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Saturday
Feb092013

Baudelaire, "Au lecteur"

A famous work ("To the reader") by this French poet.  You can read the original here.

Errata, avarice, sin, and fool's bets  
Will occupy our minds and bodies whole: 
Regrets are nourished by our grateful souls,  
Just like the beggars feed their vermin pets.  

Our sins are stubborn, our repentance faint;
And our confessions rob us more than free:
As we return in joy through muddy street,
Believing such vile tears could cleanse our taints.

On evil's pillow sits Trismegistus,
That Satan so long lulling our rapt minds; 
And the rich metal of our will unbinds,   
All vaporized in that wise chemist's ruse.  

The Devil draws us to emotions' depths!  
In horrid objects will we find strange charms;  
Each day descending slowly to Hell's arms, 
Through reeking shadows, fearless, by one step. 

As might a poor debauch'd fool taste and kiss  
The martyred bosom of some ancient whore,  
So do we glide to secret pleasures' shores, 
Which, like a rotting orange, press our lips.

In serried swarm a million helminthes feast,  
A demon folk in riot in our brains;
And when we breathe, into our lungs Death strains,
Just like a river, with muffl'd moans, unseen. 

If violence, poison, daggers, or fire's blaze
Have not portrayed us yet in their doom's draft, 
That woeful canvas of our sad fate's path,
Alas, to this our souls remain unbrazed.

Amidst the jackals, panthers, and she-dogs,
The monkeys, scorpions, vultures, and base snakes,
That, barking, screaming, crawling, grunting, make
Our infamous menagerie of flaws, 

He is the ugliest and wickedest! 
Although bereft of noiseful gestes or shrieks, 
He would reduce the earth to mere debris, 
And in a gaping yawn our world ingest! 

He is Ennui!  Wet eyes unwill'd despair, 
His houkah's smoke dreams but of gallows' crease.
O reader, you know this exquisite beast!
My reader-hypocrite, my peer, my frere!

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