Charles Baudelaire

To a Malabar Woman

Your feet are as slender as your hands and your hips Are broad; they'd make the fairest white woman jealous; To the pensive artist your body's sweet and dear; Your wide, velvety eyes are darker than your skin. In the hot blue country where your God had you born It is your task to light the pipe of your master, To keep the flasks filled with cool water and perfumes, To drive far from his bed the roving mosquitoes, And as soon as morning makes the plane-trees sing, to Buy pineapples and bananas at the bazaar. All day long your bare feet follow your whims, And, very low, you hum old, unknown melodies; And when evening in his scarlet cloak descends, You stretch out quietly upon a mat and there Your drifting dreams are full of humming-birds and are Like you, always pleasant and adorned with flowers. Why, happy child, do you wish to see France, That over-peopled country which suffering mows down, And entrusting your life to the strong arms of sailors, Bid a last farewell to your dear tamarinds? You, half-dressed in filmy muslins, Shivering over there in the snow and the hail, How you would weep for your free, pleasant leisure, if, With a brutal corset imprisoning your flanks, You had to glean your supper in our muddy streets And sell the fragrance of your exotic charms, With pensive eye, following in our dirty fogs The sprawling phantoms of the absent coco palms! Translated by - William Aggeler To a Lady of Malabar Your feet are slim as your hands, and your hips Are the heavy envy of the most beautiful white woman; To the thoughtful artist your body is soft and lovable; Your great velvet eyes are darker than your skin. In the warm blue climate where your God bore you, Your task is to light the pipe of your master, To keep the flasks of fresh water and spices, To drive far from the bed raiding mosquitoes And, when the plane-trees sing in the morning, To buy pineapples and bananas at the bazaar. All day long anywhere you lead your naked feet, To low humming of old unknown tunes; And when the scarlet cloak of evening drops Softly you place your body on a mat, Your floating dreams are full of humming birds, Ever, like you, graceful and flowering. O why, happy child, do, you want to see our France! That populous country slashed by suffering, To confide your life to the arms of strong sailors, Bidding last farewells to your darling tamarind-trees? There, clad in sleazy muslin, Shivering in the snow and hailstorms, How you would cry for your sweet free playtimes If, with the cruel corset clasping your breasts, You had to glean your supper from our mud, To trade the perfume of your foreign charms With your pensive eyes seeking amongst our dirty fogs The slender ghosts of distant coco-palms! Translated by - Geoffrey Wagner To a Girl from Malabar Your feet are finer than your hands, and bigger Your haunch than plumpest white ones are. Your figure Is to a pensive artist dear and fresh. Your velvet eyes are darker than your flesh. In hot blue lands, where your God gave you being, Your task, lighting your master's pipe, and seeing The jars well filled with lymph, the flasks with scent, Or switching the mosquitoes - there you went, When dawn sang through the rustling planes, to buy Plantains or pineapples from the nearby Bazaar. All day, at will, barefoot you passed Humming old unknown tunes: and when at last The sun went down, bright red, across the flat, You flung your body on the wicker mat; And full of humming birds, your floating dream Was gay and flowery as you always seem. How, happy child, did you come here to France, This overpeopled land, by what mischance, When to your tamarinds you bade adieu Confiding in the sailors of the crew? But now half-clothed in muslin frail and thin, While frost and sleet assail your shivering skin, With brutal corsets prisoning you fast, How you must long for the old, carefree past! Now you must glean your dinners from the mud And sell the perfumes of your flesh and blood, In our foul mists, with pensive eye still straying To catch a glimpse of phantom palm trees swaying. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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