Charles Baudelaire

Spleen 4

When the low, heavy sky weighs like a lid On the groaning spirit, victim of long ennui, And from the all-encircling horizon Spreads over us a day gloomier than the night; When the earth is changed into a humid dungeon, In which Hope like a bat Goes beating the walls with her timid wings And knocking her head against the rotten ceiling; When the rain stretching out its endless train Imitates the bars of a vast prison And a silent horde of loathsome spiders Comes to spin their webs in the depths of our brains, All at once the bells leap with rage And hurl a frightful roar at heaven, Even as wandering spirits with no country Burst into a stubborn, whimpering cry. - And without drums or music, long hearses Pass by slowly in my soul; Hope, vanquished, Weeps, and atrocious, despotic Anguish On my bowed skull plants her black flag. Translated by - William Aggeler Spleen When the low and heavy sky presses like a lid On the groaning heart a prey to slow cares, And when from a horizon holding the whole orb There is cast at us a dark sky more sad than night; When earth is changed to a damp dungeon, Where Hope, like a bat, Flees beating the walls with its timorous wings, And knocking its head on the rotting ceilings; When the rain spreads out vast trails Like the bars of a huge prison, And when, like sordid spiders, silent people stretch Threads to the depths of our brains, Suddenly the bells jump furiously And hurl to the sky a horrible shriek, Like some wandering landless spirits Starting an obstinate complaint. - And long hearses, with no drums, no music, File slowly through my soul: Hope, Conquered, cries, and despotic atrocious Agony Plants on my bent skull its flag of black. Translated by - Geoffrey Wagner Spleen When the low heavy sky weighs like a lid Upon the spirit aching for the light, And all the wide horizon's line is hid By a black day sadder than any night; When the changed earth is but a dungeon dank Where batlike Hope goes blindly fluttering And, striking wall and roof and mouldered plank, Bruises his tender head and timid wing; When like grim prison-bars stretch down the thin, Straight, rigid pillars of the endless rain, And the dumb throngs of infamous spiders spin Their meshes in the caverns of the brain; - Suddenly, bells leap forth into the air, Hurling a hideous uproar to the sky As 'twere a band of homeless spirits who fare Through the strange heavens, wailing stubbornly. And hearses, without drum or instrument, File slowly through my soul; crushed, sorrowful, Weeps Hope, and Grief, fierce and omnipotent, Plants his black banner on my drooping skull. Translated by - Jack Collings Squire Spleen when low skies weightier than a coffin-lid cast on the moaning soul their weary blight, and from the whole horizon's murky grid its grey light drips more dismal than the night; when earth's a dungeon damp whose chill appals, in which - a fluttering bat — my Hope, alone buffets with timid wing the mouldering walls and beats her head against the dome of stone; when close as prison-bars, from overhead, the clouds let fall the curtain of the rains, and voiceless hordes of spiders come, to spread their infamous cobwebs through our darkened brains, explosively the bells begin to ring, hurling their frightful clangour toward the sky, as homeless spirits lost and wandering might raise their indefatigable cry; and ancient hearses through my soul advance muffled and slow; my Hope, now pitiful, weeps her defeat, and conquering Anguish plants his great black banner on my cowering skull. Translated by - Lewis Piaget Shanks When the Low, Heavy Sky When the low, heavy sky weighs like the giant lid Of a great pot upon the spirit crushed by care, And from the whole horizon encircling us is shed A day blacker than night, and thicker with despair; When Earth becomes a dungeon, where the timid bat Called Confidence, against the damp and slippery walls Goes beating his blind wings, goes feebly bumping at The rotted, moldy ceiling, and the plaster falls; When, dark and dropping straight, the long lines of the rain Like prison-bars outside the window cage us in; And silently, about the caught and helpless brain, We feel the spider walk, and test the web, and spin; Then all the bells at once ring out in furious clang, Bombarding heaven with howling, horrible to hear, Like lost and wandering souls, that whine in shrill harangue Their obstinate complaints to an unlistening ear. - And a long line of hearses, with neither dirge nor drums, Begins to cross my soul. Weeping, with steps that lag, Hope walks in chains; and Anguish, after long wars, becomes Tyrant at last, and plants on me his inky flag. Translated by - Edna St. Vincent Millay Spleen When the cold heavy sky weighs like a lid On spirits whom eternal boredom grips, And the wide ring of the horizon's hid In daytime darker than the night's eclipse: When the world seems a dungeon, damp and small, Where hope flies like a bat, in circles reeling, Beating his timid wings against the wall And dashing out his brains against the ceiling: When trawling rains have made their steel-grey fibres Look like the grilles of some tremendous jail, And a whole nation of disgusting spiders Over our brains their dusty cobwebs trail: Suddenly bells are fiercely clanged about And hurl a fearsome howl into the sky Like spirits from their country hunted out Who've nothing else to do but shriek and cry - Then long processions without fifes or drums Wind slowly through my soul. Hope, weeping, bows To conquest. And atrocious Anguish comes To plant his black flag on my drooping brows. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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