Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), French poet
translation by Dorothy Martin
From heaven or hell, O Beauty, come you hence?
Out from your gaze, infernal and divine,
Pours blended evil and beneficence,
And therefore men have likened you to wine.
Sunset and dawn within your eyes are fair;
Stormlike you scatter perfume into space;
Your kiss, a philtre from an amphora rare,
Charms boys to courage and makes heroes base.
Whence come you, from what spheres, or inky deeps,
With careless hand joy and distress to strew?
Fate, like a dog at heel, behind you creeps;
You govern all things here, and naught you rue.
You walk upon the dead with scornful glances,
Among your gems Horror is not least fair;
Murder, the dearest of your baubles, dances
Upon your haughty breast with amorous air.
Mothlike around your flame the transient, turning,
Crackles and flames and cries, "Ah, heavenly doom!"
The quivering lover o’er his mistress yearning
Is but a dying man who woos his tomb.
From heaven or the abyss? Let questioning be,
O artless monster wreaking endless pain,
So that your smile and glance throw wide to me
An infinite that I have loved in vain.
From Satan or from God? Holy or vile?
Let questioning rest. O soft-eyed sprite, my queen,
O rhythm, perfume, light — so you beguile
Time from his slothfulness, the world from spleen.
from The Flowers Of Evil (1928)
courtesy of vintagewinepoems.com