HYMN TO BEAUTY

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by Charles Baudelaire, translated to English by John Collings Squire

Comest thou from high heaven or from the abyss,
O Beauty? For thy look, hellish, divine,
Is fraught with mingled misery and bliss
(Wherefore thy soul is as the soul of wine).

Within thine eye red dawn and sunset burn;
Odours thou spread’st as stormy evenings;
Thy kisses are a draught, thy mouth an urn
To make men quail and babes do mighty things.

From the dark gulf, or from the immortal stars?
The charmèd Demon follows like a hound;
Thou rul’st with hand that careless makes or mars,
Nor to our prayers vouchsafest any sound.

Thou walkest over dead men, mocking them,
Beauty! and horror decks the throat of thee,
And glittering murder, thy most precious gem,
On thy proud belly dances amorously.

Toward thee, flame, the dazzled insect flies,
Shrivels and cries, “Blest conqueror of gloom!”
Upon his fair one’s breast the lover lies,
As ’twere a dying man who hugs his tomb.

Naïve, terrible form! what boots it sky or pit,
O beauty! if thine eye, smile, foot, alone
Can open me the gate of an infinite
My soul’s athirst for, and has never known?

What boots it, seraph or siren, from God’s height
Or Satan’s hell, O queen! if thou dost come
Soft-eyed, to make, with rhythm, scent, and light,
The world less dull and time less burdensome?

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

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