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Charles Baudelaire
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Each Man his own Chimæra (Chacun sa chimère)
by Charles Baudelaire (1869); translated by Guy Thorne (1915).

Beneath a vault of livid sky, upon a far-flung and dusty plain where no grass grew, where not a nettle or a thistle dared raise its head, men passed me bowed down to the ground.

Each bore upon his back a great Chimæra, heavy as a sack of coal, or as the equipment of a foot- soldier of Rome.

But the monster was no dead weight. With her all-powerful and elastic muscles she encircled and oppressed her mount, clawing with two great talons at his breast. Her fabulous head reposed upon his brow, like a casque of ancient days whereby warriors struck fear to the hearts of their foes.

I questioned one of the wayfarers, asking why they walked thus. He replied that he knew nothing, neither he nor his companions, but that they moved towards an unknown land, urged on by irresistible impulse.

None of the wayfarers was discomforted by the foul thing which hung upon his neck. One said that it was part of himself.

Beneath the lowering dome of sky they journeyed on. They trod the dust-strewn earth — earth as desolate as the dusty sky. Their weary faces bore no witness to despair; they were condemned to hope for ever. So the pilgrimage passed and faded into the mist of the horizon, where the planet unveils itself to the human eye.

For some moments I tried to solve this mystery; but unconquerable Indifference fell upon me. And I was no more dejected by my burden than they by their crushing Chimæras.


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AUTHOR: Charles Baudelaire (1869); translated by Guy Thorne (1915).
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