Poetry from the European Languages

Baudelaire (1797–1856)

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2000 All Rights Reserved

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Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris. He made a name as an art critic and translator of Edgar Allan Poe, but his fame rests on the poems of Les Fleurs du Mal. He visited Mauritius in 1841 but lived most of his life in Paris in poverty on a small allowance. He is pre-eminently the poet of the City, and an illusory immorality clings to his poetry that reveals, in reality, the sensitivity of a deeply moral spirit.

Baudelaire (1797–1856)

The Invitation to the Voyage

My sister, my child

imagine, exiled,

The sweetness, of being there, we two!

To live and to sigh,

to love and to die,

In the land that mirrors you!

The misted haze

of its clouded days

Has the same charm to my mind,

as mysterious,

as your traiterous

Eyes, behind glittering blinds.

There everything’s order and beauty,

calm, voluptuousness, and luxury.

The surface gleams

are polished it seems,

Through the years, to grace our room.

The rarest flowers

mix, with fragrant showers,

The vague, amber perfume.

The dark, painted halls,

the deep mirrored walls,

With Eastern splendour hung,

all secretly speak,

To the soul, its discrete,

Sweet, native tongue.

There, everything’s order and beauty,

calm, voluptuousness and luxury.

See, down the canals,

the sleeping vessels,

Those nomads, their white sails furled:

Now, to accomplish

your every wish,

They come from the ends of the world.

- The deep sunsets

surround the west,

The canals, the city, entire,

with blue-violet and gold;

And the Earth grows cold

In an incandescent fire.

There, everything’s order and beauty,

calm, voluptuousness and luxury.

For Madame Sabatier

What will you say tonight, poor soul in solitude,

what will you say my heart, withered till now,

to the so beautiful, so sweet, so dear one,

whose divine gaze recreated the flower?

- We will set Pride now to singing her praises:

Nothing outdoes her sweet air of authority.

Her spiritual flesh has the perfume of angels,

and her eye surrounds us in robes of infinity.

Whether in the night, and alone, and in solitude,

Whether in the street, and among the multitude,

her phantom dances in air, like a flame.

Sometimes it speaks and it says ‘I am beautiful.

You, for the love of me, must love beauty alone:

for I am your Madonna, Muse, Guardian Angel.

The Balcony

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses,

O you, all my pleasures! O you, all my learning!

You will remember the joy of caresses,

the sweetness of home and the beauty of evening,

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!

On evenings lit by the glow of the ashes

and on the balcony, veiled, rose-coloured, misted,

how gentle your breast was, how good your heart to me!

We have said things meant for eternity,

on evenings lit by the glow of the ashes.

How lovely the light is on sultry evenings!

How deep the void grows! How powerful the heart is!

As I leaned towards you, queen of adored ones

I thought I breathed perfume from your blood’s kiss.

How lovely the light is on sultry evenings!

The night it was thickening and closing around us,

and my eyes in the dark were divining your glance,

and I drank your nectar. Oh sweetness! Oh poison!

your feet held, here, in these fraternal hands.

The night it was thickening and closing around us.

I know how to summon up happiest moments,

and relive my past, there, curled, touching your knees.

What good to search for your languorous beauties

but in your dear body, and your heart so sweet?

I know how to summon up happiest moments!

Those vows, those perfumes, those infinite kisses,

will they be reborn, from gulfs beyond soundings,

as the suns that are young again climb in the sky,

after they’ve passed through the deepest of drownings?

-O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses