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Charles Baudelaire

French poet

1821-1867

A selection from
FLOWERS OF EVIL

Narrated by Mel Foster

Download mp3 file: Flowers of Evil

This file is 6.6 MB; running time is 14 minutes
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DON JUAN IN HELL

The night Don Juan came to pay his fees
To Charon, by the caverned water's shore,
A Beggar, proud-eyed as Antisthenes,
Stretched out his knotted fingers on the oar.

Mournful, with drooping breasts and robes unsewn
The shapes of women swayed in ebon skies,
Trailing behind him with a restless moan
Like cattle herded for a sacrifice.

Here, grinning for his wage, stood Sganarelle,
And here Don Luis pointed, bent and dim,
To show the dead who lined the holes of Hell,
This was that impious son who mocked at him.

The hollow-eyed, the chaste Elvira came,
Trembling and veiled, to view her traitor spouse.
Was it one last bright smile she thought to claim,
Such as made sweet the morning of his vows ?

A great stone man rose like a tower on board,
Stood at the helm and cleft the flood profound :
But the calm hero, leaning on his sword
Gazed back, and would not offer one look round.

GIANTESS

I should have loved erewhile when Heaven conceived
Each day, some child abnormal and obscene,
Beside a maiden giantess to have lived,
Like a luxurious cat at the feet of a queen ;

To see her body flowering with her soul,
And grow, unchained, in awe-inspiring art,
Within the mists across her eyes that stole
To divine the fires entombed within her heart.

And oft to scramble o'er her mighty limbs,

And climb the slopes of her enormous knees,

Or in summer when the scorching sunlight streams

Across the country, to recline at ease,
And slumber in the shadow of her breast
Like an hamlet 'neath the mountain-crest.

HYMN TO BEAUTY

O Beauty ! dost thou generate from Heaven or from Hell ?

Within thy glance, so diabolic and divine,

Confusedly both wickedness and goodness dwell,

And hence one might compare thee unto sparkling wine.

Thy look containeth both the dawn and sunset stars,
Thy perfumes, as upon a sultry night exhale,
Thy kiss a philter, and thy mouth a Grecian vase,
That renders heroes cowardly and infants hale.

Yea, art thou from the planets, or the fiery womb ?
The demon follows in thy train, with magic fraught,
Thou scatter'st seeds haphazardly of joy and doom,
Thou govern'st everything, but answer'st unto nought.

O Loveliness ! thou spurnest corpses with delight,
Among thy jewels, Horror hath such charms for thee,
And Murder 'mid thy mostly cherished trinklets bright,

Upon thy massive bosom dances amorously.

The blinded, fluttering moth towards the candle flies,
Then frizzles, falls, and falters" Blessings unto thee "
The panting swain that o'er his beauteous mistress sighs,
Seems like the Sick, that stroke their gravestones lovingly.

What matter, if thou comest from the Heavens or Hell,
O Beauty, frightful ghoul, ingenuous and obscure !
So long thine eyes, thy smile, to me the way can tell
Towards that Infinite I love, but never saw.

From God or Satan ? Angel, Mermaid, Proserpine ?
What matter if thou makest blithe, voluptuous sprite
With rhythms, perfumes, visions O mine only queen !
The universe less hideous and the hours less trite.

THE BALCONY

Oh, Mother of Memories ! Mistress of Mistresses !
Oh, thou all my pleasures, oh, thou all my prayers !
Can'st thou remember those luscious caresses,
The charm of the hearth and the sweet evening airs ?
Oh, Mother of Memories, Mistress of Mistresses !

Those evenings illumed by the glow of the coal,
And those roseate nights with their vaporous wings,
How calm was thy breast and how good was thy soul,
'Twas then we uttered imperishable things,
Those evenings illumed by the glow of the coal.

How lovely the suns on those hot, autumn nights !
How vast were the heavens ! and the heart how hale !
As I leaned towards you oh, my Queen of Delights,
The scent of thy blood I seemed to inhale.
How lovely the sun on those hot, autumn nights !

The shadows of night-time grew dense like a pall,
And deep through the darkness thine eyes I divined,
And I drank of thy breath oh sweetness, oh gall,
And thy feet in my brotherly hands reclined,
The shadows of Night-time grew dense like a pall.

I know how to call forth those moments so dear,
And to live my Past laid on thy knees once more,
For where should I seek for thy beauties but here
In thy langorous heart and thy body so pure ?
I know how to call forth those moments so dear.

Those perfumes, those infinite kisses and sighs,
Are they born in some gulf to our plummets denied ?
Like rejuvenate suns that mount up to the skies,
That first have been cleansed in the depths of the tide ;
Oh, perfumes ! oh, infinite kisses and sighs !

SADNESS OF THE MOON-GODDESS

To-night the Moon dreams with increased weariness,
Like a beauty stretched forth on a downy heap
Of rugs, while her languorous fingers caress
The contour of her breasts, before falling to sleep.

On the satin back of the avalanche soft,
She falls into lingering swoons, as she dies,
While she lifteth her eyes to white visions aloft,
Which like efflorescence float up to the skies.

When at times, in her languor, down on to this sphere,
She slyly lets trickle a furtive tear,
A poet, desiring slumber to shun,

Takes up this pale tear in the palm of his hand
(The colours of which like an opal blend),
And buries it far from the eyes of the sun.

SPLEEN

The rainy moon of all the world is weary,
And from its urn a gloomy cold pours down,
Upon the pallid inmates of the mortuary,
And on the neighbouring- outskirts of the town.

My wasted cat, in searching for a litter,
Bestirs its mangy paws from post to post ;
(A poet's soul that wanders in the gutter,
With the jaded voice of a shiv'ring ghost).

The smoking pine-log, while the drone laments,
Accompanies the wheezy pendulum,
The while amidst a haze of dirty scents,

Those fatal remnants of a sick man's room
The gallant knave of hearts and queen of spades
Relate their ancient amorous escapades.

MEDITATION

Be wise, O my Woe, seek thy grievance to drown,
Thou didst call for the night, and behold it is here,
An atmosphere sombre, envelopes the town,
To some bringing peace and to others a care.

Whilst the manifold souls of the vile multitude,

'Neath the lash of enjoyment, that merciless sway,

Go plucking remorse from the menial brood,

From them far, O my grief, hold my hand, come this way.

Behold how they beckon, those years, long expired,

From Heaven, in faded apparel attired,

How Regret, smiling, foams on the waters like yeast;

Its arches of slumber the dying sun spreads,
And like a long winding-sheet dragged to the East,
Oh, hearken Beloved, how the Night softly treads !

ILLUSIONARY LOVE

When I behold thee wander by, my languorous love,
To songs of viols which throughout the dome resound,
Harmonious and stately as thy footsteps move,
Bestowing forth the languor of thy glance profound.

When I regard thee, glowing in the gaslight rays,
Thy pallid brow embellished by a charm obscure,
Here where the evening torches light the twilight haze,
Thine eyes attracting me like those of a portraiture,

I say How beautiful she is ! how strangely rich !
A mighty memory, royal and commanding tower,
A garland : and her heart, bruised like a ruddy peach,
Is ripe like her body for Love's sapient power.

Art thou, that spicy Autumn-fruit with taste supreme ?
Art thou a funeral vase inviting tears of grief ?
Aroma causing one of Eastern wastes to dream ;
A downy cushion, bunch of flowers or golden sheaf ?

I know that there are eyes, most melancholy ones,
Wherein no precious secret deeply hidden lies,
Resplendent shrines, devoid of relics, sacred stones,
More empty, more profound than ye yourselves, O skies ?

Yea, does thy semblance, not alone for me suffice,
To kindle senses which the cruel truth abhor ?
All one to me ! thy folly or thy heart of ice,
Decoy or mask, all hail ! thy beauty I adore !

THE DEATH OF THE LOVERS

We will have beds which exhale odours soft,
AVe will have divans profound as the tomb,
And delicate plants on the ledges aloft,
Which under the bluest of skies for us bloom.

Exhausting our hearts to their last desires,
They both shall be like unto two glowing coals,
Reflecting the twofold light of their fires
Across the twin mirrors of our two souls.

One evening of mystical azure skies,

We'll exchange but one single lightning flash,

Just like a long sob replete with good byes.

And later an angel shall joyously pass

Through the half-open doors, to replenish and wash

The torches expired, and the tarnished glass.

More information about Charles Baudelaire from Wikipedia

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