Charles Baudelaire

The Unforeseen

Harpagon watching over his dying father; Mused, looking at those lips that were already white: "It seems to me we have in the attic A sufficient number of old boards?" Celimene coos and says: "My heart is kind, And naturally enough, God made me very fair." - Her heart, a shriveled heart like a ham smoked and seared, At the eternal flame! A smoky journalist who thinks he is a light Says to the poor wretch he has plunged into darkness: "Where do you see him, this creator of beauty, This Knight-errant whom you extol?" I know better than anyone, a sensualist Who yawns night and day, and laments and weeps, Repeating, the impotent fop: "Of course, I wish To be virtuous in an hour!" The clock in turn says in a low voice: "He is ripe, The damned one! In vain do I warn the stinking flesh. Man is blind and deaf, fragile as a wall That is the home of gnawing insects!" And then appears Someone all had denied, Who proud and mocking says: "From my ciboriurn You have communicated rather frequently, I think, at the joyous black Mass? Each of you has made a shrine for me in his heart; And you have secretly kissed my unclean haunches! Recognize Satan by his conquering laughter, Immense and ugly as the world! Could you have believed, surprised hypocrites, That one makes fun of the master, that one cheats him, That it's reasonable to receive two rewards, To be rich and go to Heaven? The game must pay the hunter who stands shivering For a long time on the watch for his prey. I'm going to take you away through the thickness, Companions in my gloomy joy, Through the thickness of the earth and the rock, Through the unshapen pile of your ashes Into a palace huge as I, a single block, That is not fashioned of soft stone; For it is made of universal Sin, And contains my pride, my sorrow and my glory!" But meanwhile, perched on the top of the universe An Angel sounds the victory Of those whose hearts say: "Blessed be your whip, Lord! O Father, blessed be suffering! My soul in your hands is not an idle plaything And your prudence is infinite." The sound of the trumpet is O! so delightful On the solemn evenings of heavenly harvest, That it permeates like an ecstasy all those Whose praises the trumpet sings. Translated by - William Aggeler The Unforeseen Harpagon, sitting up beside his father's bed, Mused, as the breathing altered and the lips went gray, "I've plenty of old planks, I think, out in the shed; I saw them there the other day." Celimène coos and says, "How beautiful I am! God, since my heart is kind, has made me fair, as well!" Her heart! - as tough as leather, her heart! — smoked like a ham; And turning on a spit in hell! A sputtering gazetteer, who thinks he casts a light, Says to his readers drowned in paradox and doubt, "Where do you see him, then, this God of Truth and Right? This Savior that you talk about?" Better than these I know - although I know all three — That foppish libertine, who yawns in easy grief Nightly upon my shoulder, "All right, you wait and see; I'm turning over a new leaf!" The clock says, "The condemned is ready; you may call For him; I have advised in vain as to those flaws Which threatened; Man is blind, deaf, fragile - like a wall In which an insect lives and gnaws." Whereat a Presence, stranger to few, greeted by none, Appears. "Well met!" he mocks; "have I not seen you pass Before my sacred vessel, in communion Of joyousness, at the Black Mass? "Each of you builds in secret a temple to my fame; Each one of you in secret has kissed my foul behind; Look at me; hear this laughter: Satan is my name, - Lewd, monstrous as the world! Oh, blind, "Oh, hypocritical men! - and did you think indeed To mock your master? - trick him till double wage be given? Did it seem likely two such prizes be decreed: To be so rich - and enter Heaven? "The game must pay the hunter; the hunter for his prey Lies chilled and cramped so long behind the vain decoy; Down through the thickness now I carry you away, Companions of my dreary joy; "Down through the thickness of primeval earth and rock, Thickness of human ashes helter-skelter blown, Into a palace huge as I - a single block — And of no soft and crumbling stone! "For it is fashioned whole from Universal Sin; And it contains my grief, my glory and my pride!" - Meantime, from his high perch above our earthly din, An Angel sounds the victory wide Of those whose heart says, "Blessèd be this punishment, O Lord! O Heavenly Father, be this anguish blest! My soul in Thy kind hands at last is well content, A toy no more; Thou knowest best!" So sweetly, so deliciously that music flows Through the cool harvest evenings of these celestial days, That like an ecstasy it penetrates all those Of whose pure lives it sings the praise. Translated by - Edna St. Vincent Millay The Unforeseen Harpagon watched his father slowly dying And musing on his white lips as they shrunk, Said, "There is lumber in the outhouse lying It seems: old boards and junk." Celimene cooed, and said, "How good I am And, naturally, God made my looks excell" (Her callous heart, thrice-smoked like salted ham, Will burn in endless Hell!) A smoky scribbler, to himself a beacon, Says to the wretch whom he has plunged in shade - "Where's the Creator you so loved to speak on, The Saviour you portrayed?" But best of all I know a certain rogue Who yawns and weeps, lamenting night and day (Impotent fathead) in the same old brogue, "I will be good - one day!" The clock says in a whisper, "He is ready The damned one, whom I warned of his disaster. He's blind, and deaf, and like a wall unsteady, Where termites mine the plaster." Then one appeared whom all of them denied And said with mocking laughter "To my manger You've all come; to the Black Mass I provide Not one of you's a stranger. You've built me temples in your hearts of sin. You've kissed my buttocks in your secret mirth. Know me for Satan by this conquering grin, As monstrous as the Earth. D'you think, poor hypocrites surprised red-handed That you can trick your lord without a hitch; And that by guile two prizes can be landed - Heaven, and being rich? The wages of the huntsman is his quarry, Which pays him for the chills he gets while stalking Companions of my revels grim and sorry I am going to take you walking, Down through the denseness of the soil and rock, Down through the dust and ash you leave behind, Into a palace, built in one sole block, Of stone that is not kind: For it is built of Universal Sin And holds of me all that is proud and glorious" - Meanwhile an angel, far above the din, Sends forth a peal victorious For all whose hearts can say, "I bless thy rod; And blessed be the griefs that on us fall. My soul is but a toy, Eternal God, Thy wisdom all in all!" And so deliciously that trumpet blows On evenings of celestial harvestings, It makes a rapture in the hearts of those Whose love and praise it sings. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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