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Charles Baudelaire
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The Desire to Paint (Le Désir de peindre)
by Charles Baudelaire (1869); translated by Guy Thorne (1915).

Unhappy is the man, but happy the artist, to whom this desire comes.

I long to paint one woman. She has come to me but seldom, swiftly passing from my sight, as some beautiful, unforgettable object the traveller leaves behind him in the night. It is long ago since I saw her.

She is lovely, far more than that; she is all-sufficing. She is a study in black: all that she inspires is nocturnal and profound. Her eyes are two deep pools wherein mystery vaguely coils and stirs; her glance is phosphorescent; it is like lightning on a summer night of black velvet.

She is comparable to a great black Sun, if one could imagine a dark star brimming over with happiness and light. She stirs within one dreams of the moon, Night's Queen who casts spells upon her — not the white moon, that cold bride of summer idylls, but the sinister, intoxicating moon which hangs in the leaden vault of storm, among the driven clouds; not the pale, peaceful moon who visits the sleep of the pure; but the fiery moon, torn from the conquered heavens, before whom dance the witches of Thessaly.

Upon the brow determination sits; she is ever seeking whom she may enthrall. Her delicately curved and quivering nostrils breathe incense from unknown lands; a haunting smile lingers on her subtle lips — lips softer than sleep-laden poppy petals, kissed by the suns of tropic lands.

There are women who inspire one with the desire to woo and win. She makes me long to fall asleep at her feet, beneath her slow and steady gaze.


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