Charles Baudelaire

The Denial of Saint Peter

What does God do with the wave of curses That rises every day toward his dear Seraphim? Like a tyrant gorged with food and wine, he falls asleep To the sweet sound of our horrible blasphemies. The sobs of martyrs and of tortured criminals Are doubtless an enchanting symphony, Since, despite the blood that this pleasure costs, The heavens have not yet been surfeited with it! - Ah Jesus, remember the Garden of Olives! In your naivete you prayed on your knees to Him Who in His heaven laughed at the sound of the nails Being driven into your living flesh; When you saw them spitting on your divinity, That vile mob of body-guards and scullions, And when you felt the thorns go deep Into your skull where lived immense Humanity, When the horrible weight of your broken body Lengthened your two outstretched arms, when your blood And sweat flowed from your paling brow, When you were placed before them all like a target, Did you dream of those days so brilliant and so fair When you came to fulfill the eternal promise, When the gentle donkey you were riding trampled The branches and flowers strewn in your path, When, your heart swollen with courage and hope, You lashed those vile money-changers with all your might, In a word, when you were master? Did not remorse Penetrate your side deeper than the spear? - For my part, I shall indeed be content to leave A world where action is not the sister of dreams; Would that I could take up the sword and perish by the sword! Saint Peter denied Jesus - he did well! Translated by - William Aggeler The Denial of Saint Peter What does God do with that huge storm of curses That rises daily to the seraphim? Like some gorged tyrant, while his guts he nurses, Our blasphemies are lullabies to him. Martyrs and tortured victims with their cries Compose delicious symphonies, no doubt, Because, despite the blood they cost, the skies Can always do with more when they give out. Jesus, remember, in the olive trees - In all simplicity you prayed afresh To One whom your own butchers seemed to please In hammering the nails into your flesh. To see your godhead spat on by the like Of scullions, and of troopers, and such scum, And feel the thorns into your temples strike Which held, of all Humanity, the sum: To feel your body's horrifying weight Lengthen your arms, to feel the blood and sweat Itching your noble forehead pale with fate, And as a target to the world be set, Then did you dream of brilliant days of song, When, the eternal promise to fulfill, You mounted on an ass and rode along, Trampling the flowers and palms beneath your feet, When whirling whips, and full of valiant force, The money-lenders quailed at your advance: When you, in short, were master? Did remorse Not pierce your body further than the lance? I am quite satisfied to leave so bored A world, where dream and action disunite. I'd use the sword, to perish by the sword. Peter denied his Master?... He did right! Translated by - Roy Campbell

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