Charles Baudelaire

To a Madonna

Votive Offering in the Spanish Style

I want to build for you, Madonna, my mistress, An underground altar in the depths of my grief And carve out in the darkest corner of my heart, Far from worldly desires and mocking looks, A niche, all enameled with azure and with gold, Where you shall stand, amazed Statue; With my polished Verses as a trellis of pure metal Studded cunningly with rhymes of crystal, I shall make for your head an immense Crown, And from my Jealousy, O mortal Madonna, I shall know how to cut a cloak in a fashion, Barbaric, heavy, and stiff, lined with suspicion, Which, like a sentry-box, will enclose your charms; Embroidered not with Pearls, but with all of my Tears! Your Gown will be my Desire, quivering, Undulant, my Desire which rises and which falls, Balances on the crests, reposes in the troughs, And clothes with a kiss your white and rose body. Of my Self-respect I shall make you Slippers Of satin which, humbled by your divine feet, Will imprison them in a gentle embrace, And assume their form like a faithful mold; If I can't, in spite of all my painstaking art, Carve a Moon of silver for your Pedestal, I shall put the Serpent which is eating my heart Under your heels, so that you may trample and mock, Triumphant queen, fecund in redemptions, That monster all swollen with hatred and spittle. You will see my Thoughts like Candles in rows Before the flower-decked altar of the Queen of Virgins, Starring with their reflections the azure ceiling, And watching you always with eyes of fire. And since my whole being admires and loves you, All will become Storax, Benzoin, Frankincense, Myrrh, And ceaselessly toward you, white, snowy pinnacle, My turbulent spirit will rise like a vapor. Finally, to complete your role of Mary, And to mix love with inhumanity, Infamous pleasure! of the seven deadly sins, I, torturer full of remorse, shall make seven Well sharpened Daggers and, like a callous juggler, Taking your deepest love for a target, I shall plant them all in your panting Heart, In your sobbing Heart, in your bleeding Heart! Translated by - William Aggeler a une Madone I'll build for thee, Madonna, mistress mine, deep in my crypt of woe a secret shrine; - carve in the blackest corner of my heart, from worldly lust and mocking eyes apart, a niche, with gold and blue enamel blent, to hold thy statue filled with wonderment. my polished verse, of virgin metal hard with crystal rhymes artistically starred, shall raise for thee a towering diadem; and from my jealousy I'll cut and hem a mangle, mortal Lady mine, designed as 'twere a sentry-box, stiff, heavy, lined with barbs of keen suspicion and with fears, embroidered, not with pearls, but all my tears! to make thy robe I'll give thee my desire that rises, falls and quivers like a fire, clings to each summit, rests in each abyss, and clothes thy rosy body with a kiss. of my respect I'll make thee buskins fine of satin, humbled by thy feet divine, to prison them in soft embraces warm and like a faithful mould to preserve their form. then if my art is powerless to cut thy pedestal, a silver moon, I'll put beneath thy heel the serpent in my heart for thee to bruise and mock, because thou art the queen of my redemption, conquering all, even that monster spewing hate and gall. thine altar, like the Virgin's, shall be twined with flowers, and like tapers all aligned, my thoughts shall light the niche: from those blue skies, watching thee always with their fiery eyes; and since thou holdest all the love within my heart, as incense, myrrh and benjamin, in clouds forevermore to thee, its goal, o snowy peak, shall rise my stormy soul. and last, to make thee Mary utterly, commingling love with savage cruelty, - black joy! — with all the seven capital sins I'll forge, remorsefully, seven javelins knife-sharp, and like a juggler nonchalant, taking thy love as target, I shall plant deep in thy heart convulsed each deadly dart - thy panting heart, thy sobbing, streaming heart! Translated by - Lewis Piaget Shanks To a Madonna I'd build, Madonna, love, for my belief, An altar in the dim crypt of my grief, And in the darkest comer of my heart, From mortal lust and mockery far apart, Scoop you a niche, with gold and azure glaze, Where you would stand in wonderment and gaze, With my pure verses trellised, and all round In constellated rhymes of crystal bound: And with a huge tiara richly crowned. Out of the Jealousy which rules my passion, Mortal Madonna, I a cloak would fashion, Barbarous, stiff, and heavy with my doubt, Whereon as in a fourm you would fill out And mould your lair. Of tears, not pearls, would be The sparkle of its rich embroidery: Your robe would be my lust, with waving flow, Poising on tips, in valleys lying low, And clothing, in one kiss, coral and snow. In my Respect (for satin) you'll be shod Which your white feet would humble to the clod, While prisoning their flesh with tender hold It kept their shape imprinted like a mould. If for a footstool to support your shoon, For all my art, I could not get the moon, I'd throw the serpent, that devours my vitals Under your trampling heels for his requitals, Victorious queen, to spurn, bruise, and belittle That monstrous worm blown-up with hate and spittle. Round you my thoughts like candles should be seen Around the flowered shrine of the virgins' Queen, Reflected on a roof that's painted blue, And aiming all their golden eyes at you. Since nought is in me that you do not stir, All will be incense, benjamin, and myrrh, And up to you, white peak, in clouds will soar My stormy soul, in rapture, to adore. In fine, your role of Mary to perfect And mingle barbarism with respect - Of seven deadly sins, O black delight! Remorseful torturer, to show my sleight, I'll forge and sharpen seven deadly swords And like a callous juggler on the boards, Taking it for my target, I would dart Them deep into your streaming, sobbing heart. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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