Charles Baudelaire
 
Flower Odes: Flowers Owed
 
Selected Translations
 
Translated by Allen Hagar

 

 

Flower Odes: Flowers Owed

Allen B. Hagar Jr
13 Charena Road
Wayland MA 01778-3133
 ah346@aol.com

flowerodes1h.doc

February 14, 2017


63 folio pages

 

 
 For my Father
 Allen B Hagar Sr 

 And in memory of my Mother
 Eva E Hagar

   
Acknowledgments


I would like to thank everybody, including my immediate family especially my parents, and friends, my parents who patiently awaited my success as a writer, by supporting my room and board and regular feedings at their home and expense. 

I thank my professors at the Harvard University Extension School, and the multitude of professors who patiently allowed me to offer rough drafts of all my poetry, including original poetry.

Table of Contents

 Introduction        
A History by A. Hagar      

L’Étranger          
“J’aime le souvenir…”       
La Chambre double      
La Vie antérieure       
La Beauté          
La Géante          
Le Chat          
Tout entière           
Le Chat           
L’Invitation au voyage        
À une dame créole          
Le Revenant        
Tristesses de la lune           
La Pipe       
Le Cygne        
A une passante        
Le Squelette laboureur          
Les Bijoux            
Chacun sa chimère        
Le Gâteau       

Le Joujou du pauvre         

La Belle Dorothée        
Les Fenêtres           
Un cheval de race 1        
Un cheval de race  2         
Le Miroir          
La Soupe et les Nuages         
Any Where Out of the World           
Les Bons Chiens          
La Fin de la journée        
Sépulture           



Introduction

 Welcome.  This collection of thirty-odd poems represents just about one third of the total number I have interpreted and translated of Charles Baudelaire’s life-time of working the page and verse.  I will attempt to place the modern poet in the forefront of French abolitionist members.  All poetry is about social justice, it’s just that some are better remembered than others.  The Truth is understood, perhaps denied, at times, but at the bottom of the hill we see the harbor!  The number of poems selected corresponds to the importance of the subject matter and the proud and liberal mind of the reader.  Good luck and enjoy!  

The final edition will include the original French copy printed opposite the English translation for ease of reading the text as I believe Baudelaire would prefer it.
 

A History by A. Hagar

                                                                                                       Wayland, MA 2017

It all begins at the beginning.  The Holy Bible holds the Truth.  Sarah and Abraham were childless, a respect for the father and master on the move.  Hagar was young and willing, a sign of jealousy tomorrow, but today is a new day, Ishmael will soon follow. It wasn’t called slavery, it was called paternal love, true to its name; the freedom to be would come later.  Thus slavery started to replace paternal love and a people of a different race were overcome with fear, not love, America, 1800. 

 In America early nineteenth century (1816) and the first mills were being envisioned for America.  My birthplace was the home of the beginning of Industrialized manufacturing of cotton goods.  The need to feed the machinery was a burden on the African American slave in the Deep South.  Machines were supposed to free the slave, but instead they made a dependence on slave labor appear more appealing.  The social implications were hidden from view. 

The implications of chattel slavery, slavery as everyone comes to assume it to be; the yellow rapeseed plant in fields of plenty is waiting like a disease, a social disease, infectious and ready to go. 

It was the self-emancipated slave, Frederick Douglass that stated the lust of the master bore the responsibility of fatherhood of the mulatto child.  No coincidence can account for the offspring and issue of sexual encounter nine months ago.  It was the start of something new. 

 Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.  The 1789 French Revolution shed blood for this simple truth.  In 1830, the painter Eugene Delacroix painted the image of Liberty in a yellow dress.  Yellow becomes a color used in modern art, including the masters like Van Gogh and Cezanne.  My suggestion that the title for the book (Les Fleurs du mal) was a play on rape, in English translation, creating the possibility of the flowers of rape be evil and the flowers of rape being flowers of yellow flowers.  This dual interpretation is possible in translation, a suggestion made that Baudelaire’s audience was international in scope.  A true poetry is one poetry, the modern poetry of bilingual readers.  I hope to stimulate a conversation on what the title means for us today. 

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.  Equality means no slavery, no involuntary servitude, no excuses and no Other Persons.  The French knew the truth.  Who will take the witness stand?   The young French poet, Charles Baudelaire? 

The flowers of rape are the innocent children born out of wedlock and denied a father in their formative years.  This will soon be a universal truth.  Art, like poetry, survives on associations; it is a gathering of artists and let’s see what happens!

 Was Baudelaire an abolitionist?   You betcha!   As his poetry is a testimonial to equality.

 Equality is one of the strands that makes my tapestry strong.  A weave of quilt or a cotton cloth, the sitting room banter across the way, a stay mentioned, then went away, the majority rules as they may.  We need a majority of men and women to agree to be gay!  We need an investment banker’s opinion.

The history records the election won, no need to recount, the tallying is done, a new president and a new idea, the war will never end.  Where are we at?  Where are we going?  What are the requirements to get to a piece of Peace. 

The matter of rape matters is delicate as we all know.  It is serious yet innocent, the good, bad and the ugly.  All cut flowers will eventually die, this is true. Accusing Baudelaire of playing with words is a living exercise in futility.  We knew, yes oui nous, we knew.  

An assault upon the master’s relations with his slave is protected by the silence of the lambs, the church goers and the priest’s failure to preach defense of marriage on the issue of sexuality.  Abraham, Sarah and Hagar mount and center a defense contemporary and modern.  The wide range of women characters in his poetry suggests that if anyone is going to be saved, it will be ladies first!

The issue of equality has roots buried deep in the wheel of rape.  We’ll have to think about it.  Cheese and crackers, the opinions of the white male majority is contrary to the “spirit” of the Declaration of Independence & the 14th amendment.  Cooperation and living together is harder after losing a war and thousands dead.  Not a time to be an immigrant.
                   
And being African American, the status of State, a complication of avarice, a measure of wait, the arrival of the bee-box, a measure of time and yellow flowers, the measurement of hours and days, the relay without delay, meant that the future holds infinity, and the past might be gay.   Okay? Okay.

 No Substitutions Please:  The French painter Eugene Delacroix was a poet and storyteller at heart.  His work, of 1830, "Liberty Leading the People" is an allegory of biblical ages.  Liberty stands center front, bare-breasted, in a yellow dress, carrying the tri-colors of red white and blue, but that dress of success, a woman proud, the yellow dress, a woman attacked who thwarted a sexual assault, a woman triumphant, learned, experienced, a woman representing herself and Liberty of the People, all Peoples persecuted in modernity.  The rape flower of yellow is her victory bloom. I want to sing the song of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Spam song that goes: "Spam, spam, spam, spam, Spam, spam, spam, spam, Wonderful spam, wonderful spam, spam, spam, spam..."  I wish to substitute "rape" for spam, but no substitutions allowed at our cafe!  I want to substitute “rape” for “rape”, but no substitutions allowed at our café…

 

L’Étranger

 So then dude, who do you love the best?  Your father, your mother, your sister or maybe your brother?

¾ I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother.

¾ Your friends?

¾ You speak a foreign language to me.

¾ Your home?

¾ I do not know where to find it.

¾ Beauty?

¾ I would gladly, immortal goddess.

¾ Gold?

¾ I hate it as you hate God.

¾ Then man, what do you love?

¾ I love the clouds… the clouds that pass… there… over there… the wonderful and marvelous nuages!

 

“J’aime le souvenir…”

I love the memory of a newly exposed age
Where a golden Sun loved to adore its statues.
Thus man and woman in their innocent ease
Enjoyed each other without lies or anxiety
And, the pleasure that embraced them, pains him,
While not affecting the sanity of their society.
Cybele then, abundant with humane produce
Had not found any of her sons to be
A heavy burden, but, wolf at heart, and filled with
Universal kindness, fed them all from her brown teats.
Meanwhile man, elegant and robust, had the right
To be proud of these beauties who declared him king
Virgins freed from of all wrongs, the ripened fruit
Of which the firm and smooth flesh invites him to eat!

 The Poet today, when he wants to conceive
Of those majestic natives, where one can see
The nakedness of man and that of woman,
Feels a melancholy chill enveloping his soul
Filled with horror in front of this dark image.
O deformities shedding their clothes!
O ridiculous torsos!  Chests warranting a mask!
O poor twisted bodies, thin, wrinkled or fat
What, children, the god of Utility has, implacable
And serene, wrapped in their diapers of bronze!
And you, women, alas!  Pale and white
That gnaw and feed our vice, and you, virgins
To their maternal sins dragging heredity
And all the ugliness of knowledge!

 We have, it is true, corrupted the beings
The ancient people of an unknown beauty,
With faces eaten by a cancer of the heart
As would have been said of an apathetic beauty,
But these false inventions of our late muses
Will never stop the suffering race
From offering to a young girl a profound homage,
¾To holy youth, to an honest way, to a mild being,
To an eye pure and clear as running spring water
And who will above all, follow indifferent,
Like the blue of the sky, the birds, and the flowers,
Her perfumes, her songs and the power
Of her sweet human warmth.
 

La Chambre double

It is a room that resembles a reverie, a truly spirituelle room, where the stagnant atmosphere is lightly tinted with pink and blue.

There the soul takes a bath of idleness, perfumed by regret and desire.  ¾ It is something twilight, not quite blue, not quite rose; a dream of sensual delight during an eclipse.

The furnishings are elongated, prostate, and nonchalant.  They have an air of dreaming; one would say that they are gifted with a somnambulist’s life, like the vegetable or mineral.  The fabric speaks a silent language, like flowers, like heavens, like sunsets.

On the walls there are no artistic abominations.  In relation to a pure dream, for the unanalytical mind, non-abstract art is a blasphemy.  Here, everything is in harmony, with both sufficient clarity and delightful darkness.

An infinitesimal scent of perfume of the most expensive choice, to which is mixed a very slight humidity, swims in this atmosphere, where the hand of warm sensations rocks the sleepy mind. 

The muslin rains down heavily before the bed and shades; it pours out in snowy cascades.  On this bed laid the Idol, the sovereign of dreams.  But why is she here?  Who brought her? What magical power installed her on this throne of daydreams and sensuosity?  Does it matter? There she is!  I recognize her.

There are the very eyes of which the burning soul pierces the twilight; those subtle and terrible mirettes, which I recognized by their frightening mischief!  They attract, they captivate, and they devour the imprudent who contemplates them.  I have often studied them, those dark stars who command both curiosity and admiration.

To whom or what of mine do I owe, to be surrounded so, with mystery, with silence, with peace and with fragrances?  O beatitude! What we generally call life, even in its happiest statehood, has nothing in common with that supreme life which I have known and that I savor minute by minute, second by second!

No! It is no longer minutes, it is no longer seconds!  Time has disappeared; it is Eternity which reigns, an eternity of delights!

But a loud rude knock raps at the door, and, as in a fiendish dream, it feels as though I have just received a violent blow to the stomach.

And then a Specter entered.  It is a doorman who comes to torment me in the name of the law; a vile concubine who comes to cry poor misery and add the vulgarities of her life to mine; or the clerk of a newspaper editor who demands the rest of the manuscript. 

The heavenly room, the idol, the sovereign of dreams, the Sylphide, as the great René knows, all this magic has disappeared with the sudden brutal knock by the Specter.

Horror!  I remember!  I remember!  Yes!  This dump, this living room of eternal ennui, is very much mine.  Here are the dust covered, and damaged artifacts: the fireplace without flame or embers, spoiled with saliva; the sad windows where the rain has riven rivers in the dust; the manuscripts, revised or incomplete; the almanac where the pencil has jotted down the sorry dates!

And this fragrance of another world, which would intoxicate me with a perfected sensitivity, alas!  It is replaced by a fetid odor of tobacco mixed with I do not know what nauseating mold.  Now one breathes here the rancid desolation.

In this narrow world, so full of distaste, a single well-known object smiles at me: the flask of laudanum; an old and terrible friend; and as all friends are alas!  It is abundant with caresses and with treachery.

Oh!  Yes!  Time reappears.  Time reigns supreme and, with its kindly elderly father, has returned all of its diabolical procession of Memories and Regrets, Fears and Rages, Anguishes and Spasms, Nightmares and Neurosis.

I assure you that the seconds are now strongly and solemnly accentuated, and each, in ringing out from the clock, says: ¾ “I am la Vie, unbearable, implacable          L-i-f-e!”

There is only a Second in human life, which has the mission to announce some good news: the bonne nouvelle that causes for each an inexplicable fear.

Yes!  Time reigns; it has retaken its brutal dictatorship.  And it pushes me, as if I were an ox, with its double whip quip. ¾ “And so cry, you!  Sweat, slave!  Live, damned!”
 

La Vie antérieure

I have lived for a while beneath immense porticos
That maritime suns seasoned into many hues
And that their tall colonnade, closely spaced and grand
Pays back evening, a dark cavern.

Waves, cresting, becoming images of the sky
And united solemnly and mystically
The almighty harmony of their rich music
With the setting colors reflected in my eyes.

It is there that I have lived with quiet pleasure
Amidst the blue, the waves, the splendor
And some slaves, completely bathed in scents

Who refreshed my forehead with palms
And for whom the only concern was to deepen
The painful secret that made me languish.
 

La Beauté

I am beautiful, o mortals!  Like a dream in stone,
And my breast, where each afflicted, one, and the other,
Is made in order to inspire in the poet a love
Both eternal and silent like one’s work.

I reign in the blue like an incomplete sphinx,
I marry a heart of snow to the whiteness of swans,
I hate the movement which displaces the lines,
And never do I cry and never do I laugh.

 The poets, facing my grand countenances,
That I would seem to loan to more proud monuments,
Will consume their days in some austere studies,

Because I have, in order to hypnotize these obedient lovers
Of reflections that which makes all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my large eyes of eternal light!
 

La Géante

She is not a girl, nor a woman.  She is a human giant!


Since time when Nature, with her powerful imagination
Have imagined daily some enormous children
I would have loved to live beside a young giant
Like a voluptuous cat at the feet of a queen.

I should have loved to see her body and soul flower
And to grow freely in her most extraordinary games,
Discovering if in her heart is laid a somber flame
From the moist confusion which swims in her eyes,

To regard at liberty her magnificent forms at leisure,
Summiting with pleasure her enormous knees
And sometimes in summer, when the burning sun

Fatigues, making her recline across the land,
To sleep nonchalant in the shade of her breast
Like a peaceful village at the foot of a mountain.

 
Le Chat

 Come into my heart, my handsome cat,
       Restrain the claws of your paw,
And let me dwell in your beautiful eyes,
       Mixed with agate and metal.

When at leisure my fingers caress
       Your head and supple back,
And my hand is drunk with pleasure
       Touching your electric body,

I see my woman in spirit.  Her eyes,
       Like yours, my lovable beast,
Profound and cold, they cut and divide,

       And, from head to toe,
A subtle air, a least dangerous scent,
       Swims about her, brown & brunet.
 

Tout entière

This morning in my upstairs
Bedroom, Satan came to me,
And, trying to catch me in the act,
Said: “I’d like very much to know,


Among all the beautiful things
Of which her magic is made,
Among the objects somber or enchanting
Which form her charming body,

Which is the softest…” ¾O my soul!
You answered the Abhorred:
“Thus in Her all is soothing,
Nothing can be better.

When everything lifts me up, I defy
If something brings me down.
She astounds like the Dawn
And consoles like the Night;


And the harmony is so exquisite,
Which governs all her beauty,
So that the powerless can note
In detail the numerous agreements.

O mystical metamorphosis
Of all my senses melted into one!
Her breath is music,
As her voice is perfume!”

 
Le Chat
I
In my mind promenades
As well as in my apartment
A handsome cat, strong, sweet and charming
When he meows, one listens with chagrin

Such was his timber, stretched and discreet
But should his voice appease or growl
It is always rich and deep
Therein lies his charm and his secret

This voice, which delicately performs and filters
In my depths the most tenebrous
Fills me like an abundant verse
And rejoices like a charm for me

 It puts to sleep the most cruel evils
And contains all the ecstasies
In order to say the longest phrases
It has not need for words

No, it is not some “bow” who chews
Upon my heart, perfect instrument
And would make most royally
To sing its most vibrant cord


That your voice, mysterious cat
Seraphic cat, strange cat
In whom everything would be, like an angel
As subtle as harmonious

II
From his fur blond and brown
Emanates a perfume so sweet, that one evening
I was filled with it, in order to have it
Caress it one time, just once

 It is the familiar spirit of the place
He judges, he presides, he inspires
All things in his empire
Perhaps he is a fairy, perhaps he is a god?

When my eyes, towards this cat that I love
Moving as by a lover
Turn around softly
And would I look inside myself

I see with astonishment
The fire of his pale iris
Clear signals, living opals
Which contemplate me fixedly.

 
 L’Invitation au voyage

 My child, my sister
Think of the sweetness
Of going there to live together!
To love at leisure
To love and to die
In a country that resembles you!
The moist suns
Of those troubled skies
For my spirit has the enchantment
            So mysterious
            Of your revealing eyes
Shining through their tears

 There, all is but order and beauty
Voluptuous and calm luxury

             Some brilliant furniture
            Polished by the years
Will decorate our room
            The most extraordinary flowers
            Mix their aromas
With the subtle scents of amber
            The rich ceilings
            The deep mirrors
The Eastern splendor
            All there would speak
            To a soul in secret
Her sweet native language

There, all is but order and beauty
Voluptuous and calm luxury
       
Look upon these human arteries
Put to sleep these blood vessels
In which the impulse is to wander
            In order to satisfy
            Your least desire
They’d come from the ends of the earth
             ¾The setting suns
            Clothe the plains
The canals, the entire city
            Of hyacinth and gold
            The world begins to sleep
In a warm light

There, all is but order and beauty
Voluptuous and calm luxury.

 

 À une dame créole

In a perfumed country that the sun caresses,
I have known, under a canopy of mottled purple trees
And of palms of which ease rains down upon the eyes,
A Creole lady with unknown charms.

Her face is pale and warm; the dark enchantress
Has with her neck an air of noble manner;
Tall and svelte while walking like a hunter,
Her smile is tranquil and her eyes assured.

 If you should go, madam, to a truly heavenly country,
To occasion the shores of the Seine or the green Loire,
Beautifully credited by embellishing old small homes,

You would seed, covered by retreating shadows,
A thousand sonnets in the hearts of poets, that your
Large eyes return more docile than they are black.
 

Le Revenant

Like angels with a lion’s eye
I will return to your private alcove
And towards you I will glide without a sound
With the shadows of the night

And I will give to you, my brunet
Some cold kisses like the moon
And some serpentine caresses
Around a slithering cavity

When the pale blue morning will come
You will find my empty place
Where until evening it will be cold

Like from others by affection
Upon your life and upon your youth
Me, I want to reign with thunder.
 

Tristesses de la lune

Tonight, the moon will dream with some lethargy,
More like a sleeping beauty upon many cushions,
Who with a distracted and gentle hand follows
Before falling asleep the contour of her breasts,

While reclining amidst some deluge of satin
Dying, she gives herself over to fainting in time
And passes her eyes over the innocent visions
Which climb into the blue like some blossoms.

 Sometimes when this globe, in her idle languor
Lets us share a secret tear
A pious poet, the enemy of sleep, 

Takes into the palm of his hand this tear made faint
With reflected light like a torn opal, and holds it
In his heart protected from the eyes of the sun.

 
La Pipe
 
I am an author’s pipe
One sees, by admiring my mien
Of Ethiopian or Arabian
My owner is a great smoker

When he is filled with suffering
I smoke like the roof
Where is prepared the meal
For the return of the farmhand 

I embrace and cradle his soul
In the moving blue lace
Which climbs from my fiery mouth 

And I turn a powerful balm
Who enchants his heart and calms
His tired mind.




Le Cygne (The Swan)
                                                                      To Victor Hugo
I
Andromache, I think of you!  This little stream,
Poor and sad mirror where another time shone
The immense majesty of your widow’s grief,
This Simois lyre which by your tears grows,

Has suddenly impregnated my fertile journal mind,
As I traverse the New Carousel.
The old Paris is no longer (the form of a city
Changes too fast, alas!  Than the heart of a mortal):

I see only in spirit all this campground of shops,
This pile of unfinished capitals and column shafts.
The grass, the large blocks green with pooled water,
And, brilliant with glass, the assorted bric-a-brac

There, once displayed zoo ;
There I saw, one morning, at the hour when under the sky
Cold and clear the Work rises, where the DPW
Pushes a dark cyclone into the silent air.

 A cygne who had escaped from her cage,
And, with her webbed feet scrapped the dry cobbles,
Upon the uneven ground dragged her white plumage.
Near a brook without water the beast opened her beak

Bathing nervously her wings in the dust.
And said, the heart full of her beautiful lake home:
“Water, when will you rain?  When will you thunder, lightning?”
I see this unfortunate one, fated and strange myth,

Towards the sky sometimes, like the man of Ovid
Towards the sky ironic and cruelly blue,
Upon her convulsive neck stretched her passionate head
As if addressing some reproaches towards God

II

Paris changes!  But nothing in my melancholy
Budges!  New palaces, scaffoldings, blocks,
Old neighborhoods, all for me becomes allegory,
And my dear memories are heavier than rocks. 

Also in front of this Louvre an image oppresses me:
I think of my great cygne, with her foolish gestures,
Like exiles, ridiculed and sublime,
And chewed a desire without cease!  And then to you.

Andromache, from the arms of a great fallen spouse,
Cheap cattle (city chattel), under the hand of proud Pyrrhus,

beside an empty tomb in warped ecstasy;
Widow of Hector, alas!  And wife of Helenus!

 

I think about the African woman, thin and consumptive,
Stomping in the mud, and searching with Hagar’s eye
The cocoanut trees missed from excellent Africa
Behind an immense wall of fog;

 To those who have lost which cannot be recovered
Neverm never!  To those that drink tears
And suckle on Pain like a good wolf!
For the emaciated orphans wilting like some flowers!

 Also in the forest where my spirit is exiled
An old Memory sounds at full blow of horn!
I think of forgotten sailors on an island,
Of captives, of defeated! …  Of still others as well!

 

 A une passante

 The silent street howled around me.
Tall, thin, in black mourning, grand sorrow
A woman walked on by, elegantly alone
Posing, balancing, smart and distinguished

The edge of the hem of her statuesque leg.
Me, I drank, wry like a drunk
In her eye, pale sky where forms the storm,
The delicacy that captivates and the pleasure that kills.

Lightning… then night! ¾Ephemeral beauty
The look of which has suddenly made me born again
Will I see you no more but in eternity?

Elsewhere, far from here!  Too late!  Never perhaps!
As I ignore where you have been, if you only knew
Where I go, O you that I would love, O you that I know!      


 Le Squelette laboureur

 I
Planted between rows of anatomy
Follow these dusty quays
Where many a cadaverous book
Sleeps like an old mummy

Are designs of which the gravity
And the knowledge of an old artist
Whatever subject made him sad
Spoke of Beauty

We see then, that which makes complete
These mysterious horrors
Hoeing like some farmhands,
Some Skinned Bodies and Skeletons.

II

From this ground that you inspect
Resigned and funereal peasants
From all the effort of your vertebrae
Or from your uncovered muscles


Say, which uncommon harvest
Labor forced from the grave
Do you reap, and for which lord
Have you to fill the granary?

 Do you want (from a fate so hardened
A clear and terrifying emblem!)
To show that even in the grave
Sleep is not surely promised

 That behind the Void is false to us
That everything, even Death, lies to us
And that eternally
Alas!  Perhaps it will be

That in some foreign country
We must tear the wretched land
And pull a heavy plow
Under our newly bleeding feet?

 
Les Bijoux (The Jewels)

 My very dear was nude, and, knowing my heart fair,
She had on only her loud and stunning jewelry,
Which the assemblage gave her a triumphant air
That Moorish slaves had in their day, we believe.

It proclaims by dancing its lively mocking noise,
This world radiating with metal and with stone
Ravishes me, exaltation, I love with poise
& fury the things sound mixes with light in tone.


She was thus reclining and now falling in love,
And from the height of the couch she smiled with ease,
For my love profound and sweat like the sea, of
Which rose towards her like verse towards her cliff knees.

Her eyes fixed upon me, like a tiger tamed,
With an air vague and dreamy she tried some poses.
Candor united with sensuality, named
Gave a new charm as she metamorphoses;

And her arm, her leg, her thigh and her lower back,
Glistening like with oil, undulant like a swan,
Passed before my eyes clairvoyant, serene, in fact;
And her stomach and her breasts, these racemes are wan,

 Coming, more tender than falling Angel song,
In order to trouble the rest where my soul was meted,
And in order to disturb it with this gemstone
Where, calm and solitaire, it was so seated.

I saw united in a new design, the hips
Of Antiope, the torso of a young Herb,
Such was the height to her breadth, her lips
Tinted tawny and brown, the make-up was superb!

—And so the lamp being resigned to die,
As the hearth alone lit the bedroom-chamber
Each time that it breathed a flamboyant sigh,
It inundates with blood this skin colored amber!

  

Chacun sa chimère
 
Under a gray and muted sky, on a large and waterless plain, without roads, without grass, without a thistle, without a nettle, I met several men who walked hunched over.

Now each of them wore on their back an enormous Chimera, as heavy as a sack of flour or coal, or perhaps the equipment of a Roman foot soldier.

But the beast was not inert; to the contrary, she enveloped and pressed upon the man with her powerful muscular limbs; attaching herself with two immense claws to the breast of her mount; and her fabulous head surmounted the forehead of the victim, like one of those horrific helmets by which ancient warriors hoped to strike fear into the heart of the enemy.


I questioned one of these men, and so asked of him where they went like this.  He answered me that he knew nothing about it, neither him nor the others; but that obviously they went somewhere, since they were spurred on by an irresistible desire to walk.

A curiosity: the ferocious beast suspended upon his neck and clinging to his back annoyed none of these travelers; one might have said that he considered her part of him. All these faces, tired and serious, displayed not a single despair; under the spleenful dome of the heavens, their feet dropped down into the dust below as desolate as the sky above, they made their way with the resigned facial countenance of those who are condemned to hope forever.

And the procession passed alongside me and then vanished into the line of the horizon, to the surface or place made such as where the planet gives way to the curiosity of the human eye.

And during certain instances I would have insisted upon understanding this mystery; but soon irresistible Indifference fell upon me, and I was more heavily weighted down than my fellows were by their own overwhelming Chimeras.

 
Le Gâteau

I have traveled.  The countryside where I had been had a natural grandeur and nobility. Undoubtedly this moment affected something in my soul.  My thoughts flew about with a lightness of being equal to that of the atmosphere; common passions, such as hatred and profane love, appeared now as distant as the clouds which passed at the bottom of my feet; my soul seemed to me as wide as the sky in which I was enveloped; the memory of worldly things came to my heart only weakened and diminished, like the sound of cowbells on animals grazing far, very far away, upon the opposite valley of another mountain.  Over a placid lake, dark in its immense depth sometimes passed the shadow of a cloud, as if to reflect a giant’s coat flying overhead.  And I remember a solemn and extraordinary emotion, caused by this gigantic and perfectly silent motion, which filled me with a joy mixed with fear.  In short, I felt, thanks to the inspired beauty which surrounded me, at perfect peace with myself and with everyone; I even believed that, in my complete happiness and total forgetting of all worldly evil, I had come to no longer find so ridiculous those who maintain that man was born good; ¾ when, with life’s unceasing demands, I imagined recovering from the fatigue of so long a climb, and satisfying my hunger.  I drew from my pouch a large piece of bread, a cup and a small bottle of a certain elixir that the pharmacists sold to tourists for mixing on occasion with melted snow water.

I was quietly slicing my loaf of bread when a very faint noise caused me to raise my head and to spy a little man crouched before me.  He was dark, ragged, with ruffled hair, and whose hollow eyes, wild and as if imploring, appeared to devour the piece of bread.  And I heard him sigh, with a low and hoarse cry, the word: cake!   I was not able to prevent myself from laughing upon hearing the name with which he would so honor my plain white bread, and thus I cut for him a good sized slice that I then offered to him. Slowly he approached, not taking his eyes from the object of his desire; then, snapping up the piece with his hand, he hurried back, as if he had thought my offer was not sincere or that I was sorry for having made it.

But at the same instant he was knocked over by another little native, from who knows where, and with such a resemblance to the first that one might very well to have taken him to be his twin brother.  Together they rolled on the ground, fighting for the precious spoil, each undoubtedly not wanting to sacrifice his share for the other.  The first, exasperated, grasped the second by the hair; that one then bit the first on the ear while spitting out a bloody piece with a perfect patois curse.  The legitimate owner of the cake tried to claw his little fingers into the eyes of the usurper; he in his turn applied all of his strength to strangle his adversary with one hand, while attempting with the other to pocket the prize of their struggle.  Finally, in despair, they stood in pairs with the defeated making the victor double up on the ground with a head butt to the stomach.  How does one describe a battle that in reality lasted much longer than the combatant’s strength would seem to handle?  The cake traveled from hand to hand changing pockets at each turn; but alas!  It also changed in volume, and when finally, exhausted, panting, bleeding, they were stopped by the impossibility of continuing, there was, to tell the truth, no longer a reason to fight; the piece of bread had disappeared, for it was scattered in crumbs resembling the grains of sand in which it was mixed.

The spectacle had clouded the landscape, and the calm joy in which my soul delighted, before having seen the little men, had also disappeared; sad, I stayed there for a long time, endlessly repeating to myself: “thus there is a proud country where the bread is called cake, a delicacy so rare that it is enough to cause an absolutely fratricidal war!”

 

Le Joujou du pauvre

I want to make the suggestion of an innocent pastime.  There are so few amusements that are not guilt-ridden.

 When you leave during the morning, with some intention, to stroll along the great highways, fill your pockets with some inexpensive little items, ¾ such as the string puppet, moved only by a thread, the blacksmith who beats his anvil, the rider and his horse of which the tail is a whistle, ¾ and, along the length of the way (in the language of the cabaret), at the foot of some trees, make of them a homage to the unknown and poor children who you will meet.  You will see their eyes grow immeasurably.  At first they will not dare take them, they will doubt their good fortune.  Then their hands will quickly clutch the gift, and they will run away like cats do when they want to eat far away from you the morsel that’s been given them, having learned to distrust man.

On a route, behind the grilled gate of an immense garden, at the end of which appeared the whiteness of a lovely sun-struck mansion, there was a young and handsome child, dressed in country clothing so full of elegance. 

The luxury, the carefree attitude, and the customary spectacle of the rich makes these children so pretty, that one would believe them made of another character than that of those of the mediocrity or poverty.

Next to him, lying on the lawn was a splendid toy, also new like its master, fortunate, golden, clothed in a crimson robe, and covered with feathers and glass beads.  But the child was not busy with his favorite toy, and here is what he was watching.

On the other side of the gate, in the route, among the thistles and nettles, there was another child, unkempt, sickly, blackened with soot, one of those child-pariahs of whom an impartial eye would soon discover the beauty, and so, like the eye of the connoisseur who guesses an ideal painting under the varnish of the coach builder, he cleaned her of the repugnant patina of misery.

Through these symbolic bars separating two worlds, the highway and the mansion, the poor child was showing to the rich child her own toy, which he in turn eagerly examined like an object rare and unknown.  Now, this toy, that the little child (lacking propriety) was irritating, agitating and shaking inside her little grilled wooden box, was in fact, a live rat!  The parents, for economy, had no doubt, drawn the toy from real life.

And the two children laughed with each other fraternally, with the teeth of an equal whiteness.


La Belle Dorothée

Right away the sun plies the city with its direct rays; the sable sand is able to stand the heat while the sea alongside reflects.  The stupefied world shamelessly relaxes and takes its siesta, a rest, which is for the rest a savory mort where the sleeper, half awake, tastes the golden pleasure of one’s own death. 

Meanwhile Dorothée, distant and strong like the aforementioned sun, ventures into the deserted street, a lone being at this long hour under the immense azure, and making sure upon the jour a black and radiant spot.

She goes just so, balancing with nonchalance her fine torso; her legs so long.  Her dress of tailored silk, a hue pale and rose, quickly, neatly, cut to the shadows of her skin and molds almost to the letter her tall figure, her broad back and her parched throat. 

Her red parasol, filtering the light, projects onto all and her dark face the ruddy make up of her life.

The seemingly religious mass of her hair, almost windblown and blue, is drawn back behind her head and would offer a triumphant and nonchalant attitude.  Meanwhile, some massive baubles suspend discreetly beneath her delicious earlobes.

From time to time a sea breeze will incline the hem of her skirt and display her lustrous and superb leg; and her foot, like the feet of marble goddesses that Europe has today enclosed, impresses with fidelity her impression upon the fine beach sand.  Because Dorothée is so prodigiously coquette only the pleasure of being admired brings home to her some sense of the free, and, though she is, she still walks without footwear.

She moves with decided intention, harmoniously and happy to be alive while displaying a blank smile, as if she had discerned in the distance a reflection mirroring her beauty and way.

At the time when dogs whine with pain under the strain that the sun applies, what piece of trivia, what powerful pursuit causes the indifferent Dorothée to thus go, so beautiful and cold like bronze?

Why did she leave her well appointed abode of which the flowers and carpets had made so economically a perfect boudoir; where she would take much pleasure combing, fuming, perfuming, and looking at herself in the mirror amongst her full choice of feathers, while the sea, which batters the beach within a hundred feet, makes for her vague dreams a powerful and monotonous companion, and the iron pot, where a ragout of crabmeat with rice and saffron simmers and stews, sending up, from the back door of the forecourt, its exciting aromas?

Perhaps she has a rendez-vous with some young officer who, on far away shores, had heard from his comrades of the famously celebrated Dorothée.  Certainly she will plead, the simple creature, that he describe the show at the Opéra, and she will ask him if one may go there barefoot, like to the Sunday dances, where the old African women would become invigorated and crazed with joy; and then still again if all the beautiful ladies of Paris were more beautiful than her.

Dorothée is admired and treated well by everyone, and she would be perfectly happy if she was not obliged to toil and save dollar by dolor in order to buy back her little sister who is only eleven years old, and who is already of age, and so beautiful!  She will succeed no doubt, the good Dorothée: the master of the child is so stingy, too much so perhaps to comprehend any other beauty than that of the euro!

Les Fenêtres (The Windows)

The one who looks out upon the open Sea never sees as much as the  one who looks at a window closed.   There is not an object more profound, more mysterious, more fecund, more tenebrous, more dazzling than such a window lit by a single candle.  That which one sees by the light of day is always less interesting than that which happens behind such a pane.  In this true dark or luminous whole, live lives, live dreams and life suffers. 

Beyond a sea of eaves an old woman I perceive, already wrinkled, poor, for days always examining something (I do believe) and who never leaves.  With her face, her clothes, a gesture, with almost rien, I have remade her history, or rather her legend, and sometimes I recount it to myself while weeping.

If this had been a poor old man, I would have remade his just as easily.

And I go to bed, proud to have said I have lived and suffered more for others than myself.

Perhaps you will say to me: “Are you sure this legend will set us free?”  Agreed.  Does it matter what may be the world’s true reality, if she helped me to be, to feel I follow is what I am; un être dans les fenêtres?




Un cheval de race 1

She is quite ugly.  She is delightful, nevertheless!  Time and Love have thus marked with their claws and have cruelly taught her what each minute and each embrace take from both innocence and youth.

She is indeed ugly.  She is, fer me, an ant, a spider, if you like a skeleton even; she is also refreshing, bewitching, quintessential!  In short, she is exquisite.

Time could not break the sparkling harmony of her gait, nor the indestructible elegance of her frame.  Love spoilt none of the sweetness of her breath, and Time combed nothing from her mane where arose in tawny fragrances all the frenzied vitality of the south of ancient France: Nîmes, Aix, Arles, Avignon, Toulouse, cities blessed by the sun, lovely and charming!

Time and Love have vainly bit her with beautiful teeth; they have diminished none of the vague yet eternal charm of her boyish breast.

Worn-out perhaps, but not tired, and always the heroine, she reminds us of those thoroughbred horses that the eye of a true lover recognizes, even when hitched to a hired coach or to a heavy wagon. 

And then she is so sweet and so fervent!  She loves as one loves in the fall.  One might say that the approach of winter lights in her heart a fire anew, and the servility of her tenderness is never reason to falter.

© AGNI Online 2008


Un cheval de race 2

She is bein' led.  Even though she, (and eating poetry), may be delicious!  Time and Love have grieved with their claws and thus have cruelly taught her (our only daughter), what each moment and each embrace take from freshness and youth.

It is indeed ugly.  She is "fer" me, an "aunt," a stake, a cut of meat, a spider, if you like a skeleton even; but she is also refreshing, bewitching, quintessential!  In a team, she is well-esteemed.  In short, she is exquisite.

Time could not break the sparkling harmony of her gait, or the indestructible elegance of her frame.   Love could not spoil the sweetness of her child-like breath; and Time combed nothing from her abundant mane where arose in tawny fragrances all the frenzied vitality of the South of ancient France:  Nîmes, Aix, Arles, Avignon, Narbonne, Nice, o to lose cities blessed by the Sun, lovely and charming!

Whether Time and Love have vainly bit her with bare white teeth, they have diminished none of the vague but eternal charm of her homely bosom; a Parisian flat.

Broke perhaps, but not broken, and always the heroine, she makes one think of those Thoreau bred mares that the eye of a true lover recognizes (even in pairs), while hitched to a “just married” carriage or enslaved to a heavy wagon.

And then she’s so sweet and so fervent!  She loves as one loves in the fall; one might say that the approach of winter lights in her heart a fire anew, and the servility of her tenderness is never a tiring thing.




Le Miroir


A terror-stricken man enters and immediately watches his reflection in the looking glass.

“¾Why look in the mirror when all you can see in there is yourself with displeasure?”

The terrific man answered me: “¾Sir, according to the immortal principles of 1789, all men are created equal by right, thus I might admire myself, with pleasure or displeasure, as long as I do so with honesty.”

In terms of common sense, I had without doubt made reasonable sense, but, from the point of view of the law, he was not wrong.
 

La Soupe et les Nuages

My petite crazed beloved was making dinner for me, and by the open window of the dining room, I was contemplating the uncertain architecture that God makes with the vapors, those marvelous constructions of impalpability.  And I said to myself, through my contemplation: “All these phantasmagorias are almost as beautiful as the eyes of my beautiful beloved, the petite monstrous madwoman with her green eyes.”

And suddenly I received a violent shot to the back, and I heard a voice husky yet charming, an hysterical voice as if hoarsened by brandy, the voice of my dear petite beloved, who saddeningly said to me: “supper!”  



 Any Where Out of the World

This life is a hospital where each patient is possessed with the desire to change beds.  This one here would want to suffer in front of a stove, and that one there believes that he would be saved by the side of the window.

It seems to me that I should well always be there, where I am not, and this question of change is one that I would discuss incessantly with my soul.

“Tell me, my soul, my poor frigid soul, what would you think of living in Lisbon?  It should be warm there, and you might refresh yourself there like a lizard.  That city is by the water; one says that it is built of marble, and that the people there have such a hate for vegetation, that they uprooted all the trees.  Here is a countryside in accordance with your taste; a countryside made with light and mineral, and liquid in order to reflect them!”

My soul did not respond.

“Because you love to rest so much, with the show of emotion, do you want to go to live in Holland; that beatified land?  Perhaps you will enjoy yourself in this country where you have often admired the image in museums.  What would you think of Rotterdam, you who loves the forest of masts, and the ships tied at the foot of some houses?”

My soul rests silent.

“Perhaps Batavia might smile upon you more?  We would otherwise find there the mind of Europe married to tropical beauty.”

Not a word.  ¾Might my soul have died?

“Thus have you come to this point of lassitude that you only please yourself through your affliction?  If this is so, let us flee towards the countries where associations are with Death.  ¾I hold our trial, poor soul!  We will pack our bags for Torne.  Let us go further still, to the extreme end of the Baltic; still even further from life, if it is possible, let us put ourselves at the North Pole.  There the sun only glances the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of daylight and night arrests variety and augments monotony, this half of annihilation.  There we could take long baths of darkness, during which time, in order to amuse ourselves, the aurora borealis would send to us from time to time its rose colored bouquets, like the appearance of a firework from Hell!”

Finally, my soul exploded, and wisely she cried out to me: “Anywhere!  Anywhere!  If it is out of this world!”

 


Les Bons Chiens
                                                                                                             To M. Joseph Stevens

 I have never blushed, even before the young writers of my age, in my admiration for Buffon, but today it is not the time to call to my side, the soul of a painter of pompous human nature.  No.

Much more willingly I should turn my thoughts to Sterne, and would say to him: “Come down from heaven, or rise up to me from the Elysian Fields, in order to inspire me in favor of the good dogs, the poor dogs, a song worthy of you, sentimental jokester; incomparable jokester!  Ride astride that famous donkey who accompanies you always in posterity’s memory; and especially as that ass does not forget to carry, delicately suspended between its lips, its immortal badge!” 

Away with the academic muse!  That fair old dame just won’t do.  I invoke the familiar muse, the city dweller, the bon vivant, she who may help me to sing of the good dogs, the poor dogs, the mud spattered dogs, those that divide, like the mange-stricken and flea-ridden, apart from the poor with whom they are associated, and the poet, who looks upon them with a fraternal eye.


Disdain for the foolish animal, that vain quadruped ¾ King Charles spaniel, Great Dane, Mastiff or others ¾ so enthralled with themselves that they dance indiscreetly about the legs of the fatigued visitor, rebellious like a child, confused like a young woman in love, sometimes insolent and so, slow like a domestic servant!  Disdain above all for those four footed serpents, shivering and unoccupied, what we call the greyhound, and who do not have in their pointed muzzles enough sense of smell to even follow a friend, nor in their curved heads, enough intelligence to play, perhaps, some dominos.

Lie down, all you tiring parasites!

They should return to their soft and padded houses!  I sing of the mud spattered dog, the homeless dog, the dog in haste, the acrobat’s dog, the dog of which instinct, like that of the poor, the bohemian gypsy, and the clumsy comedian, is wonderfully goaded by need, this so good mother, this true patron saint of souls!

I sing of the calamity-stricken dogs, those that would wander, alone, in the winding canyons of the big cities, those who would have spoken to the lost soul, with some flickering and spiritual eyes: “Take me with you, and of our two poverties we may make perhaps some specie of happiness!”

“Where do dogs go?” once asked Nestor Roqueplan in an immortal serial that he had without doubt forgotten, and which I alone, and Saint-Beuve perhaps, still remember to this day.

Where do dogs go, you less attentive men might ask?  They go about their affairs.

Rendezvous of business; rendezvous of love; through fog, snow, mud, “they” go, they come, in the biting summer sun, in the streaming rain; “they” walk, under carriages, spurred on by fleas, duty, desire or need.  Like us they rise in the early morning, and like us too they search for a way, or roam at their pleasure.

There are those who lie under a suburban sun and who come, each day, one by one, to solicit their daily bread at the kitchen door of the Palais-Royal; still others who run in numbers of five or more, to share a meal, perhaps prepared for them by the charity of virginal old women for whom the lonely heart is given to these because men too stupid will no longer give of theirs.

And yet others who, like some black slaves, falling in love, leave, on certain days their service in order to come to the city, to dance, for a short time, around a beautiful bitch, a little untidy in her clothing, yet noble and thus acknowledged.

And they are quite precise, without notes, without memos and without portfolios.

Do you know the lazy Belgian, and have you admired, as I have, all those vigorous dogs tied to the cart of the butcher, the dairymaid and the baker, and who give witness by their proud and jubilant barks what they share in rivalry with the horses?

Thus we see to all who long to be part of a more civilized society.  Permit me to introduce you to the home of a dreaming circus entertainer.  A painted wooden bed, walls without lace, some disheveled sheets and blankets, besides which two small chairs are placed, a cast iron stove, and one or two worn musical instruments.  Oh the sight!  The sad ensemble!  But look, I implore you, at these two figures, clothed in garments one and the same time tattered, torn and sumptuous, coiffed like some troubadours or soldiers, who survey with a sorcerer’s eye the work without name which simmers on the lit stove, and at the center of which one long spoon rises, planted like a standard to announce that the assemblage is complete.

Is it not just; is it not right, that such devoted comedians might not take to the road without first having filled their bellies up with a soup both substantial and robust?  And will you not forgive a bit the sensuality of these poor devils, who must, in all ways, daily, gaily, face the public apathy, and the injustices of a ringmaster who makes for himself the largest share and then alone dares to eat more soup than that of four comedians?

How many times have I contemplated, sincerely smiling and touched, all those four-footed philosophers, complaint slaves, submissive or devoted, what the republican dictionary should well qualify as unofficial, as if the republic ¾ too busy with the happiness of men ¾ had the time to address the honor of dogs!

And how many times have I thought that there was perhaps some place (who knows, after all?) in order to reward so much courage, so much patience and labor, a special paradis for the good dogs, the poor dogs, and the dirty and disconsolate dogs.  Swedenborg well affirms that there is one for the Turks and one for the Dutchman.

The shepherds of Virgil and Theocritus waited patiently, for the prayer of their plea, a good cheese, a flute of the best quality, or a goat ready to be milked.  The poet who had sang the pure blooded song of the poor dogs received as reward a woven leather vest of a color both rich and faded, which makes one think of autumn suns, the beauty of aged women and summers at Saint-Martin.

Each of us there, at the inn, in the via Villa–Hermosa, will not ever forget with what urbane vivacity the painter traded his vest for the poet’s, so that it was well understood to be both honest and good to sing for the poor dogs.

Someone, a magnificent foreign tyrant of the Italian Renaissance perhaps, offered to the divine Aretino a jewel-encrusted dagger, and a coat of the court, in exchange for an equally precious sonnet or curiously satiric poem.

And every time the poet puts on the painter’s vest, he is forced to think about the good dogs, the philosophical dogs, the summers at Saint-Martin and the timeless beauty of women most aged.

 
La Fin de la journée

By the twilight’s last gleaming
Dances and twists for no reason
Impertinent and discordant Life.
So, immediately in the distance

Sensuously the night arises
Satisfying all, even hunger
Erasing all, even shame
The Poet has said: “Finally!

My mind, like my vertebrae
Ardently invokes rest, with
My heart full of funereal dreams

I will lie upon my back
And cover myself with your covers
O innocent and refreshing darkness!”

 

 Sépulture

If on one slow and somber night
A good Christian, with charity
Behind some old ruin
Should inter your celebrated body

At the hour when the chaste stars
Close their heavy eyes
There the spider will curl its web
And the viper its little ones

You will hear throughout all the years
Upon your condemned head
The lamentable cry of the wolf

And some starving witches
The play of old men
And the complicity of the dark thief.




About the Author

There is nothing new to say about the Poet he being known for close to or approaching two hundred years; except to repeat that he was a closeted supporter of yellow and a glad supporter of abolition worldwide, a defender of equal spouses without regard for gender, a friend of the bottle, of wine and of perfume, equally delicious, and a friend of the horse maltreated.    


About the Translator

 The child of Waltham, Massachusetts, the architectural student of Syracuse, New York, architectural draftsperson when studying the French language he was introduced to the poetry of Charles Baudelaire.  This passion was turned into a profession as my first published book attests