– Charles Baudelaire
Hymn to Beauty
Do you come from Heaven or rise from the abyss,
Beauty? Your gaze, divine and infernal,
Pours out confusedly benevolence and crime,
And one may for that, compare you to wine.
You contain in your eyes the sunset and the dawn;
You scatter perfumes like a stormy night;
Your kisses are a philtre, your mouth an amphora,
Which make the hero weak and the child courageous.
Do you come from the stars or rise from the black pit?
Destiny, bewitched, follows your skirts like a dog;
You sow at random joy and disaster,
And you govern all things but answer for nothing.
You walk upon corpses which you mock, O Beauty!
Of your jewels Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest trinkets,
Dances amorously upon your proud belly.
The dazzled moth flies toward you, O candle!
Crepitates, flames and says: « Blessed be this flambeau! »
The panting lover bending o’er his fair one
Looks like a dying man caressing his own tomb,
Whether you come from heaven or from hell, who cares,
O Beauty! Huge, fearful, ingenuous monster!
If your regard, your smile, your foot, open for me
An Infinite I love but have not ever known?
From God or Satan, who cares? Angel or Siren,
Who cares, if you make, — fay with the velvet eyes,
Rhythm, perfume, glimmer; my one and only queen!
The world less hideous, the minutes less leaden?
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)