XXX. DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI
J’implore ta pitié, Toi, l’unique que j’aime,
Du fond du gouffre obscure où mon cœur est tombé.
C’est un univers morne à l’horizon plombé,
Où nagent dans la nuit l’horreur et le blasphème.
Un soleil sans chaleur plane au-dessous six mois,
Et les six autres mois la nuit couvre la terre;
C’est un pays plus nu que la terre polaire;
-Ni bêtes, ni ruisseaux, ni verdure, ni bois!
Or il n’est pas d’horreur au monde qui surpasse
La froide cruaté de ce soleil de glace
Et cette immense nuit semblable au vieux Chaos;
Je jalouse le sort des plus vils animaux
Oui peuvent se plonger dans un sommeil stupide,
Tant l’échevaux du temps lentement se dévide!
XXX – De Profundis Clamavi
I implore your pity, You, the unique one whom I love,
From the obscure hole where my heart has collapsed
Into a mournful universe where I have been submerged
And where swim the night of horror and blasphemy;
O sun without heat hovering above for half the year,
And for the other six months when night covers the earth;
It’s a country more naked then the North Pole;
-Without beasts, streams, greenery or woods!
For there is no horror in the world which surpasses
The glacial cruelty of this sun of ice,
And this immense night which echoes the primeval chaos.
Ah! Jealousy is the very vilest kind of animal,
Which can send one careering into the most stupid funk,
There where the scaffolds of time slowly part, and divide.
I have been there, we all have! And this poem coming after Une Charogne! Such is the emotion of the human heart. Like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another. Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone they ‘Love’ will know. At the time that I was transversing these poems myself, all of the incredible sea of emotion that I had felt for someone over 15 years ago started to rise up within me. It’s a form of archaeology. Touching down on the surface of the ocean bed and finding one of the most beautiful shipwrecks of your Life. Eventually, I had to abandon the project as it was too painful for me to continue. Is it possible to translate such poetry if one hasn’t had a similar experience oneself? Jean Luc Goddard asks this question in one of his films, I am paraphrasing him here. Can one really tell a story if you have not lived one? Personally, I don’t see how it could be possible. But, what do I know!
XXXI. LE VAMPIRE
Toi qui, comme un coup de couteau,
Dans mon cœur plaintif es entrée;
Toi qui, forte comme un troupeau
De demons, vins, folle et parée,
De mon esprit humilié
Faire ton lit et ton domaine;
-Infâme à qui je suis lié
Comme le forçat à la chaîne,
Comme au jeu le joueur têtu,
Comme à la bouteille l’ivrogne,
Comme aux vermines la charogne,
- Maudite, maudite soi tu!
J’ai prié le glaive rapide
De conquérir ma liberté,
Et j’ai dit au poison perfide
De secourir ma lâcheté.
Hélas! le poison et le glaive
M’ont pris en dédain et m’ont dit:
“Tu n’es pas digne qu’on t’enleve
A ton esclavage maudit,
“Imbécile! – de son empire
Si nos efforts te délivraient,
Tes baisers ressusciteraient
Le cadaver de ton vampire!”
XXXI. The Vampire
You who, like a fine stiletto,
Pierced my plaintive heart;
Strong like a horde of demons,
You who, with wine and madness conjoined,
Made your domain and bed
Of my humiliated spirit –
Infamy, to you I am now wedded
Like a convict to a chain,
Like the last hand of a poker player,
Like the bottle to the drunk,
Or, worms to a corpse,
- A similar kind of Evil you, to me, are.
I prayed for the rapid glaive
To conquer my freedom,
And I sought council in perfidious poisons
To bolster my cowardice.
Alas! Poison and the glaive
Held me in disdain before saying to me:
“ Eejit! – You are not worthy
To be taken by us from your atrocious slavery,
Far from its empire,
For if our efforts were to deliver you
Your kisses would only resuscitate
The corpse of the vampire which consumes you.”
I loved transversing this poem, a toxic relationship is I think how psychologists today would describe it. Well, we have all been through one of them. Master and Slave, regardless of gender we will all find ourselves in one role and then the other. Please see at the back of the book my essay on Love & Literature as it is very pertinent to this whole topic, Literature with a capilal L. L for Love & Literature. The double elles as I like to call them. Elongated and feminine. This is one of the reasons why we should be reading the poets. The Orphic Mysteries we used to call them.
I have very deliberately inserted the very Irish term for imbécile, which is such a French term. Only the French can inject the kind of necessary disdain that needs to be injected, like venom, into the term in order to give it the proper gravitas. Likewise with the Irish form eejit! It is a wonderful word, one of my favourites. I love introducing it to foreign language students. Always telling them to prolong the stress on the e for as long as the eeeeeeeeeeeeeejit needs to be determined. And, of course this is another one of the hallmarks to my transversions of Charles Baudelaire, as I am transversing his poems as an Irishman. Such is the idiom. As, no country had greater need of him. I put it down to his Bad Catholicism. Only possibly us Irish in the 21st century could possibly still understand him!
Une nuit que j’étais près d’une affreuese Juive,
Comme au long d’un cadaver étendu,
Je me pris à songer près de ce corps vendu
À la triste beauté don’t mon désir se prive.
Je me représentai sa majesté native,
Son regard de vigueur et de grâce armé,
Ses cheveux qui lui font un casque parfumé
Et donc le souvenir pour l’amour me ravive.
Car j’eusse avec fervour baisé ton noble corps,
Et depuis tes pieds frais jusqu’à tes noire tresses
Déroulé le trésor des profondes caresses,
Si, quelque soir, d’un pleur obtenu sans effort
Tu pouvais selement, ô reine des cruelles!
Obscurcir la splendeur de tes froides prunelles.
One night as I found myself lying beside an atrocious Jewess,
Like lying beside the most exquisite cadaver,
And I started to fantasize over her hired limbs,
Her sad beauty, and which my desire held momentarily, hostage.
Let me attempt to evoke her native majesty,
Her vigorous look and her armed grace,
Beneath her hair worn like a perfumed helmet,
And which the memory of love revives.
I feverishly wished to kiss her noble body,
From the tips of her feet right up to the black tresses on her head,
I imagined the rich treasure of her caresses.
If ever, one night, with a tear provoked without much effort,
You could only, oh Queen of delicious cruelty,
Obscure the splendour from your cold lips...
Here we have the supplicant Baudelaire again, kissing the very feet of his Cruel Goddess. It is the stuff now of Female Domination and it is this constant flipping from Sadistic Master, scorning his prize, or adapting the role of the submissive male. In the parlance of S&M today, the poet would probably be known as a switch, alternating roles from Master to Servant and again this is but another phenomenologically quality of Les Fleurs Du Mal. What interests Baudelaire the poet, and there is no other Baudelaire, is the completion of his project, the almost scientific methodology of the phenomenologist. He wants to show the human heart laid bare, and in all its various permutations, and in order to do this he will be both the hammer and the anvil. The complete man. A fabricated being. Almost, an abstraction.