Charles Baudelaire

My Former Life

For a long time I dwelt under vast porticos Which the ocean suns lit with a thousand colors, The pillars of which, tall, straight, and majestic, Made them, in the evening, like basaltic grottos. The billows which cradled the image of the sky Mingled, in a solemn, mystical way, The omnipotent chords of their rich harmonies With the sunsets' colors reflected in my eyes; It was there that I lived in voluptuous calm, In splendor, between the azure and the sea, And I was attended by slaves, naked, perfumed, Who fanned my brow with fronds of palms And whose sole task it was to fathom The dolorous secret that made me pine away. Translated by - William Aggeler Previous Existence For a long time I lived under vast colonnades, Stained with a thousand fires by ocean suns, Whose vast pillars, straight and majestic, Made them seem in the evening like grottos of basalt. The sea-swells, in swaying the pictures of the skies, Mingled solemnly and mystically The all-powerful harmonies of their rich music With the colors of the setting sun reflected by my eyes. It is there that I have lived in calm voluptuousness, In the center of the blue, amidst the waves and splendors And the nude slaves, heavy with perfumes, Who refreshed my forehead with palm-leaves, Their only care was to fathom The dolorous secret that made me languish. Translated by - Geoffrey Wagner La Vie anterieure aeons I dwelt beneath vast porticoes stained by the sun and sea with fiery dye, whose lordly pillars, stark against the sky, like caverned cliffs in evening's gold arose. the rolling surges and their mirror skies blent in a grave mysterious organ-air the chords all-powerful of their music rare with sunset's colours in my glowing eyes. 'twas there I lived before, 'mid azure waves, blue skies and splendours, in voluptuous calm, while, steeped in every fragrance, naked slaves made cool my brow with waving fronds of palm: - their only care to drive the secret dart of my dull sorrow, deeper in my heart. Translated by - Lewis Piaget Shanks My Former Life I can remember a country of long, high colonnades Which mirrored in their pale marble the prismatic light Cast from the bright sea billows in a thousand shades, And which resembled a cave of fluted basalt by night. The ocean, strewn with sliding images of the sky, Would mingle in a mysterious and solemn way, Under the wild brief sunsets, its tremendous cry With the reflected colors of the ruined day. There did I dwell in quiet luxury apart, Amid the slowly changing hues of clouds and waves; And there I was attended by two naked slaves Who sometimes fanned me with great fronds on either side, And whose sole task was to let sink into my heart The dolorous and beautiful secret of which I died. Translated by - George Dillon Former Life I've lived beneath huge portals where marine Suns coloured, with a myriad fires, the waves; At eve majestic pillars made the scene Resemble those of vast basaltic caves. The breakers, rolling the reflected skies, Mixed, in a solemn, enigmatic way, The powerful symphonies they seem to play With colours of the sunset in my eyes. There did I live in a voluptuous calm Where breezes, waves, and splendours roved as vagrants; And naked slaves, impregnated with fragrance, Would fan my forehead with their fronds of palm: Their only charge was to increase the anguish Of secret grief in which I loved to languish. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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