Charles Baudelaire

The Beacons

Rubens, river of oblivion, garden of indolence, Pillow of cool flesh where one cannot love, But where life moves and whirls incessantly Like the air in the sky and the tide in the sea; Leonardo, dark, unfathomable mirror, In which charming angels, with sweet smiles Full of mystery, appear in the shadow Of the glaciers and pines that enclose their country; Rembrandt, gloomy hospital filled with murmuring, Ornamented only with a large crucifix, Lit for a moment by a wintry sun, Where from rot and ordure rise tearful prayers; Angelo, shadowy place where Hercules' are seen Mingling with Christs, and rising straight up, Powerful phantoms, which in the twilights Rend their winding-sheets with outstretched fingers; Boxer's wrath, shamelessness of Fauns, you whose genius Showed to us the beauty in a villain, Great heart filled with pride, sickly, yellow man, Puget, melancholy emperor of galley slaves; Watteau, carnival where the loves of many famous hearts Flutter capriciously like butterflies with gaudy wings; Cool, airy settings where the candelabras' light Touches with madness the couples whirling in the dance Goya, nightmare full of unknown things, Of fetuses roasted in the midst of witches' sabbaths, Of old women at the mirror and of nude children, Tightening their hose to tempt the demons; Delacroix, lake of blood haunted by bad angels, Shaded by a wood of fir-trees, ever green, Where, under a gloomy sky, strange fanfares Pass, like a stifled sigh from Weber; These curses, these blasphemies, these lamentations, These Te Deums, these ecstasies, these cries, these tears, Are an echo repeated by a thousand labyrinths; They are for mortal hearts a divine opium. They are a cry passed on by a thousand sentinels, An order re-echoed through a thousand megaphones; They are a beacon lighted on a thousand citadels, A call from hunters lost deep in the woods! For truly, Lord, the clearest proofs That we can give of our nobility, Are these impassioned sobs that through the ages roll, And die away upon the shore of your Eternity. Translated by - William Aggeler Les Phares Rubens, great river of oblivion, garden of ease, cool flesh no lovers crave, but where the floods of life unceasing run, like wind on wind or wave on ocean wave; Da Vinci - deep and sombre looking-glass enchanting angels haunt, with subtle smile all mystery-charged, while shadows dark amass and pines and ice-cliffs bound their prison-isle; Rembrandt - a piteous murmuring hospital where ordure streams in tears and orisons, stripped to the crucifix on one bare wall illumed by one chill dart from wintry suns; vast desert void, - o Michael Angelo! - where TItans mix with Christs, and twilight clouds where mighty spectres rise up stark and slow - whose opening fingers rend their mouldered shrouds; the rage of boxers and the satyrs' lust - thou who hast found a grace in toiling knaves, great heart, in a poor bilious body thrust - Puget, the gloomy king of galley-slaves; Watteau - bright carnival, where courtly pairs, like butterflies in satin, flit about; flaming in misty groves 'neath resin-flares which pour their madness on the whirling rout; Goya, who in a nightmare-horde unfurls hags boiling foetuses in witches' milk, beldames before the glass and naked girls for demon-lovers tightening hose of silk; and Delacroix - dark lake of blood forlorn 'mid fadeless firs, where evil angels fare, a sullen sky wherefrom a faery horn floats, faint as Oberon's horn through muffling air; these curses, blasphemies and these laments, these ecstasies, cries, tears, hossanas from a thousand caverns, form one echo, whence - death-doomed, we draw a heavenly opium! theirs is a blast a thousand sentinels pass on with their trumpets in a thousand moods; a torch upon a thousand citadels, a hail from hunters lost in pathless woods! for truly, 'tis the mightiest voice our souls command, o Lord, to prove their worth to Thee: this ardent sob which down the ages rolls and dies against Thy verge, Eternity! Translated by - Lewis Piaget Shanks The Beacons Rubens, the grove of case, Nepenthe's river Couch of cool flesh, where Love may never be, But where life ever flows and seems to quiver As air in heaven, or, in the sea, the sea. Da Vinci, dusky mirror and profound, Where angels, smiling mystery, appear, Shaded by pines and glaciers, that surround And seem to shut their country in the rear. Rembrandt, sad hospital of murmurs, where Adorned alone by one great crucifix, From offal-heaps exhales the weeping prayer That winter shoots a sunbeam to transfix. Vague region, Michelangelo, where Titans Are mixed with Christs: and strong ghosts rise, in crowds To stand bolt upright in the gloom that lightens, With gristly talons tearing through their shrouds. Rage of the boxer, mischief of the faun, Extracting beauty out of blackguards' looks - The heart how proud, the man how pinched and drawn - Puget the mournful emperor of crooks! Watteau, the carnival, where famous hearts Go flitting by like butterflies that burn, While through gay scenes each chandelier imparts A madness to the dancers as they turn. Goya's a nightmare full of things unguessed, Of foeti stewed on nights of witches' revels. Crones ogle mirrors; children scarcely dressed, Adjust their hose to tantalise the devils. A lake of gore where fallen angels dwell Is Delacroix, by firwoods ever fair, Where under fretful skies strange fanfares swell Like Weber's sighs and heartbeats in the air. These curses, blasphemies, and lamentations, These ecstasies, tears, cries and soaring psalms - Through endless mazes, their reverberations Bring, to our mortal hearts, divinest balms. A thousand sentinels repeat the cry. A thousand trumpets echo. Beacon-tossed A thousand summits flare it through the sky, A call of hunters in the jungle lost. And certainly this is the most sublime Proof of our worth and value, Oh Divinity, That this great sob rolls on through ageless time To die upon the shores of your infinity. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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