Saturday, May 28, 2011


One of my favorite poems from one of my favorite books by Baudelaire, Les Fleurs Du Mal.  
I think about this poem everytime I put on pink stockings...

I'm not sure this is the best English translation there is, I'm used to reading it in Danish...
Here's a link to the French version and a few more English translations...

The Martyr
(Drawing by an Unknown Master)

Amongst gilt fabrics, flasks of scent and wine,
Rich furniture, white marble, precious moulds.
Fine paintings, and rich, perfumed robes that shine
Swirled into sumptuous folds,

In a warm room, that like a hot-house stifles
With dangerous and fatal breath, where lie
Pale flowers in crystal tombs, exquisite trifles,
Exhaling their last sigh —

A headless corpse, cascading in a flood
Hot, living blood, that soaks, with crimson stain
A pillow slaked and sated with blood
As any field with rain.

Like those pale visions which the gloom aborts
Which fix us in a still, hypnotic stare,
The bead, tricked out with gems of sorts,
In its huge mass of hair,

Like a ranunculous beside the bed,
Rests on the table, empty of all thought.
From eyes revulsed, like twilight, seems to spread
A gaze that looks at naught.

Upon the bed the carcase, unabashed,
Shows, in complete abandon, without shift,
The secret splendour that, in life, it flashed
Superbly, Nature's gift.

A rosy stocking, freaked with clocks of gold,
Clings to one leg: a souvenir, it seems:
The garter, from twin diamonds, with the cold
Stare of a viper gleams.

The singular effect of solitude
And of a languorous portrait, with its eyes
Provocative as is its attitude,
Dark loves would advertise —

And guilty joys, with feasts of strange delight,
Full of infernal kisses, omens certain
To please the gloating angels of the Night
Who swim behind each curtain.

And yet to see her nimble strength, the risky
Swerve of the rounded shoulder, and its rake,
The tented haunch, the figure lithe and frisky,
Flexed like an angry snake,

You'd know that she was young.
Her soul affronted, Her senses stung with boredom — were they bayed
By packs of wandering, lost desires, and hunted,
And finally betrayed?

The vengeful man, whose lust you could not sate,
(In spite of much love) nor quench his fire —
Did he on your dead flesh then consummate
His monstrous, last desire?

Answer me, corpse impure! With fevered fist,
Grim visage, did he raise you up on high,
And, as your silver frosty teeth he kissed,
Bid you his last goodbye?

Far from inquiring magistrates that sneer,
Far from this world of raillery and riot,
Sleep peacefully, strange creature, on your bier,
Of mystery and quiet.

Your lover roams the world. Your deathless shape
Watches his sleep and hears each indrawn breath.
No more than you can he ever escape
From constancy till death!

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

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