by Charles Baudelaire (1857); translated by Cyril Scott (1909).
When by the changeless Powèr of a Supreme Decree
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The poet issues forth upon this sorry sphère,
His mother, horrified, and full of blasphemy,
Uplifts her voice to God, who takes compassion on her.
"Ah, why did I not bear a serpent's nest entire,
Instead of bringing forth this hideous Child of Doom!
Oh cursèd be that transient night of vain desire
When I conceived my expiation in my womb!"
"Yet since among all women thou hast chosen me
To be the degradation of my jaded mate,
And since I cannot like a love-leaf wantonly
Consign this stunted monster to the glowing grate,"
"I'll cause thine overwhelming hatred to rebound
Upon the cursèd tool of thy most wicked spite.
Forsooth, the branches of this wretched tree I'll wound
And rob its pestilential blossoms of their might!"
So thus, she giveth vent unto her foaming ire,
And knowing not the changeless statutes of all times,
Herself, amid the flames of hell, prepares the pyre;
The consecrated penance of maternal crimes.
Yet 'neath th' invisible shelter of an Angel's wing
This sunlight-loving infant disinherited,
Exhales from all he eats and drinks, and everything
The ever sweet ambrosia and the nectar red.
He trifles with the winds and with the clouds that glide,
About the way unto the Cross, he loves to sing,
The spirit on his pilgrimage; that faithful guide,
Oft weeps to see him joyful like a bird of Spring.
All those that he would cherish shrink from him with fear,
And some that waxen bold by his tranquility,
Endeavour hard some grievance from his heart to tear,
And make on him the trial of their ferocity.
Within the bread and wine outspread for his repast
To mingle dust and dirty spittle they essay,
And everything he touches, forth they slyly cast,
Or scourge themselves, if e'er their feet betrod his way.
His wife goes round proclaiming in the crowded quads —
"Since he can find my body beauteous to behold,
Why not perform the office of those ancient gods
And like unto them, redeck myself with shining gold?"
"I'll bathe myself with incense, spikenard and myrrh,
With genuflexions, delicate viandes and wine,
To see, in jest, if from a heart, that loves me dear,
I cannot filch away the hommages divine."
"And when of these impious jokes at length I tire,
My frail but mighty hands, around his breast entwined,
With nails, like harpies' nails, shall cunningly conspire
The hidden path unto his feeble heart to find."
"And like a youngling bird that trembles in its nest,
I'll pluck his heart right out; within its own blood drowned,
And finally to satiate my favourite beast,
I'll throw it with intense disdain upon the ground!"
Towards the Heavens where he sees the sacred grail
The poet calmly stretches forth his pious arms,
Whereon the lightenings from his lucid spirit veil
The sight of the infuriated mob that swarms.
"Oh blest be thou, Almighty who bestowest pain,
Like some divine redress for our infirmities,
And like the most refreshing and the purest rain,
To sanctify the strong, for saintly ecstasies."
"I know that for the poet thou wilt grant a chair,
Among the Sainted Legion and the Blissful ones,
That of the endless feast thou wilt accord his share
To him, of Virtues, Dominations and of Thrones."
"I know, that Sorrow is that nobleness alone,
Which never may corrupted be by hell nor curse,
I know, in order to enwreathe my mystic crown
I must inspire the ages and the universe."
"And yet the buried jewels of Palmyra old,
The undiscovered metals and the pearly sea
Of gems, that unto me you show could never hold
Beside this diadem of blinding brilliancy."
"For it shall be engendered from the purest fire
Of rays primeval, from the holy hearth amassed,
Of which the eyes of Mortals, in their sheen entire,
Are but the tarnished mirrors, sad and overcast!"
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