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by Charles Baudelaire, translated to English by John Collings Squire

Rememberest thou, my sweet, that summer’s day,
How in the sun outspread
At a path’s bend a filthy carcase lay
Upon a pebbly bed?

Like a lewd woman, with its legs in air,
Burned, oozed the poisonous mass;
Its gaping belly, calm and debonair,
Was full of noisome gas.

And steadily upon this rottenness,
As though to cook it brown
And render Nature hundredfold excess,
The sun shone down.

The blue sky thought the carrion marvellous,
A flower most fair to see;
And as we gazed it almost poisoned us—
It stank so horribly.

The flies buzzed on this putrid belly, whence
Black hosts of maggots came,
Which streamed in thick and shining rivers thence
Along that ragged frame.

Pulsating like a wave, spirting about
Bright jets, it seemed to live;
As though it were by some vague wind blown out,
Some breath procreative.

And all this life was strangely musical
Like wind or bubbling spring,
Or corn which moves with rhythmic rise and fall
In time of winnowing.

The lines became indefinite and faint
As a thin dream that dies,
A half-forgotten scene the hand can paint
Only from memories. . . . .

Behind the rocks there lurked a hungry hound
With melancholy eye,
Longing to nose the morsel he had found
And gnaw it greedily.

Yet thou shalt be as vile a carrion
As this infection dire,
O bright star of my eyes, my nature’s sun,
My angel, my desire!

Yea, such, O queen of the graces, shalt thou be
After the last soft breath,
Beneath the grass and the lush greenery
A mouldering in death!

When thy sweet flesh the worms devour with kisses,
Tell them, O beauty mine,
Of rotting loves I keep the bodily blisses
And essence all-divine!

Blossoms of Evil (1857)
by Charles Baudelaire - Translated by John Collings Squire

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