LA CHEVELURE

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by Charles Baudelaire, translated to English by John Collings Squire

O billows flowing o’er the shoulders bare!
O curls! O perfume sweet beyond belief!
Here in this bower to people the night air
With all the memories sleeping in this hair
I long to shake it like a handkerchief!

Fierce Afric and the languorous Orient,
All a vast world, distant, nay, almost dead,
Within this aromatic wood is pent;
My soul beloved floats upon thy scent
As other souls have music for a bed.

I will go out where full-veined man and tree
Swoon daylong in the sultry summer’s heat—
Strong tresses be the barque which carries me:
Thou boldest a bright dream, O ebon sea,
Of sails, flames, rowers, on a splendid fleet;

A harbour where through every sense are rolled
Vast sweeping waves of perfume, sound, and hue,
Where vessels gliding over moire and gold
Stretch up great arms to heaven to enfold
The glory of the everlasting blue.

There waits for me delicious drunkenness
In this dark sea which holds those other seas;
My spirit in the gentle main’s caress
Shall know once more the old rich idleness,
Infinite rockings of embalmèd ease.

Ah! dark-blue, streaming banner of the night,
You bring me back those azure skies afar,
Plunged in your silken folds my soul takes flight
And drinks once more with measureless delight
The scent of cocoa-oil and musk and tar.

For ever I will scatter in each strand,
That thou may’st never turn deaf ears to me,
Rubies, pearls, sapphires with a lavish hand. . . . .
Thou art the well-spring in a desert land
Wherefrom I quaff deep draughts of memory.

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

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