Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Les Fleurs du Mal

Today is the 150th anniversary of the first edition of Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mal." This is Charles Baudelaire, not one of Lemony Snicket's unfortunate orphans, and here is a website devoted to the book.

Here's a sampling in English.

The Jewels

Naked was my dark love, and, knowing my heart,
Adorned in but her most sonorous gems,
Their high pomp decked her with the conquering art
Of Moorish slave girls crowned with diadems.

Dancing for me with lively, mocking sound,
This world of stone and metal, brittle and bright,
Fills me with rapture who have always found
Excess of joy where hue and tone unite.

Naked she lay, suffered love pleasurably
To mould her, smiled on my desire as if,
Profound and gentle as the rising sea,
It rode the tide toward its appointed cliff.

A tiger, tamed, her eyes on mine, intent
On lust, she sought all strange ways to please:
Her air, half-candid, half-lascivious, lent
A new charm to her metamorphoses.

In turn, her arms and limbs, her veins, her thighs,
Polished as nard, undulant as a swan,
Passed under my serene clairvoyant eyes
As belly and breasts, grapes of my vine, moved on.

Skilled in more spells than evil angels muster
To break the solace which possessed my heart,
Smashing the crystal rock upon whose luster
My quietude sat on its own, apart,

Her waist, awrithe, her belly enormously
Out-thrust, formed strange designs unknown to us,
As if the haunches of Antiope
Flowed from a body not yet Ephebus.

Slowly the lamplight sank, resigned to die.
Firelight pierced darkness, stud on glowing stud,
Each time it heaved a sharply flaming sigh
It steeped her amber flesh in pools of blood.

Translated by Jacques LeClerc .

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