Charles Baudelaire


In faded armchairs aged courtesans, Pale, eyebrows penciled, with alluring fatal eyes, Smirking and sending forth from wizened ears A jingling sound of metal and of gems; Around the gaming tables faces without lips, Lips without color and jaws without teeth, Fingers convulsed with a hellborn fever Searching empty pockets and fluttering bosoms; Under dirty ceilings a row of bright lusters And enormous oil-lamps casting their rays On the tenebrous brows of distinguished poets Who come there to squander the blood they have sweated; That is the black picture that in a dream one night I saw unfold before my penetrating eyes. I saw myself at the back of that quiet den, Leaning on my elbows, cold, silent, envying, Envying the stubborn passion of those people, The dismal merriment of those old prostitutes, All blithely selling right before my eyes, One his ancient honor, another her beauty! My heart took fright at its envy of so many Wretches running fiercely to the yawning chasm, Who, drunk with their own blood, would prefer, in a word, Suffering to death and hell to nothingness! Translated by - William Aggeler The Gaming Table The rich old ones quiver in their chairs Eyes uniformly sly under their blue and purple eyelids. They mince up and parcel out the conversation in Little packets that taint the atmosphere. Many fingers are already in their pockets of delirium Around the green felt table. The dentures clatter, loud Bets are placed from the lipless faces showing up somewhere Where if your neighbor couldn't hear you he can see what was said. So the chandeliers and the discolored wallpaper pick out The colors the guests are wearing companionably. I'm looking around the place quietly Since this Is the first time I've been invited Catch me in the corner where I'm watching enviously. I envy these creatures their tenacious lust. Skeletons that rattle mirthfully when they Recall those friends already underground After decades of pursuing pleasure. Envy, despicable word. Those here are drunk with The passion of their slow destruction Preferring agony to death And hell to nothingness. Translated by - Will Schmitz The Gaming Room The armchairs of worn satin; the aged courtesans, Livid and rouged, their eyes relentless, their eyebrows blacked, Jingling eternally from their withered ears, to attract Attention, their huge earrings, and ogling behind their fans; The long green table, the rows of lipless faces, the lips Drained of all color; the gaping, toothless mouths; the unrest Of hundreds of white nervous fingers, stacking the chips, Or searching the empty pocket, the convulsive breast; The dirty ceiling, the blaze of crystal chandeliers, The low-hung lamps illumining with a crude glare The ravaged brows of poets, the scars of grenadiers, Who come to risk the earnings of their lifeblood there. - Such is the lurid spectacle that with calm dread I saw as in a melancholy dream unroll: Myself, too, sitting in a deserted corner, my head Propped in my hands, mute, weary, jealous to my soul, Jealous of all that rabble, of the lust of it, The terrible gaiety of those old whores, the smell And noise of life, for which they frantically sell Some remnant of their honor, their beauty, or their wit. And suddenly I was affrighted at my own heart, to feel Such envy of all men running wildly and out of breath Nowhere, and who prefer, like those around that wheel, Pain, horror, crime, insanity - anything — to death! Translated by - George Dillon The Gamblers In faded armchairs, harlots of past years Pale, with false eyebrows, wheedling, fatal eyes, And weird, affected airs, clink from thin ears A feeble sound, where tin with crystal vies. Round the green tables, faces without lips, Lips without colour, jaws their teeth surviving, And fingers which a hellish fever grips Convulsively in breasts and pockets diving Under the dirty ceiling, lustres flame And chandeliers, that blaze without remittance On shady brows of poets dear to fame, Who come to waste their sorely-sweated pittance. Such was the picture, in nocturnal dreaming, I saw unfurled to my clairvoyant eye. In that grim vault, one form on elbows leaning, Unspeaking, cold, and envious - was I! — Yes! envying, for their all-tenacious passion, These raddled tarts in their funereal glee, Who trafficked there, in such a merry fashion, Dead virtue and lost beauty on the spree. My heart was chilled with fear at envying Wretches who, headlong, rush to be destroyed, And, drunk with their own blood, seek anything - Hell, death, or torture - rather than the Void! Translated by - Roy Campbell

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