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by Charles Baudelaire, translated to English by John Collings Squire

Portrait of Charles Baudelaire in 1862.

They lie like pensive cattle on the sands,
And as their gaze to the far sea’s edge clings,
Their feet which twine, and their enclaspèd hands
Suffer sweet swoons and bitter shudderings.

But some, enamoured of long converse, stray
Where the streams wander through the coppices,
Spell out the loves of timid childhood’s day,
And carve the green wood of the little trees.

Others like sisters wander slow and grave
Across the rocks where phantom shapes flit dim,
Where Anthony saw, surging wave on wave,
The naked purple breasts which tempted him.

Some there are who, by crumbling torches’ light
In the dumb gulfs of pagan caverns deep,
Pray thee to put their fever-throes to flight,
Bacchus! who drownest old remorse in sleep.

And others, fain of scapularies, roam
With a long whip beneath their garments’ fold,
And in lone woods at midnight mingle foam
Of joy with cries of anguish manifold.

O virgins, demons, monsters, martyrs! ye
Who scorn reality through all the years;
Soiled holy ones who seek infinity
So full of cries and, ah! so full of tears!

Poor sisters whom my soul has tracked in hell,
I love you and I weep for all your woe:
Your burning thirst, your pains unspeakable,
The wells of love with which your hearts o’erflow.

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

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