To a brown beggar maid by Charles Pierre Baudelaire

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.

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