feverish miasmas Filter through, burst into flame like lanterns And permeate your bodies with frightful odors. The bleak sterility of your pleasures Increases your thirst and makes your skin taut And the raging wind of carnal desire Makes your flesh snap like an old flag. Damned, wandering, far from living people, Roam like the wolves across the desert waste; Fulfill your destinies, dissolute souls, And flee the infinite you carry in your hearts! Translated by - William Aggeler Lovers of the Damned Under pale flickering lamps, deep in recesses Of lissome cushions of suave redolence, Hippolyta mused of the fierce caresses That raised the veils of her young innocence. Her gaze still ravaged by the storm, she eyed The distant sides of her once candid mind As a spent voyager who turns aside To view blue vistas he has left behind. The lazy tears in her lackluster glances, Her beaten stuporous air, her weariness, Her aching arms drooping like futile lances, All served to foster her frail loveliness. Rapt with calm joy, Delphine, her lover, lay Prone at her feet; eyes blazing with delight, She was a strong beast gazing at the prey On which her teeth had marked their savage bite. Strong beauty knelt before frail beauty there - Superb, she savored with voluptuous mood The wine of triumph, and, as though in prayer, Her hands solicited sweet gratitude. She scanned her dupe's pale glance to find in it The muted hymn lust raises to the skies, And thankfulness, sublime and infinite, Which glances utter soft as long-drawn sighs. - "Hippolyta, what of this strange sweet thing? You need not sully your first roses now To brutal man as a burnt-offering His violent breath would wither on the bough. My kiss moves lightly as a May fly moves, Caressing the great limpid lakes at eve, But a man's kisses will dig furrowed grooves Such as huge carts or tearing plowshares leave. They will pass over you like stamping kine, Like ox or horse teams cruelly iron-shod, Hippolyta, turn your blest face toward mine, Y ou, dearer to my heart than self or God. Your eyes are stars across soft azure nights, One look from you and I shall lift extreme Veils to reveal the subtlest of delights, Cradling you gently in an endless dream." Hippolyta then raised her youthful head: - "No ingrate, I repent not in the least, Delphine, but I feel choked and ill," she said, "As after some galling nocturnal feast. I feel grim fears, I reel under their loads, While black battalions of sparse phantoms stride, Eager to lead me down dire, shifting roads, Which bloody sky-rims block on every side. What could be strange in what we did tonight? Why all my worries and discomfitures? You call me "Angel" and I start with fright, And yet I feel my mouth straining for yours! Do not look at me thus, sister to whom By choice I pledged eternal adoration, Even were you a snare set for my doom And the first instrument of my damnation." Shaking her tragic mane, rapt, fatal-eyed, Stamping her foot as on the Tripod of The Oracle, Delphine, despotic, cried: - "Who dares to speak of hell when faced with love? Curst be the first vain dreamer who evolved A sterile code of laws and stupidly Thrilled by vexed problems that cannot be solved Sought to compound love and morality. He who would couple in a mystic mesh Coolness with heat and marry day with night Shall never warm his palsy-stricken flesh In that red sun which is our love's delight. Go find a stupid lover, do not fail To yield your chaste heart to his harsh requests, Then horrified, remorseful, ashen-pale, Return to me with bruised stigmatic breasts. Woman on earth can serve only one master!... " But the girl answered: "All my senses smart! I feel sharp premonitions of disaster, A pit yawns in me, and that pit, my heart! Volcano-hot and deep as nullity, Nothing will stay this monster's headlong flood Nor slake the thirst of that Eumenide Who, torch in hand, consumes his very blood. Let our drawn curtains screen us from alarms, And let our lassitude bring us full rest, I wish to die between your sinewy arms And find the cool of tombs upon your breast." Go down, go down, sad victims to the climes Of an eternal hell, all hope is dead; Down the unfathomed pit where all known crimes, Lashed by a wind no heaven ever bred, Boil to the fury of the tempest's blast. The goal of your desires shall turn to dust, Mad, raging shades, unsated to the last, Your very punishment born of your lust. No ray shall light the caverns of your shame, Fevered miasms filtering through the chinks Shall suddenly like lamps burst into flame, Steeping your bodies in a sweat that stinks. The bleak sterility of your lewd fires Heightens your thirst and tightens skins that sag, As the wild wind of lecherous desires Makes your flesh flap like a moth-eaten flag. Outcast and damned, wandering the far poles, Like wolves the frozen wilderness disparts, Follow your destiny, disordered souls, And flee the infinite that fills your hearts. Translated by - Jacques LeClercq Delphine and Hippolyte The lamps had languisht and their light was pale; On cushions deep Hippolyta reclined. Those potent kisses that had torn the veil From her young candour filled her dreaming mind. With tempest-troubled eyes she sought the blue Heaven of her innocence, how far away! Like some sad traveller, who turns to view The dim horizons passed at dawn of day. Tears and the muffled light of weary eyes, The stupor and the dull voluptuous trance, Limp arms, like weapons dropped by one who flies - All served her fragile beauty to enhance. Calm at her feet and joyful, Delphine lay And gazed at her with ardent eyes and bright, Like some strong beast that, having mauled its prey, Draws back to mark the imprint of its bite. Strong and yet bowed, superbly on her knees, She snuffed her triumph, on that frailer grace Poring voluptuously, as though to seize The signs of thanks upon the other's face. Gazing, she sought in her pale victim's eye The speechless canticle that pleasure sings, The infinite gratitude that, like a sigh, Mounts slowly from the spirit's deepest springs. "Now, now you understand (for love like ours Is proof enough) that 'twere a sin to throw The sacred holocaust of your first flowers To those whose breath might parch them as they blow. Light falls my kiss, as the ephemeral wing That scarcely stirs the shining of a lake. What ruinous pain your lover's kiss would bring! A plough that leaves a furrow in its wake. Over you, like a herd of ponderous kine, Man's love will pass and his caresses fall, Like trampling hooves. Then turn your face to mine; Turn, oh my heart, my half of me, my all! Turn, turn, that I may see their starry lights, Your eyes of azure; turn. For one dear glance I will reveal your love's most obscure delights, And you shall drowse in pleasure's endless trance." "Not thankless, nor repentant in the least Is your Hippolyta." She raised her head. "But one whom from some grim nocturnal feast Returns at dawn feels less disquieted. I bear a weight of terrors, and dark hosts Of phantoms haunt my steps and seem to lead. I walk, compelled, behind these beckoning ghosts Down sliding roads and under skies that bleed. Is ours so strange an act, so full of shame? Explain the terrors that disturb my bliss. When you say, Love, I tremble at the name; And yet my mouth is thirsty for your kiss. Ah, look not so, dear sister, look not so! You whom I love, even though that love should be A snare for my undoing, even though Loving I am lost for all eternity." Delphine looked up, and fate was in her eye. From the god's tripod and beneath his spell, Shaking her tragic locks, she made reply: "Who in love's presence dares to speak of hell? Thinker of useless thoughts, let him be cursed Who in his folly, venturing to vex A question answerless and barren, first With wrong and right involved the things of sex! He who in mystical accord conjoins Shadow with heat, dusk with the noon's high fire, Shall never warm the palsy of his loins At that red sun which mortals desire. Go, seek some lubber groom's deflowering lust; Take him your heart and leave me here despised! Go - and bring back, all horror and disgust, The livid breasts man's love has stigmatized. One may not serve two masters here below." But the child answered: "I am torn apart, I feel my inmost being rent, as though A gulf had yawned - the gulf that is my heart. Naught may this monster's desperate thirst assuage, - As fire 'tis hot, as space itself profound - Naught stay the Fury from her quenchless rage, Who with her torch explores its bleeding wound. Curtain the world away and let us try If lassitude will bring the boon of rest. In your deep bosom I would sink and die, Would find the grave's fresh coolness on your breast." Hence, lamentable victims, get you hence! Hells yawn beneath, your road is straight and steep. Where all the crimes receive their recompense Wind-whipped and seething in the lowest deep With a huge roaring as of storms and fires, Go down, mad phantoms, doomed to seek in vain The ne-er-won goal of unassuaged desires, And in your pleasures find eternal pain! Sunless your caverns are; the fever damps That filter in through every crannied vent Break out with marsh-fire into sudden lamps And steep your bodies with their frightful scent. The barrenness of pleasures harsh and stale Makes mad your thirst and parches up your skin; And like an old flag volleying in the gale, Your whole flesh shudders in the blasts of sin. Far from your kind, outlawed and reprobate, Go, prowl like wolves through desert worlds apart! Disordered souls, fashion your own dark fate, And flee the god you carry in your heart. Translated by - Aldous Huxley Damned Women Delphine and Hippolyta Over deep cushions, drenched with drowsy scents Where fading lamplight shed its dying glow, Hippolyta recalls and half-repents The kisses that first thawed her youthful snow. She sought, with tempest-troubled gaze, the skies Of her first innocence, now far away, As travellers who backward turn their eyes To blue horizons passed at break of day. Within her haggard eyes the tears were bright. Her broken look, her dazed, voluptuous air, Her vanquished arms like weapons shed in Right, Enhanced her fragile beauty with despair. Stretched at her feet Delphine contented lay And watched with burning eyeballs from beneath Like a fierce tigress who, to guard her prey, Has set a mark upon it with her teeth. Strong beauty there to fragile beauty kneeling, Superb, she seemed to sniff the heady wine Of triumph: and stretched out to her, appealing For the reward of raptures half-divine. She sought within her victim's pallid eye Dumb hymns that pleasure sings without a choir, And gratitude that, like a long-drawn sigh, Swells from the eyelid, swooning with fire. "Hippolyta, dear heart, have you no trust? Do you not know the folly that exposes To the fierce pillage of the brawling gust The sacred holocaust of early roses? My kisses are as light as fairy midges That on calm evenings skim the crystal lake. Those of your man would plough such ruts and ridge As lumbering carts or tearing coulters make. They'll tramp across you, like a ruthless team Of buffaloes or horses, yoked in lust. Dear sister, turn your face to me, my dream, My soul, my all, my twin, to whom I trust! Turn me your eyes of deepest, starry blue. For one of those deep glances that you send, I'd lift the veil of darkest joys for you And rock you in a dream that has no end." But then Hippolyta raised up her head, "No blame nor base ingratitude I feel, But, as it were, a kind of nauseous dread After some terrible, nocturnal meal. I feel a swooping terror that explodes In legions of black ghosts towards me speeding Who crowd me on to swiftly moving roads, That, sliced by sheer horizons, end up bleeding. Have we done something monstrous that I tremble? Explain, then, if you can; for when you say, 'Angel', I cower. Yet I cannot dissemble That, when you speak, my lips are drawn your way. Oh, do not fix me with a stare so steady You whom I love till death in still submission, Yes, even though you, like an ambush ready, Are the beginning of my own perdition." Then Delphine stamped and shook her tragic mane, And, like a priestess, foaming and fierce, and fell, Spoke in a lordly and prophetic strain - "Who dares, in front of Love, to mention Hell? Curbed forever be that useless dreamer Who first imagined, in his brutish mind, Of sheer futility the fatuous schemer, Honour with Love could ever be combined. He who in mystic union would enmesh Shadow with warmth, and daytime with the night, Will never warm his paralytic flesh At the red sun of amorous delight. Go, if you wish, and seek some boorish lover: Offer your virgin heart to his crude hold, Full of remorse and horror you'll recover, And bring me your scarred breast to be consoled... Down here, a soul can only serve one master." But the girl, venting her tremendous woe, Cried out "I feel a huge pit of disaster Yawning within: it is my heart, I know! Like a volcano burning, deep as death, There's naught that groaning monster can assuage Nor quench of thirst the Fury's burning breath Who brands it with a torch to make it rage. Let our closed curtains isolate the rest, Until exhaustion bring us sleep, while I Annihilate myself upon your breast And find in you a tomb on which to die." Go down, go down, poor victims, it is time; The road to endless hell awaits your lusts. Plunge to the bottom of the gulf, where crime Is flagellated by infernal gusts. Swirling pell-mell, and with a tempest's roar, Mad shades, pursue your craving without measure: Your rages will be sated nevermore, Your torture is begotten of your pleasure. No sunbeam through your dungeon will come leaking: Only miasmic fevers, through each chink, Will filter, like sick lanterns, redly streaking, And penetrate your bodies with their stink. The harsh sterility of all you relish Will swell your thirst, and turn you both to hags. The wind of your desire, with fury hellish Will flog your flapping carrion like wet flags. Far from live folk, like werewolves howling high, Gallop the boundless deserts you unroll. Fulfill your doom, disordered minds, and fly The infinite you carry in your soul. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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