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Charles Baudelaire
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The Game (Le Jeu)
by Charles Baudelaire (1857); translated by Guy Thorne (1915).

In faded chairs old courtesans
With painted eyebrows leer.
The stones and metal rattle in
Each dry and withering ear,
As lackadaisical they loll,
And preen themselves, and peer.

Their mumbling gums and lipless masks
— Or lead-white lips — are prest
Around the table of green cloth;
And withered hands, possest
Of Hell's own fever, vainly search
In empty purse or breast.

Beneath the low, stained ceiling hang
Enormous lamps, which shine
On the sad foreheads of great poets
Glutted with things divine,
Who throng this ante-room of hell
To find the anodyne.

I see these things as in a dream,
With the clairvoyant eye,
And in a corner of the den
A crouching man descry;
A silent, cold, and envying man
Who watches. It is I!

I envy those old harlots' greed
And gloomy gaiety;
The gripping passion of the game,
The fierce avidity
With which men stake their honour for
A ruined chastity.

I dare not envy many a man
Who runs his life-race well;
Whose brave, undaunted peasant blood
Death's menace cannot quell.
Abhorring nothingness, and strong
Upon the lip of Hell.


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AUTHOR: Charles Baudelaire (1857); translated by Guy Thorne (1915).
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