Selected poetry of Charles Pierre Baudelaire

A Former Life

LONG since, I lived beneath vast porticoes,

By many ocean-sunsets tinged and fired,

Where mighty pillars, in majestic rows,

Seemed like basaltic caves when day expired.

The rolling surge that mirrored all the skies

Mingled its music, turbulent and rich,

Solemn and mystic, with the colours which

The setting sun reflected in my eyes.

And there I lived amid voluptuous calms,

In splendours of blue sky and wandering wave,

Tended by many a naked, perfumed slave,

Who fanned my languid brow with waving palms.

They were my slaves–the only care they had

To know what secret grief had made me sad.

Beacons

Reubens, river of forgetfulness, garden of sloth,

Pillow of wet flesh that one cannot love,

But where life throngs and seethes without cease

Like the air in the sky and the water in the sea.

Leonardo da Vinci, sinister mirror,

Where these charming angels with sweet smiles

Charged with mystery, appear in shadows

Of glaciers and pines that close off the country.

Rembrandt, sad hospital full of murmurs

Decorated only with a crucifix,

Where tearful prayers arise from filth

And a ray of winter light crosses brusquely.

Michelangelo, a wasteland where one sees Hercules

Mingling with Christ, and rising in a straight line

Powerful phantoms that in the twilight

Tear their shrouds with stretching fingers.

Rage of a boxer, impudence of a faun,

You who gather together the beauty of the boor,

Your big heart swelling with pride at man defective and yellow,

Puget, melancholy emperor of the poor.

Watteau, this carnival of illustrious hearts

Like butterflies, errant and flamboyant,

In the cool decor, with delicate lightning in the chandeliers

Crossing the madness of the twirling ball.

Goya, nightmare of unknown things,

Fetuses roasting on the spit,

Harridans in the mirror and naked children

Tempting demons by loosening their stockings.

Delacroix, haunted lake of blood and evil angels,

Shaded by evergreen forests of dark firs,

Where, under a grieving sky, strange fanfares

Pass, like a gasping breath of Weber.

These curses, these blasphemies, these moans,

These ecstasies, these tears, these cries of “Te Deum”

Are an echo reiterated in a thousand mazes;

It is for mortal hearts a divine opium!

It is a cry repeated by a thousand sentinels,

An order returned by a thousand megaphones,

A beacon lighting a thousand citadels

A summons to hunters lost in the wide woods.

For truly, O Lord, what better testimony

Can we give to our dignity

Than this burning sob that rolls from age to age

And comes to die on the shore of Your eternity?

Beauty

I AM as lovely as a dream in stone,

And this my heart where each finds death in turn,

Inspires the poet with a love as lone

As clay eternal and as taciturn.

Swan-white of heart, a sphinx no mortal knows,

My throne is in the heaven’s azure deep;

I hate all movements that disturb my pose,

I smile not ever, neither do I weep.

Before my monumental attitudes,

That breathe a soul into the plastic arts,

My poets pray in austere studious moods,

For I, to fold enchantment round their hearts,

Have pools of light where beauty flames and dies,

The placid mirrors of my luminous eyes.

Benediction

When, by decree of the supreme power,

The Poet appears in this annoyed world,

His mother, blasphemous out of horror

At God’s pity, cries out with fists curled:

“Ah! I’d rather You’d will me a snake’s skin

Than to keep feeding this monstrous slur!

I curse that night’s ephemera are sins

To make my womb atone for pleasure.

“Since You have chosen me from all the brides

To bear the disgust of my dolorous groom

And since I can’t throw back into the fires

Like an old love letter this gaunt buffoon

“I’ll replace Your hate that overwhelms me

On the instrument of Your wicked gloom

And torture so well this miserable tree

Its pestiferous buds will never bloom!”

She chokes down the eucharist of venom,

Not comprehending eternal designs,

She prepares a Gehenna of her own,

And consecrates a pyre of maternal crimes.

Yet, watched by an invisible seraph,

The disinherited child is drunk on the sun

And in all he devours and in all he quaffs

Receives ambrosia, nectar and honey.

He plays with the wind, chats with the vapors,

Deliriously sings the stations of the cross;

And the Spirit who follows him in his capers

Cries at his joy like a bird in the forest.

Those whom he longs to love look with disdain

And dread, strengthened by his tranquillity,

They seek to make him complain of his pain

So they may try out their ferocity.

In the bread and wine destined for his lips,

They mix in cinders and spit with their wrath,

And throw out all he touches as he grasps it,

And accuse him of putting his feet in their path.

His wife cries out so that everyone hears:

“Since he finds me good enough to adore

I’ll weave as the idols of ancient years

A corona of gold as a cover.

“I’ll get drunk on nard, incense and myrrh,

Get down on bent knee with meats and wines

To see if in a heart that admires,

My smile denies deference to the divine.

“And, when I tire of these impious farces,

I’ll arrange for him my frail and hard nails

Sharpened just like the claws of a harpy

That out of his heart will carve a trail.

“Like a baby bird trembling in the nest

I’ll dig out his heart all red from my breast

To slake the thirst of my favorite pet,

And will throw it on the ground with contempt!”

Toward the sky, where he sees a great host,

The poet, serene, lifts his pious arms high

And the vast lightning of his lucid ghost

Blinds him to the furious people nearby:

“Glory to God, who leaves us to suffer

To cure us of all our impurities

And like the best, most rarefied buffer

Prepares the strong for a saint’s ecstasies!

“I know that You hold a place for the Poet

In the ranks of the blessed and the saint’s legions,

That You invite him to an eternal fete

Of thrones, of virtues, of dominations.

“I know only sorrow is unequaled,

It cannot be encroached on from Hell or Earth

And if I am to braid my mystic wreath,

May I impose it on the universe.

“But the ancient jewels of lost Palmyra,

The unknown metals, pearls from the ocean

By Your hand mounted, they do not suffice,

They cannot dazzle as clearly as this crown

“For it will not be made except from halos

Drawn of pure light in a holy portal

Whose entire splendor, in the eyes of mortals

Is only a mirror, obscure and mournful.”

Contemplation

THOU, O my Grief, be wise and tranquil still,

The eve is thine which even now drops down,

To carry peace or care to human will,

And in a misty veil enfolds the town.

While the vile mortals of the multitude,

By pleasure, cruel tormentor, goaded on,

Gather remorseful blossoms in light mood–

Grief, place thy hand in mine, let us be gone

Far from them. Lo, see how the vanished years,

In robes outworn lean over heaven’s rim;

And from the water, smiling through her tears,

Remorse arises, and the sun grows dim;

And in the east, her long shroud trailing light,

List, O my grief, the gentle steps of Night.

Correspondences

Nature is a temple where the living pillars

Let go sometimes a blurred speech—

A Forest of symbols passes through a man’s reach

And observes him with a familiar regard.

Like the distant echoes that mingle and confound

In a unity of darkness and quiet

Deep as the night, clear as daylight

The perfumes, the colors, the sounds correspond.

The perfume is as fresh as the flesh of an infant

Sweet as an oboe, green as a prairie

And the others, corrupt, rich and triumphant

Enlightened by the things of infinity,

Like amber, musk, benzoin, and incense

That sing, transporting the soul and sense.

Daun Juan in Hades

WHEN Juan sought the subterranean flood,

And paid his obolus on the Stygian shore,

Charon, the proud and sombre beggar, stood

With one strong, vengeful hand on either oar.

With open robes and bodies agonised,

Lost women writhed beneath that darkling sky;

There were sounds as of victims sacrificed:

Behind him all the dark was one long cry.

And Sganarelle, with laughter, claimed his pledge;

Don Luis, with trembling finger in the air,

Showed to the souls who wandered in the sedge

The evil son who scorned his hoary hair.

Shivering with woe, chaste Elvira the while,

Near him untrue to all but her till now,

Seemed to beseech him for one farewell smile

Lit with the sweetness of the first soft vow.

And clad in armour, a tall man of stone

Held firm the helm, and clove the gloomy flood;

But, staring at the vessel’s track alone,

Bent on his sword the unmoved hero stood

Elevation

Above the ponds, beyond the valleys,

The woods, the mountains, the clouds, the seas,

Farther than the sun, the distant breeze,

The spheres that wilt to infinity

My spirit, you move with agility

And, like a good swimmer who swoons in the wave

You groove the depths immensity gave,

The inexpressible and male ecstasy.

From this miasma of waste,

You will be purified in superior air

And drink a pure and divine liqueur,

A clear fire to replace the limpid space

Behind this boredom and fatigue, this vast chagrin

Whose weight moves the mists of existence,

Happy is he who vigorously fans the senses

Toward serene and luminous fields—wincing!

The one whose thoughts are like skylarks taken wing

Across the heavens mornings in full flight

Who hovers over life, understanding without effort

The language of flowers and mute things.

Exotic Perfume

When with closed eyes in autumn’s eves of gold

I breathe the burning odors of your breast,

Before my eyes the hills of happy rest

Bathed in the sun’s monotonous fires, unfold.

Islands of Lethe where exotic boughs

Bend with their burden of strange fruit bowed down,

Where men are upright, maids have never grown

Unkind, but bear a light upon their brows.

Led by that perfume to these lands of ease,

I see a port where many ships have flown

With sails out wearied of the wandering seas;

While the faint odors from green tamarisks blown,

Float to my soul and in my senses throng,

And mingle vaguely with the sailor’s song.

Music

MUSIC doth uplift me like a sea

Towards my planet pale,

Then through dark fogs or heaven’s infinity

I lift my wandering sail.

With breast advanced, drinking the winds that flee,

And through the cordage wail,

I mount the hurrying waves night hides from me

Beneath her sombre veil.

I feel the tremblings of all passions known

To ships before the breeze;

Cradled by gentle winds, or tempest-blown

I pass the abysmal seas

That are, when calm, the mirror level and fair

Of my despair!

Reversibility

ANGEL of gaiety, have you tasted grief?

Shame and remorse and sobs and weary spite,

And the vague terrors of the fearful night

That crush the heart up like a crumpled leaf?

Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief?

Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate?

With hands clenched in the shade and tears of gall,

When Vengeance beats her hellish battle-call,

And makes herself the captain of our fate,

Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate?

Angel of health, did you ever know pain,

Which like an exile trails his tired footfalls

The cold length of the white infirmary walls,

With lips compressed, seeking the sun in vain?

Angel of health, did ever you know pain?

Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know?

Know you the fear of age, the torment vile

Of reading secret horror in the smile

Of eyes your eyes have loved since long ago?

Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know?

Angle of happiness, and joy, and light,

Old David would have asked for youth afresh

From the pure touch of your enchanted flesh;

I but implore your prayers to aid my plight,

Angel of happiness, and joy, and light.

Sonnet of Autumn

They say to me, thy clear and crystal eyes:

“Why dost thou love me so, strange lover mine?”

Be sweet, be still! My heart and soul despise

All save that antique brute-like faith of thine;

And will not bare the secret of their shame

To thee whose hand soothes me to slumbers long,

Nor their black legend write for thee in flame!

Passion I hate, a spirit does me wrong.

Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat,

Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow,

And I too well his ancient arrows know:

Crime, horror, folly. O pale marguerite,

Thou art as I, a bright sun fallen low,

O my so white, my so cold Marguerite.

Spleen

I’M like some king in whose corrupted veins

Flows agиd blood; who rules a land of rains;

Who, young in years, is old in all distress;

Who flees good counsel to find weariness

Among his dogs and playthings, who is stirred

Neither by hunting-hound nor hunting-bird;

Whose weary face emotion moves no more

E’en when his people die before his door.

His favourite Jester’s most fantastic wile

Upon that sick, cruel face can raise no smile;

The courtly dames, to whom all kings are good,

Can lighten this young skeleton’s dull mood

No more with shameless toilets. In his gloom

Even his lilied bed becomes a tomb.

The sage who takes his gold essays in vain

To purge away the old corrupted strain,

His baths of blood, that in the days of old

The Romans used when their hot blood grew cold,

Will never warm this dead man’s bloodless pains,

For green Lethean water fills his veins.

The Albatross

Often, to amuse themselves, the crew of the ship

Would fell an albatross, the largest of sea birds,

Indolent companions of their trip

As they slide across the deep sea’s bitters.

Scarcely had they dropped to the plank

Than these blue kings, maladroit and ashamed

Let their great white wings sink

Like an oar dragging under the water’s plane.

The winged visitor, so awkward and weak!

So recently beautiful, now comic and ugly!

One sailor grinds a pipe into his beak,

Another, limping, mimics the infirm bird that once could fly.

The poet is like the prince of the clouds

Who haunts the storm and laughs at lightning.

He’s exiled to the ground and its hooting crowds;

His giant wings prevent him from walking.

The Bad Monk

On the great walls of ancient cloisters were nailed

Murals displaying Truth the saint,

Whose effect, reheating the pious entrails

Brought to an austere chill a warming paint.

In the times when Christ was seeded around,

More than one illustrious monk, today unknown

Took for a studio the funeral grounds

And glorified Death as the one way shown.

—My soul is a tomb, an empty confine

Since eternity I scour and I reside;

Nothing hangs on the walls of this hideous sty.

O lazy monk! When will I see

The living spectacle of my misery,

The work of my hands and the love of my eyes?

The dance of death

CARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,

Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves

With all the careless and high-stepping grace,

And the extravagant courtesan’s thin face.

Was slimmer waist e’er in a ball-room wooed?

Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,

Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod

With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.

The swarms that hum about her collar-bones

As the lascivious streams caress the stones,

Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,

Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes

Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays

Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,

Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.

O charm of nothing decked in folly! they

Who laugh and name you a Caricature,

They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,

The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,

That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!

Come you to trouble with your potent sneer

The feast of Life! or are you driven here,

To Pleasure’s Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir

And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?

Or do you hope, when sing the violins,

And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,

To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,

And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?

Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!

Eternal alembic of antique distress!

Still o’er the curved, white trellis of your sides

The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.

And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,

Among us here, no lover to your mind;

Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?

The charms of horror please none but the brave.

Your eyes’ black gulf, where awful broodings stir,

Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller

Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,

The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.

For he who has not folded in his arms

A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,

Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,

When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.

O irresistible, with fleshless face,

Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:

“Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,

Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons!

Withered Antinoьs, dandies with plump faces,

Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,

Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,

Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.

From Seine’s cold quays to Ganges’ burning stream,

The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;

They do not see, within the opened sky,

The Angel’s sinister trumpet raised on high.

In every clime and under every sun,

Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;

And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye

And mingles with your madness, irony!”

The Enemy

My youth was nothing but a black storm

Crossed now and then by brilliant suns.

The thunder and the rain so ravage the shores

Nothing’s left of the fruit my garden held once.

I should employ the rake and the plow,

Having reached the autumn of ideas,

To restore this inundated ground

Where the deep grooves of water form tombs in the lees.

And who knows if the new flowers you dreamed

Will find in a soil stripped and cleaned

The mystic nourishment that fortifies?

—O Sorrow—O Sorrow—Time consumes Life,

And the obscure enemy that gnaws at my heart

Uses the blood that I lose to play my part.

The Eyes Of Beauty

You are a sky of autumn, pale and rose;

But all the sea of sadness in my blood

Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lips morose,

Salt with the memory of the bitter flood.

In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o’er,

That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate

By woman’s tooth and talon; ah, no more

Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate.

It is a ruin where the jackals rest,

And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay–

A perfume swims about your naked breast!

Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way!

With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared

Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared!

The Flask

THERE are some powerful odors that can pass

Out of the Stoppard flagon; even glass

To them is porous. Oft when some old box

Brought from the East is opened and the locks

And hinges creak and cry; or in a press

In some deserted house, where the sharp stress

Of odours old and dusty fills the brain;

An ancient flask is brought to light again,

And forth the ghosts of long-dead odours creep.

There, softly trembling in the shadows, sleep

A thousand thoughts, funereal chrysalides,

Phantoms of old the folding darkness hides,

Who make faint flutterings as their wings unfold,

Rose-washed and azure-tinted, shot with gold.

A memory that brings languor flutters here:

The fainting eyelids droop, and giddy Fear

Thrusts with both hands the soul towards the pit

Where, like a Lazarus from his winding-sheet,

Arises from the gulf of sleep a ghost

Of an old passion, long since loved and lost.

So I, when vanished from man’s memory

Deep in some dark and sombre chest I lie,

An empty flagon they have cast aside,

Broken and soiled, the dust upon my pride,

Will be your shroud, beloved pestilence!

The witness of your might and virulence,

Sweet poison mixed by angels; bitter cup

Of life and death, my heart has drunken up!

The Ghost

Softly as brown-eyed Angels rove

I will return to thy alcove,

And glide upon the night to thee,

Treading the shadows silently.

And I will give to thee, my own,

Kisses as icy as the moon,

And the caresses of a snake

Cold gliding in the thorny brake.

And when returns the livid morn

Thou shalt find all my place forlorn

And chilly, till the falling night.

Others would rule by tenderness

Over thy life and youthfulness,

But I would conquer thee by fright!

The Irreparable

AN we suppress the old Remorse

Who bends our heart beneath his stroke,

Who feeds, as worms feed on the corse,

Or as the acorn on the oak?

Can we suppress the old Remorse?

Ah, in what philtre, wine, or spell,

May we drown this our ancient foe,

Destructive glutton, gorging well,

Patient as the ants, and slow?

What wine, what philtre, or what spell?

Tell it, enchantress, if you can,

Tell me, with anguish overcast,

Wounded, as a dying man,

Beneath the swift hoofs hurrying past.

Tell it, enchantress, if you can,

To him the wolf already tears

Who sees the carrion pinions wave,

This broken warrior who despairs

To have a cross above his grave–

This wretch the wolf already tears.

Can one illume a leaden sky,

Or tear apart the shadowy veil

Thicker than pitch, no star on high,

Not one funereal glimmer pale

Can one illume a leaden sky?

Hope lit the windows of the Inn,

But now that shining flame is dead;

And how shall martyred pilgrims win

Along the moonless road they tread?

Satan has darkened all the Inn!

Witch, do you love accursиd hearts?

Say, do you know, the reprobate?

Know you Remorse, whose venomed darts

Make souls the targets of their hate?

Witch, do you know accursиd hearts?

The Might-have-been with tooth accursed

Gnaws at the piteous souls of men,

The deep foundations suffer first,

And all the structure crumbles then

Beneath the bitter tooth accursed.

II.

Often, when seated at the play,

And sonorous music lights the stage,

I see the frail hand of a Fay

With magic dawn illume the rage

Of the dark sky. Oft at the play

A being made of gauze and fire

Casts to the earth a Demon great.

And my heart, whence all hopes expire,

Is like a stage where I await,

In vain, the Fay with wings of fire!

The Living Flame

They pass before me, these Eyes full of light,

Eyes made magnetic by some angel wise;

The holy brothers pass before my sight,

And cast their diamond fires in my dim eyes.

They keep me from all sin and error grave,

They set me in the path whence Beauty came;

They are my servants, and I am their slave,

And all my soul obeys the living flame.

Beautiful Eyes that gleam with mystic light

As candles lighted at full noon; the sun

Dims not your flame phantastical and bright.

You sing the dawn; they celebrate life done;

Marching you chaunt my soul’s awakening hymn,

Stars that no sun has ever made grow dim!

The Owls

Under the overhanging yews,

The dark owls sit in solemn state,

Like stranger gods; by twos and twos

Their red eyes gleam. They meditate.

Motionless thus they sit and dream

Until that melancholy hour

When, with the sun’s last fading gleam,

The nightly shades assume their power.

From their still attitude the wise

Will learn with terror to despise

All tumult, movement, and unrest;

For he who follows every shade,

Carries the memory in his breast,

Of each unhappy journey made.

The Remorse Of The Dead

O shadowy Beauty mine, when thou shalt sleep

In the deep heart of a black marble tomb;

When thou for mansion and for bower shalt keep

Only one rainy cave of hollow gloom;

And when the stone upon thy trembling breast,

And on thy straight sweet body’s supple grace,

Crushes thy will and keeps thy heart at rest,

And holds those feet from their adventurous race;

Then the deep grave, who shares my reverie,

(For the deep grave is aye the poet’s friend)

During long nights when sleep is far from thee,

Shall whisper: “Ah, thou didst not comprehend

The dead wept thus, thou woman frail and weak”–

And like remorse the worm shall gnaw thy cheek.

The Sadness of the moon

The Moon more indolently dreams to-night

Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,

Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,

Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.

Upon her silken avalanche of down,

Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;

And watches the white visions past her flown,

Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.

And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,

Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,

Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,

Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow

Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,

And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart.

The Temptation

The Demon, in my chamber high,

This morning came to visit me,

And, thinking he would find some fault,

He whispered: “I would know of thee

Among the many lovely things

That make the magic of her face,

Among the beauties, black and rose,

That make her body’s charm and grace,

Which is most fair?” Thou didst reply

To the Abhorred, O soul of mine:

“No single beauty is the best

When she is all one flower divine.

When all things charm me I ignore

Which one alone brings most delight;

She shines before me like the dawn,

And she consoles me like the night.

The harmony is far too great,

That governs all her body fair,

For impotence to analyse

And say which note is sweetest there.

O mystic metamorphosis!

My senses into one sense flow–

Her voice makes perfume when she speaks,

Her breath is music faint and low!”

The venal muse

O muse of my heart, lover of palaces,

Will you bring, when January lets loose its sleet

And its black evenings without solace,

An ember to warm my violet feet?

What will revive your bruised shoulders,

The nocturnal rays that pierce the shutters?

When you cannot feel your palace, just your empty billfold,

How will you harvest the gold of azure vaults and gutters?
You should, to earn your bread today

Like a choir boy with a censer to wave,

Sings hymns with feeling but without belief.
Or, a starving rip-off artist, selling your charm

And your laughter shades the tears so no one sees the harm

In bringing to bloom an ordinary rat, a vulgar thief.

To a brown beggar maid

WHITE maiden with the russet hair,

Whose garments, through their holes, declare

That poverty is part of you,

And beauty too.

To me, a sorry bard and mean,

Your youthful beauty, frail and lean,

With summer freckles here and there,

Is sweet and fair.

Your sabots tread the roads of chance,

And not one queen of old romance

Carried her velvet shoes and lace

With half your grace.

In place of tatters far too short

Let the proud garments worn at Court

Fall down with rustling fold and pleat

About your feet;

In place of stockings, worn and old,

Let a keen dagger all of gold

Gleam in your garter for the eyes

Of rouйs wise;

Let ribbons carelessly untied

Reveal to us the radiant pride

Of your white bosom purer far

Than any star;

Let your white arms uncovered shine,

Polished and smooth and half divine;

And let your elfish fingers chase

With riotous grace

The purest pearls that softly glow,

The sweetest sonnets of Belleau,

Offered by gallants ere they fight

For your delight;

And many fawning rhymers who

Inscribe their first thin book to you

Will contemplate upon the stair

Your slipper fair;

And many a page who plays at cards,

And many lords and many bards,

Will watch your going forth, and burn

For your return;

And you will count before your glass

More kisses than the lily has;

And more than one Valois will sigh

When you pass by.

But meanwhile you are on the tramp,

Begging your living in the damp,

Wandering mean streets and alley’s o’er,

From door to door;

And shilling bangles in a shop

Cause you with eager eyes to stop,

And I, alas, have not a sou

To give to you.

Then go, with no more ornament,

Pearl, diamond, or subtle scent,

Than your own fragile naked grace

And lovely face.

To a Madonna

MADONNA, mistress, I would build for thee

An altar deep in the sad soul of me;

And in the darkest corner of my heart,

From mortal hopes and mocking eyes apart,

Carve of enamelled blue and gold a shrine

For thee to stand erect in, Image divine!

And with a mighty Crown thou shalt be crowned

Wrought of the gold of my smooth Verse, set round

With starry crystal rhymes; and I will make,

O mortal maid, a Mantle for thy sake,

And weave it of my jealousy, a gown

Heavy, barbaric, stiff, and weighted down

With my distrust, and broider round the hem

Not pearls, but all my tears in place of them.

And then thy wavering, trembling robe shall be

All the desires that rise and fall in me

From mountain-peaks to valleys of repose,

Kissing thy lovely body’s white and rose.

For thy humiliated feet divine,

Of my Respect I’ll make thee Slippers fine

Which, prisoning them within a gentle fold,

Shall keep their imprint like a faithful mould.

And if my art, unwearying and discreet,

Can make no Moon of Silver for thy feet

To have for Footstool, then thy heel shall rest

Upon the snake that gnaws within my breast,

Victorious Queen of whom our hope is born!

And thou shalt trample down and make a scorn

Of the vile reptile swollen up with hate.

And thou shalt see my thoughts, all consecrate,

Like candles set before thy flower-strewn shrine,

O Queen of Virgins, and the taper-shine

Shall glimmer star-like in the vault of blue,

With eyes of flame for ever watching you.

While all the love and worship in my sense

Will be sweet smoke of myrrh and frankincense.

Ceaselessly up to thee, white peak of snow,

My stormy spirit will in vapours go!

And last, to make thy drama all complete,

That love and cruelty may mix and meet,

I, thy remorseful torturer, will take

All the Seven Deadly Sins, and from them make

In darkest joy, Seven Knives, cruel-edged and keen,

And like a juggler choosing, O my Queen,

That spot profound whence love and mercy start,

I’ll plunge them all within thy panting heart!

Travelling Bohemians

The prophetic tribe of the ardent eyes

Yesterday they took the road, holding their babies

On their backs, delivering to fierce appetites

The always ready treasure of pendulous breasts.
The men stick their feet out, waving their guns

Alongside the caravan where they tremble together,

Scanning the sky their eyes are weighted down

In mourning for absent chimeras.
At the bottom of his sandy retreat, a cricket

Watched passing, redoubles his song,

Cybele, who loves, adds more flower,
Makes fountains out of rock and blossoms from desert

Opening up before these travelers in a yawn—

A familiar empire, the inscrutable future.