Charles Baudelaire

A Martyr

Drawing by an unknown master

In the midst of perfume flasks, of sequined fabrics And voluptuous furniture, Of marble statues, pictures, and perfumed dresses That trail in sumptuous folds, In a warm room where, as in a hothouse, The air is dangerous, fatal, Where bouquets dying in their glass coffins Exhale their final breath, A headless cadaver pours out, like a river, On the saturated pillow Red, living blood, that the linen drinks up As greedily as a meadow. Like the pale visions engendered by shadows And which hold our eyes riveted, The head, its mane of hair piled up in a dark mass And wearing precious jewels, On the bedside table, like a ranunculus, Reposes; and, empty of thoughts, A stare, blank and pallid as the dawn, Escapes from the upturned eyeballs. On the bed, the nude torso shamelessly displays With the most complete abandon The secret splendor and fatal beauty That nature had bestowed on her; A rose stocking embroidered with gold clocks remains On her leg like a souvenir; The garter, like a hidden flashing eye, Darts its glance of diamond brilliance. The bizarre aspect of that solitude And of a large, languid portrait With eyes as provocative as the pose, Reveals an unwholesome love, Guilty joys and exotic revelries, With infernal kisses That delighted the swarm of bad angels Hovering in the curtains' folds; And yet one sees from the graceful slimness Of the angular shoulders. The haunches slightly sharp, and the waist sinuous As a snake poised to strike, That she's still quite young! - Had her exasperated soul And her senses gnawed by ennui Thrown open their gates to the thirsty pack Of lost and wandering desires? The vengeful man whom you could not with all your love Satisfy when you were alive, Did he use your inert, complacent flesh to fill The immensity of his lust? Reply, impure cadaver! and by your stiffened tresses Raising you with a fevered arm, Tell me, ghastly head, did he glue on your cold teeth The kisses of the last farewell? - Far from the sneering world, far from the impure crowd, Far from curious magistrates, Sleep in peace, sleep in peace, bizarre creature, In your mysterious tomb; Your mate roams o'er the world, and your immortal form Watches over him when he sleeps; Even as you, he will doubtless be faithful And constant until death. Translated by - William Aggeler A Martyred Woman In the middle of scent-bottles, braided material And voluptuous furniture, Amongst marbles, pictures, perfumed dresses Trailing in expensive folds, In a warm room, where like a hothouse The air is dangerous, fatal, Where dying flowers sigh out their last In their glass coffins, A headless corpse discharges, like a river, Upon the slaked pillow, Its red and living blood, which the linen laps up With the greed of a meadow. Like those ghastly visions engendered by shadows, And riveting our eyes The head, with the weight of its dark mane And its precious jewels Rests like a plant on the bedside table; And, empty of thoughts, A look, loose and white as twilight Escapes its misplaced eyes. On the bed the naked, shameless trunk spreads out In utter unconstraint Its secret splendor and its fatal beauty, The gift of nature; A pink stocking, embroidered with gold sequins, remains On the leg like a memory; The garter, like a flaming, hidden eye, Darts a diamonded glance. The strange look of this solitude And of a great languorous tableau, To eyes provocative as her posture Reveals a dark love, A guilty joy and strange feasts, Full of the kisses of hell That please the swarms of evil angels Swimming in the folds of curtains; And yet, seeing that elegant emaciation Of shoulder with the blatant contour The hip a little angular and the taut waistline Like a furious reptile, She is still quite young! - Did her inflamed soul And her senses gnawn by boredom Yawn for that thirsty pack of Wandering, lost passions? Did that vengeful man whom, living, you could not gratify, In spite of so much love Heap upon your indolent, accommodating flesh The size of his desire? Answer, O violated corpse! and raising yourself with feverish arm By your stiff braids, Tell me, terrifying head, did he press upon your cold teeth His final farewells? - Far from the bantering world, from the corrupted mob, Far from inquisitive magistrates, Sleep peacefully, sleep peacefully, strange creature, In your mysterious tomb; Your husband roves the world and your deathless figure Watches by him when he sleeps; Doubtless he will be faithful as you are, And constant to death. Translated by - Geoffrey Wagner Murdered Woman Flasks of expensive scent, embroideries, rich brocades, Taffeta sofas, satin chairs; Statues in marble, paintings; fragrance that pervades The empty, sumptuous gowns; warm airs And sweet, - yet sultry, damp, unhealthful to inhale: That sickening green-house atmosphere Dying bouquets in their glass coffins give - a stale Voluptuous chamber... Lying here A corpse without a head, whence flows in a bright stream, Making an ever broadening stain, The red and living blood, which the white pillows seem To lap up like a thirsty plain. Pale as those awful shapes that out of shadow stare, Chaining our helpless eyes to theirs, The head, with its great mass of rich and somber hair - The earrings still in the small ears - Like a ranunculus on the night-table sits; And, void of thought, blank as the light Of dawn, a glinting vague regard escapes from its Eyeballs, up-rolled and china-white. The headless trunk, in shameless posture on the bed, Naked, in loose abandon lies, Its secret parts exposed, its treasures all outspread As if to charm a lover's eyes. One sequined stocking, pink against the milky thigh, Remains, pathetic souvenir; The jeweled garter, like a flashing, secret eye, Darts and withdraws a diamond leer. A languorous portrait on the wall contrives to give Force to the singular effect Of the deep solitude, - the eyes provocative, The pose inviting, half-erect. The ghost of something strange and guilty, of some feast Involving most improper fare, Demoniac kisses, all obscure desires released, Swims in the silent curtains there. And yet, that fragile shoulder, that fine hand and arm - How delicate the curve they make! - The pelvic bones so sweetly pointed, the whole form Lithe as a teased and fighting snake! - She must have been quite young... her senses, all her soul, Avid for life and driven wild By tedium, set ajar, it may be, to the whole Pack of perversions... ah, poor child! Did he at length, that man, his awful thirst too great For living flesh to satisfy, On this inert, obedient body consummate His lust? - O ravished corpse, reply! Answer me, impure thing! Speak, frightening head, and tell: Lifting you up by your long hair, Did he on your cold teeth imprint in last farewell One kiss, before he set you there? Far from the mocking world, the peering crowd, oh far From inquest, coroner, magistrate, Sleep; sleep in peace; I leave you lying as you are, Mysterious unfortunate. In vain your lover roves the world; the thought of you Troubles each chamber where he lies: Even as you are true to him, he will be true To you, no doubt, until he dies. Translated by - Edna St. Vincent Millay Still Life From a Drawing by an Unknown master Flasks of perfume, fabrics lame and spangled, rich Furnishings of brocade and gold, Statues of marble, paintings, scented dresses which Trail, fold on sumptuous soft fold, A warm room, sultry as a hothouse, where one fears The air is poisonous with death, Faded bouquets which, drooping in their crystal biers, Exhale their ultimate faint breath. A headless corpse pours forth a stream of vivid red Blood on damp pillows, and the white Linens absorb the bubbling flow into the bed Avidly as a meadow might. Pale as a specter born of a black dream's despair, To strike our eyes and rivet them, The head, with its dense curly mane of somber hair, And its detail of gold and gem, Rests on a small commode, like a ranunculus, Comfortably; void of surmise, A glint, leaden and blank as dawn, soars, vacuous, From the stone orbs of upturned eyes. The naked torso on the bed in graceful ease Exhibits without scruple or shame Her secret parts and all the fatal splendencies Nature bestowed upon this frame. On her leg, a pink stocking with gold clocks remains, As it were, like a souvenir, The jeweled garter, like a secret eye, retains A glance sharp as a diamond spear. That curious air of solitude and, with it, those Eyes gazing from a portrait near, As languid and provoking as the sitter's pose, Reveal what gloomy loves reigned here. Wraiths of strange feasts, of guilty joys, of recondite Demonic kisses passion moulds To fill the swarm of evil angels with delight, Still hover in the curtain's folds. She was still young! Did ennui gnaw her heart, exhaust Her senses, quench love's normal fires? Did she grant welcome to the thirsty pack of lost Pleasures and devious desires? That vengeful lover whom your wealth of love could still Not sate, you living and robust, Did he use your inert complacent flesh to fill The extreme limits of his lust? O corpse defiled, with fevered hand in his crazed drouth Did he grasp your stiff tresses? Tell, Tell me, grim head, did he glue on your icy mouth The kisses of his last farewell? Far from a jeering world and courts where without cease Magistrates probe as lawyers rave, O most bizarre of beings, sleep ever at peace, at peace In your remote mysterious grave. Whilst your mate roams the earth, your deathless form Keeps royal vigil over his sleeping breath, And surely, like yourself, he shall continue loyal And constant to you unto death. Translated by - Jacques LeClercq The Martyr Amongst gilt fabrics, flasks of scent and wine, Rich furniture, white marble, precious moulds. Fine paintings, and rich, perfumed robes that shine Swirled into sumptuous folds, In a warm room, that like a hot-house stifles With dangerous and fatal breath, where lie Pale flowers in crystal tombs, exquisite trifles, Exhaling their last sigh - A headless corpse, cascading in a flood Hot, living blood, that soaks, with crimson stain A pillow slaked and sated with blood As any field with rain. Like those pale visions which the gloom aborts Which fix us in a still, hypnotic stare, The bead, tricked out with gems of sorts, In its huge mass of hair, Like a ranunculous beside the bed, Rests on the table, empty of all thought. From eyes revulsed, like twilight, seems to spread A gaze that looks at naught. Upon the bed the carcase, unabashed, Shows, in complete abandon, without shift, The secret splendour that, in life, it flashed Superbly, Nature's gift. A rosy stocking, freaked with clocks of gold, Clings to one leg: a souvenir, it seems: The garter, from twin diamonds, with the cold Stare of a viper gleams. The singular effect of solitude And of a languorous portrait, with its eyes Provocative as is its attitude, Dark loves would advertise - And guilty joys, with feasts of strange delight, Full of infernal kisses, omens certain To please the gloating angels of the Night Who swim behind each curtain. And yet to see her nimble strength, the risky Swerve of the rounded shoulder, and its rake, The tented haunch, the figure lithe and frisky, Flexed like an angry snake, You'd know that she was young. Her soul affronted, Her senses stung with boredom - were they bayed By packs of wandering, lost desires, and hunted, And finally betrayed? The vengeful man, whose lust you could not sate, (In spite of much love) nor quench his fire - Did he on your dead flesh then consummate His monstrous, last desire? Answer me, corpse impure! With fevered fist, Grim visage, did he raise you up on high, And, as your silver frosty teeth he kissed, Bid you his last goodbye? Far from inquiring magistrates that sneer, Far from this world of raillery and riot, Sleep peacefully, strange creature, on your bier, Of mystery and quiet. Your lover roams the world. Your deathless shape Watches his sleep and hears each indrawn breath. No more than you can he ever escape From constancy till death! Translated by - Roy Campbell

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