La Belle Dorothée
by Charles Baudelaire
The Good Dorothy
translated by Allen Hagar
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 Bijoux (The Jewels)
Par Charles Baudelaire
Traduit du Français
Par Alain Hajjar
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 sweet 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 fallen 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!
--September 18, 2015
by Charles Baudelaire
Translated from the French by Allen Hagar
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; --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!”
Un cheval de race
par Charles Baudelaire
A Thoroughbred Horse
Translated & as interpreted
from the French by Allen Hagar
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.
---November 13, 2016
by Charles Baudelaiire
Translated by Allen Hagar
Do you, my precious soul, recall what we had seen,
This warm sweet summer morning,
When in a byway there was on display a repugnant
Carrion spread upon a bed of gravel,
With legs in the air, like a woman in heat,
Burning and sweating its venom,
And opened in a cynical yet nonchalant manner
Its belly full of terrifying scents.
The sun shone upon this putrefaction,
In order to bake it right here,
And give one hundredfold back to Mother Nature
All that she had joined together.
And the sky watched over the proud carcass
A summer flower in bloom.
The stench was so strong, that soon upon the grass
You too felt faint with illness.
Flies buzzed about that putrid stomach,
As black battalions swarmed in a mass
Of larvae, which floated more like a heavy flow
Than like a worn-out living coat.
All this fell, then rose, as if ocean waves,
Or as one breathes to shout,
We had said that the body, inhaling a sigh,
Lived on through multiplication.
And this foreign world returned a strange music,
Like running water or the wind,
Or the grain that a thresher with a rhythmic motion
Sifts and turns in his hand.
Forms disappeared and were no more than a dream,
Like a draft that is slowly begun,
Upon the forgotten sheet, and that the artist completes
Only through a memory.
So from beside the outcropping an anxious dog
Watched us with a malicious eye,
Spying for when to take back from the skeleton
The morsel that she had left behind.
--And you will be the twin of this disgust,
Of this vile and horrific infection,
Star of my eyes, sun of my nature,
You, my angel and my passion!
Yes! Such you will be, O queen of grace,
After the last sacraments,
When you will go, under the grasses and surreal blossoms,
Languishing slowly amongst the bones.
Then, O my beauty! Please say to the vermin
Who will eat you with their kisses,
That I have watched over the form and divine essence
Of my decomposing love!
---May 16, 2016
Le Squelette laboureur
by Charles Baudelaire
translated by Allen Hagar
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.
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?
--May 16, 2016
Les Fenêtres (The Windows)
By Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Allen Hagar
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, life lives, life 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?
Le Cygne (Aka. The Swan)
By Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Allen Hagar
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 liar 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 a 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 scraped 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!
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 that which cannot be recovered
Never, 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!