Charles Baudelaire

Verses for the Portrait of M. Honore Daumier

He whose portrait we offer you, Whose art subtler than all others, Teaches us to laugh at ourselves, He is a sage, gentle reader. He's a satirist, a scoffer; But the power with which he paints Evil and his retinue Attests the beauty of his heart. His laughter is not the grimace Of Melmoth or of Mephisto Under Alecto's torch which burns them But makes our blood run cold. Their laughter, alas! is only A sad caricature of mirth; His radiates, hearty and free, Like a symbol of his goodness! The man whose image this presents, In art more subtle than the rest, Teaches us sagely, as is best, To chuckle at our own expense. In mockery he stands apart. His energy defies an equal In painting Evil and its sequel - Which proves the beauty of his heart - Melmoth or Mephostopheles, His mirth has naught akin to theirs. The flambeau of Alecto flares To singe them, while it makes us freeze. Their merriment they come to rue So steeped in treachery and guile, While his frank radiating smile Declares him to be good and true. Translated by - Roy Campbell

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