Sunday, May 23, 2021

Poemquotes 21: "A Phantom" from Baudelaire's "Spleen and Ideal"

   (my translations)

XXXVIII. Un fantôme
[38. A Phantom]

I: Les ténèbres
[1: Obscurity]

In the vaults of unfathomable sadness
Where Fate has already banished me; 
Where a rosy and cheerful beam never enters;
Where, alone with the Night, sullen hostess,

I am like a painter that a mocking God
Sentences to paint, alas! upon obscurity;
Where, cook with funereal appetites,
I boil and I eat my heart,

At times there shines, and lengthens, and spreads out
A spectre made of grace and splendor.
By its dreamy oriental manner,

When it reaches its total stature,
I recognize my beautiful visitor:
It is She! black and yet luminous.

II: Le parfum
[2: Perfume]

Reader, have you at times inhaled
With intoxication and slow gluttony
That grain of incense filling a church,
Or the inveterate musk from a sachet?

Profound, magical charm whose past, restored, dizzies our heads
In the present!
So too the lover over an adored body
From memory plucks the exquisite flower.

From her head of hair, elastic and heavy,
Living sachet, censer of the bedroom alcove,
A scent rose, savage and wild,

And from the clothes, muslin or velvet,
All redolent of her pure youth,
Let loose an aroma of fur.

III: Le cadre
[3: The Frame]

As a handsome frame adds to a painting,
Even though it come from a well-regarded brush,
Some kind of thing strange and enchanted
In isolating it from vast nature,

So too do jewels, furniture, metals, gilding,
Adapt themselves just so to her rare beauty;
Nothing took exception to its perfect brightness,
And everything seemed to act for her as edging.

It was even said at times that she thought
Everything wished to love her; she drowned
Her nakedness voluptuously

In kisses of satin and linen,
And, slow or brusque, with each movement
Showed the childlike grace of the monkey.

IV: Le portrait
[4: The Portrait]

Disease and Death make ashes
Of every fire that blazed for us.
Of those wide eyes so fervent and so tender,
Of that mouth in which my heart drowned,

Of those kisses powerful as a dittany
Of those transports more vivid than rays of light,
What remains? It's ghastly, o my soul!
Nothing but an exceptionally faint drawing, done in three pencils,

Which, like me, dies in solitude,
And that Time, injurious old man,
Each day scrapes with his harsh wing...

Dark murderer of Life and of Art,
You will never kill within my memory
The one who was my pleasure and my glory!


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