Charles Baudelaire

The Mask

Allegorical Statue in the Style of the Renaissance To Ernest Christophe, Sculptor

Let us gaze at this gem of Florentine beauty; In the undulation of this brawny body Those divine sisters, Gracefulness and Strength, abound. This woman, a truly miraculous marble, Adorably slender, divinely robust, Is made to be enthroned upon sumptuous beds And to charm the leisure of a Pope or a Prince. - And see that smile, voluptuous and delicate, Where self-conceit displays its ecstasy; That sly, lingering look, mocking and languorous; That dainty face, framed in a veil of gauze, Whose every feature says, with a triumphant air: "Pleasure calls me and Love gives me a crown!" To that being endowed with so much majesty See what exciting charm is lent by prettiness! Let us draw near, and walk around its loveliness. O blasphemy of art! Fatal surprise! That exquisite body, that promise of delight, At the top turns into a two-headed monster! Why no! it's but a mask, a lying ornament, That visage enlivened by a dainty grimace, And look, here is, atrociously shriveled, The real, true head, the sincere countenance Reversed and hidden by the lying face. Poor glamorous beauty! the magnificent stream Of your tears flows into my anguished heart; Your falsehood makes me drunk and my soul slakes its thirst At the flood from your eyes, which Suffering causes! - But why is she weeping? She, the perfect beauty, Who could put at her feet the conquered human race, What secret malady gnaws at those sturdy flanks? - She is weeping, fool, because she has lived! And because she lives! But what she deplores Most, what makes her shudder down to her knees, Is that tomorrow, alas! she will still have to live! Tomorrow, after tomorrow, always! - like us! Translated by - William Aggeler The Mask Behold this prize of beauties wholly Florentine, See in this muscled body, lithe and sinuous, Divine concinnity married to strength divine. This woman sculpted by hands that wrought, miraculous. So strangely strong, and so strangely slim in scope, She was born to throne on beds made rich and sumptuous To charm the happy leisure of a Prince or Pope. Behold these smiling lips, suave and voluptuous, Whose ecstasies of arrant self-love give us pause; The mocking pawkishness of that long languid stare, Those dainty features framed in luminous light gauze, Whose every facet says with an all-conquering air: "Lo, Pleasure calls and Love crowns my triumphant head!" On this proud creature vested with such stateliness, See what exciting charms her daintiness has shed. Let us draw close and walk around her. O excess, O blasphemy of Art! O treachery unique! That body filled with promise, rapturous and rare, Turns at the top into a double-headed freak! No, this is but a mask, a decorative snare, Poor visage lighted by a delicate grimace! And look! contracted here, in raw and hideous troubles, The genuine head and the authentic, candid face Are overturned and darkened by their lying doubles. Poor noble beauty, the magnificent broad river Of your sad tears flows through my heart; your lie of lies Intoxicates me, and my thirsty soul aquiver Is slaked by the salt flood Pain dredges from your eyes. But why is it she weeps, whose loveliness outranks All others, and who binds all humans by her laws? What hushed mysterious ill gnaws at her athlete flanks? She weeps because, O madman, she has lived, because She must live on. But her most pitiful misgiving - What chills her very knees and turns her tremulous - Is that alas! tomorrow she must go on living - Tomorrow and tomorrow - evermore — like us! Translated by - Jacques LeClercq The Mask Study with me this Florentinian treasure, Whose undulous and muscular design Welds Grace with Strength in sisterhood divine; A marvel only wonderment can measure, Divinely strong, superbly slim and fine, She's formed to reign upon a bed of pleasure And charm some prince or pontiff in his leisure. See, too, her smile voluptuously shine, Where sheer frivolity displays its sign: That lingering look of languor, guile, and cheek, The dainty face, which veils of gauze enshrine, That seems in conquering accents thus to speak: "Pleasure commands me. Love my brow has crowned!' Enamouring our thoughts in humble duty, True majesty with merriment is found. Approach, let's take a turn about her beauty. O blasphemy! Dread shock! Our hopes to pique, This lovely body, promising delight, Ends at the top in a two-headed freak. But no! it's just a mask that tricked our sight, Fooling us with that exquisite grimace: On the reverse you see her proper face, Fiercely convulsed, in its true self revealed, Which from our sight that lying mask concealed. - O sad great beauty! The grand river, fed By your rich tears, debouches in my heart. Though I am rapt with your deceptive art, My soul is slaked upon the tears you shed. And yet why does she weep? Such peerless grace Could trample down the conquered human race. What evil gnaws her flank so strong and sleek? She weeps because she's lived, and that she lives. Madly she weeps for that. But more she grieves (And at the knees she trembles and goes weak) Because tomorrow she must live, and then The next day, and forever - like us men. Translated by - Roy Campbell

Comment Section just now

Feel free to be first to leave comment.

8/2200 - 0