Saturday, 16 June 2012

My favourite poem by Charles Baudelaire

I could not find a single translation that I liked and therefore used the best parts of three different translations. Talking about about being picky and hard to please.

Conversation (Causerie)

You are a lovely autumn sky, clear and rosy!
But sadness rises in me like the sea,
And as it ebbs, leaves on my sullen lips
The burning memory of its bitter slime.

— Your hand may stroke my breast, but not console.
What it seeks there is but a hole, deep caverned
By women's claws and fangs, and ransacked whole.
Seek not my heart, on which the beasts have ravened.

My heart is a palace polluted by the mob;
They get drunk there, kill, tear each other's hair!
— A perfume swims around your naked breast!...

O Beauty, ruthless scourge of souls, you want it still!*
You with hot eyes that flash in fiery feasts,
Burn up these meagre scraps spared by the beasts!

  *it refers to the heart, that still desires beauty...

Translations I used:

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)
— James McGowan, The Flowers of Evil (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)
More Baudelaire at


  1. You say you are picky? I would have changed a line in the second quatrain into "By the Woman's claws and fangs, and ransacked whole" but well, a translation can never be that perfect - even Baudelaire's translation of Poe's short stories show some mistakes! :D

    1. You should have seen the three translations... DX Each had one good verse, the rest was *face palm*.

  2. I love this! Awesome blog!