by Charles Baudelaire (1857); translated by William John Robertson (1895).
When, by the sovran will of Powers Eternal,
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The poet passed into this weary world,
His mother, filled with fears and doubts infernal,
Clenching her hands towards Heaven these curses hurled.
— 'Why rather did I not within me treasure
A knot of serpents than this thing of scorn?
Accursëd be the night of fleeting pleasure
Whence in my womb this chastisement was borne!
'Since thou hast chosen me to be the woman
Whose loathsome fruitfulness her husband shames,
Who may not cast aside this birth inhuman,
As one that flings love-tokens to the flames,
'The hatred that on me thy vengeance launches
On this thwart creature I will pour in flood;
So twist the sapling that its withered branches
Shall never once put forth a cankered bud!'
Regorging thus the venom of her malice,
And misconceiving thy decrees sublime,
In deep Gehenna's gulf she fills the chalice
Of torments destined to maternal crime.
Yet, safely sheltered by his viewless angel,
The Childe forsaken revels in the Sun;
And all his food and drink is an evangel
Of nectared sweets, sent by the Heavenly One.
He communes with the clouds, knows the wind's voices,
And on his pilgrimage enchanted sings;
Seeing how like the wild bird he rejoices
The hovering Spirit weeps and folds his wings.
All those he fain would love shrink back in terror,
Or, boldened by his fearlessness elate,
Seek to seduce him into sin and error,
And flesh on him the fierceness of their hate.
In bread and wine, wherewith his soul is nourished,
They mix their ashes and foul spume impure;
Lying they cast aside the things he cherished,
And curse the chance that made his steps their lure.
His spouse goes crying in the public places:
— 'Since he doth choose my beauty to adore,
Aping those ancient idols Time defaces
I would regild my glory as of yore.
'Nard, balm and myrrh shall tempt till he desires me
With blandishments, with dainties and with wine,
Laughing if in a heart that so admires me
I may usurp the sovranty divine!
'Until aweary of love's impious orgies,
Fastening on him my fingers firm and frail,
These claws, keen as the harpy's when she gorges,
Shall in the secret of his heart prevail.
'Then, thrilled and trembling like a young bird captured,
The bleeding heart shall from his breast be torn;
To glut his maw my wanton hound, enraptured,
Shall see me fling it to the earth in scorn'.
Heavenward, where he beholds a throne resplendent,
The poet lifts his hands, devout and proud,
And the vast lightnings of a soul transcendent
Veil from his gaze awhile the furious crowd: —
'Blessed be thou, my God, that givest sorrow,
Sole remedy divine for things unclean,
Whence souls robust a healing virtue borrow,
That tempers them for sacred joys serene!
'I know thou hast ordained in blissful regions
A place, a welcome in the festal bowers,
To call the poet with thy holy Legions,
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers.
'I know that Sorrow is the strength of Heaven,
Gainst which in vain strive ravenous Earth and Hell,
And that his crown must be of mysteries woven
Whereof all worlds and ages hold the spell.
'But not antique Palmyra's buried treasure,
Pearls of the sea, rare metal, precious gem,
Though set by thine own hand could fill the measure
Of beauty for his radiant diadem;
'For this thy light alone, intense and tender,
Flows from the primal source of effluence pure,
Whereof all mortal eyes, though bright their splendour,
Are but the broken glass and glimpse obscure'.
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