A Martyr (Une martyre)|
by Charles Baudelaire (1857); translated by Richard Herne Shephard (1879).
Amidst the broider'd stuffs, the flagons deep
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And sumptuous fittings old,
Marbles and pictures, perfumed robes that sweep
In many an idle fold,
In a close room which, like a greenhouse, has
A poisonous air and stale,
Where dying nosegays coffin'd up in glass
Their final sigh exhale,
A headless corpse the satiate pillow-stains,
Pouring in rapid flood,
Which the cloth drinks, as thirsty fields the rains,
A red and living blood.
Like ghostly visions that at dusk appear,
Which hold the spell-bound sight,
The head, with all its mass of rich dark hair,
And wealth of jewels bright,
The dreamless head, even as a pluck'd red flower,
On the bed-table lies;
A vague blank look, as of the twilight hour
Escapes the sunken eyes.
Upon the bed the naked trunk displays,
The fatal splendour and beauty to our gaze
Of Nature's dowry rare.
Around the leg a stocking rose-and-gold,
Like a memento, stays;
The garter, like a vigilant eye, is roll'd
And darts a diamond gaze.
The strange appearance of this solitude,
The portrait there above,
Langorous, yet fierce in eyes and attitude,
Tells of a gloomy love,
A guilty joy, and feasts with fiendish din
And hellish kisses mad,
Whereat the swarm of evil spirits within
The curtain's folds were glad.
And yet to note the graceful slenderness
Of the marr'd shoulder's make,
The pointed hip, the figure's suppleness,
As of a startled snake,
She is still so young! Her senses tired and slack
And her exasperate soul,
Were they half-uncover'd to the thirsty pack
Of lost desires and foul?
The vengeful man of whom a love so fresh
Quench'd not the raging fire,
Fulfill'd he on the yielding, moveless flesh
His boundless, fierce desire?
Answer, foul corpse! raised by thy tresses stiff
With feverous arm, O tell,
Say, dreadful head, upon thy cold teeth if
He seal'd the last farewell?
— Far from the mocking world, the crowd obscene,
The gaping justice-room,
O sleep in peace, strange creature, sleep serene
In thy mysterious tomb;
Thy husband roams the world: thy form divine
Keeps vigil o'er his sleep;
His constancy will be as firm as thine
To him, his faith as deep.
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