No Comment — November 6, 2007, 1:14 am

Baudelaire’s ‘The Balcony’

jeanne-duval

Mère des souvenirs, maîtresse des maîtresses,
Ô toi, tous mes plaisirs! ô toi, tous mes devoirs!
Tu te rappelleras la beauté des caresses,
La douceur du foyer et le charme des soirs,
Mère des souvenirs, maîtresse des maîtresses!

Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon,
Et les soirs au balcon, voilés de vapeurs roses.
Que ton sein m’était doux! que ton coeur m’était bon!
Nous avons dit souvent d’impérissables choses
Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon.

Que les soleils sont beaux dans les chaudes soirées!
Que l’espace est profond! que le coeur est puissant!
En me penchant vers toi, reine des adorées,
Je croyais respirer le parfum de ton sang.
Que les soleils sont beaux dans les chaudes soirées!

La nuit s’épaississait ainsi qu’une cloison,
Et mes yeux dans le noir devinaient tes prunelles,
Et je buvais ton souffle, ô douceur! ô poison!
Et tes pieds s’endormaient dans mes mains fraternelles.
La nuit s’épaississait ainsi qu’une cloison.

Je sais l’art d’évoquer les minutes heureuses,
Et revis mon passé blotti dans tes genoux.
Car à quoi bon chercher tes beautés langoureuses
Ailleurs qu’en ton cher corps et qu’en ton coeur si doux?
Je sais l’art d’évoquer les minutes heureuses!

Ces serments, ces parfums, ces baisers infinis,
Renaîtront-ils d’un gouffre interdit à nos sondes,
Comme montent au ciel les soleils rajeunis
Après s’être lavés au fond des mers profondes?
— Ô serments! ô parfums! ô baisers infinis!

fleurs-du-mal

The Balcony

Mother of memories, mother of mistresses,
O thou, in whom my pleasure bites and smites! —
Thou givest me the beauty of divine caresses,
The heart’s fire at the midnight of the nights,
Mother of memories, mother of mistresses!

The nights ignited by the fire’s fierce fashions,
The shadows of the unveiled Invisible,
How sweet thy breast, thy heart and all its passions!
We have often said strange things imperishable,
On the nights ignited by the fire’s fierce fashions.

Scents and heats of Hell’s Hallucinations!
Space, and the heart’s beating and our changing mood,
Thou canst give me, O queen of my Adorations,
The very perfume of thy most precious blood.
Scents and heats of Hell’s Hallucinations!

Night and the absolute horror of a Vision,
Mine eyes on thine in the dark one’s sense depresses,
When I drank thy blood, thy breath, poison, derision!
When thy feet slept, when slept thy dishevelled tresses!
Night and the absolute horror of a Vision.

I know the art of evoking invocation,
And I have dreamed deep hidden between thy knees
Of languorous beauties, of thy fascination,
Thy body’s beauty, the savage wind-swept Seas!
I know the art of evoking invocation!

These oaths, these perfumes, these kisses, mad, ferocious,
Shall these arise from a great gulf interdicted?
Some deep abyss, sombre, sunless, atrocious,
The depths of the illimitable seas by our Sins predicted?
— O oaths! O perfume! O kisses, mad, ferocious!

Charles Baudelaire, Le Balcon from: Les Fleurs du Mal xxxvi(1856) in: Œuvres complètes pp. 34-35 (Pléiade ed. 1961)(Arthur Symons transl., 1899)

for 21 different English translations of Le Balcon, click here

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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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