Charles Baudelaire

To the Reader

Folly, error, sin, avarice Occupy our minds and labor our bodies, And we feed our pleasant remorse As beggars nourish their vermin. Our sins are obstinate, our repentance is faint; We exact a high price for our confessions, And we gaily return to the miry path, Believing that base tears wash away all our stains. On the pillow of evil Satan, Trismegist, Incessantly lulls our enchanted minds, And the noble metal of our will Is wholly vaporized by this wise alchemist. The Devil holds the strings which move us! In repugnant things we discover charms; Every day we descend a step further toward Hell, Without horror, through gloom that stinks. Like a penniless rake who with kisses and bites Tortures the breast of an old prostitute, We steal as we pass by a clandestine pleasure That we squeeze very hard like a dried up orange. Serried, swarming, like a million maggots, A legion of Demons carouses in our brains, And when we breathe, Death, that unseen river, Descends into our lungs with muffled wails. If rape, poison, daggers, arson Have not yet embroidered with their pleasing designs The banal canvas of our pitiable lives, It is because our souls have not enough boldness. But among the jackals, the panthers, the bitch hounds, The apes, the scorpions, the vultures, the serpents, The yelping, howling, growling, crawling monsters, In the filthy menagerie of our vices, There is one more ugly, more wicked, more filthy! Although he makes neither great gestures nor great cries, He would willingly make of the earth a shambles And, in a yawn, swallow the world; He is Ennui! - His eye watery as though with tears, He dreams of scaffolds as he smokes his hookah pipe. You know him reader, that refined monster, - Hypocritish reader, — my fellow, — my brother! Translated by - William Aggeler To the Reader Foolishness, error, sin, niggardliness, Occupy our minds and work on our bodies, And we feed our mild remorse, As beggars nourish their vermin. Our sins are insistent, our repentings are limp; We pay ourselves richly for our admissions, And we gaily go once more on the filthy path Believing that by cheap fears we shall wash away all our sins. On the pillow of evil it is Satan Trismegistus Who soothes a long while our bewitched mind, And the rich metal of our determination Is made vapor by that learned chemist. It is the Devil who holds the reins which make us go! In repulsive objects we find something charming; Each day we take one more step towards Hell - Without being horrified - across darknesses that stink. Like a beggarly sensualist who kisses and eats The martyred breast of an ancient strumpet, We steal where we may a furtive pleasure Which we handle forcefully like an old orange. Tight, swarming, like a million worms, A population of Demons carries on in our brains, And, when we breathe, Death into our lungs Goes down, an invisible river, with thick complaints. If rape, poison, the dagger, arson, Have not as yet embroidered with their pleasing designs The recurrent canvas of our pitiable destinies, It is that our spirit, alas, is not brave enough. But among the jackals, the panthers, the bitch-hounds, The apes, the scorpions, the vultures, the serpents, The monsters screeching, howling, grumbling, creeping, In the infamous menagerie of our vices, There is one uglier, wickeder, more shameless! Although he makes no large gestures nor loud cries He willingly would make rubbish of the earth And with a yawn swallow the world; He is Ennui! - His eye filled with an unwished-for tear, He dreams of scaffolds while puffing at his hookah. You know him, reader, this exquisite monster, - Hypocrite reader, — my likeness, — my brother! Translated by - Eli Siegel Preface Envy, sin, avarice & error These are friends we know already - Feeding them sentiment and regret I'd hoped they'd vanish. But wrongs are stubborn We have our records and tho it can be struggled with There's no soft way to a dollar. On the bedroom's pillows The leisure senses unravel. It's too hard to be unwilling When there's so little to amuse. The devil twists the strings on which we jerk! Objects and asses continue to attract us. Each day it's closer to the end Without butter on our sufferings' amends. Like some poor short-dicked scum Biting and kissing the scarred breast Of a whore who'd as soon Drive nails through his nuts We breath death into our skulls Afraid to let it go. If the drugs, sex, perversion and destruction Haven't made it to your suburb yet Graffitied your garage doors Of our common fate, don't worry. If the short and long con Both ends against the middle Trick a fool Set the dummy up to fight And the other old dodges All howling to scream and crawl inside Haven't arrived broken you down It's because your boredom has kept them away. There's no act or cry That can take this world apart Snuff out its miserable contemplation Boredom! Our jailer. Starving or glutted By the executions? Smoke, desperate for a whiter lie, You, my easy reader, never satisfied lover. Translated by - Will Schmitz To the Reader Infatuation, sadism, lust, avarice possess our souls and drain the body's force; we spoonfeed our adorable remorse, like whores or beggars nourishing their lice. Our sins are mulish, our confessions lies; we play to the grandstand with our promises, we pray for tears to wash our filthiness; importantly pissing hogwash through our styes. The devil, watching by our sickbeds, hissed old smut and folk-songs to our soul, until the soft and precious metal of our will boiled off in vapor for this scientist. Each day his flattery makes us eat a toad, and each step forward is a step to hell, unmoved, through previous corpses and their smell asphyxiate our progress on this road. Like the poor lush who cannot satisfy, we try to force our sex with counterfeits, die drooling on the deliquescent tits, mouthing the rotten orange we suck dry. Gangs of demons are boozing in our brain - ranked, swarming, like a million warrior-ants, they drown and choke the cistern of our wants; each time we breathe, we tear our lungs with pain. If poison, arson, sex, narcotics, knives have not yet ruined us and stitched their quick, loud patterns on the canvas of our lives, it is because our souls are still too sick. Among the vermin, jackals, panthers, lice, gorillas and tarantulas that suck and snatch and scratch and defecate and fuck in the disorderly circus of our vice, there's one more ugly and abortive birth. It makes no gestures, never beats its breast, yet it would murder for a moment's rest, and willingly annihilate the earth. It's BOREDOM. Tears have glued its eyes together. You know it well, my Reader. This obscene beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine - you - hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother! Translated by - Robert Lowell To the Reader Folly and error, sin and avarice, Labor our minds and bodies in their course, Blithely we nourish pleasurable remorse As beggars feed their parasitic lice. Our sins are stubborn, our repentance faint, We sell our weak confessions at high price, Returning gaily to the bogs of vice, Thinking base tears can cleanse our every taint. Pillowed on evil, Satan Trismegist Ceaselessly cradles our enchanted mind, The flawless metal of our will we find Volatilized by this rare alchemist. The Devil holds the puppet threads; and swayed By noisome things and their repugnant spell, Daily we take one further step toward Hell, Suffering no horror in the olid shade. As an impoverished rake will kiss and bite The bruised blue nipples of an ancient whore, We steal clandestine pleasures by the score, Which, like dried orange rinds, we pressure tight. Serried, aswarm, like million maggots, so Demons carouse in us with fetid breath, And, when we breathe, the unseen stream of death Flows down our lungs with muffled wads of woe. If poison, knife, rape, arson, have not dared Yet stamp the pleasing pattern of their gyves On the dull canvas of our sorry lives, It is because our torpid souls are scared. But side by side with our monstrosities - Jackals and bitch hounds, scorpions, vultures, apes, Panthers and serpents whose repulsive shapes Pollute our vice's dank menageries, There is one viler and more wicked spawn, Which never makes great gestures or loud cries Yet would turn earth to wastes of sumps and sties And swallow all creation in a yawn: Ennui! Moist-eyed perforce, worse than all other, Dreaming of stakes, he smokes his hookah pipe. Reader, you know this fiend, refined and ripe, Reader, O hypocrite - my like! — my brother! Translated by - Jacques LeClercq To the Reader Folly and error, avarice and vice, Employ our souls and waste our bodies' force. As mangey beggars incubate their lice, We nourish our innocuous remorse. Our sins are stubborn, craven our repentance. For our weak vows we ask excessive prices. Trusting our tears will wash away the sentence, We sneak off where the muddy road entices. Cradled in evil, that Thrice-Great Magician, The Devil, rocks our souls, that can't resist; And the rich metal of our own volition Is vaporised by that sage alchemist. The Devil pulls the strings by which we're worked: By all revolting objects lured, we slink Hellwards; each day down one more step we're jerked Feeling no horror, through the shades that stink. Just as a lustful pauper bites and kisses The scarred and shrivelled breast of an old whore, We steal, along the roadside, furtive blisses, Squeezing them, like stale oranges, for more. Packed tight, like hives of maggots, thickly seething Within our brains a host of demons surges. Deep down into our lungs at every breathing, Death flows, an unseen river, moaning dirges. If rape or arson, poison, or the knife Has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff Of this drab canvas we accept as life - It is because we are not bold enough! Amongst the jackals, leopards, mongrels, apes, Snakes, scorpions, vultures, that with hellish din, Squeal, roar, writhe, gambol, crawl, with monstrous shapes, In each man's foul menagerie of sin - There's one more damned than all. He never gambols, Nor crawls, nor roars, but, from the rest withdrawn, Gladly of this whole earth would make a shambles And swallow up existence with a yawn... Boredom! He smokes his hookah, while he dreams Of gibbets, weeping tears he cannot smother. You know this dainty monster, too, it seems - Hypocrite reader! - You! — My twin! — My brother! Translated by - Roy Campbell

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