Charles Baudelaire

(9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867 / Paris)

Avec ses vêtements ondoyants et nacrés (With Waving Opalescense In Her Gown)


Avec ses vêtements ondoyants et nacrés,
Même quand elle marche on croirait qu'elle danse,
Comme ces longs serpents que les jongleurs sacrés
Au bout de leurs bâtons agitent en cadence.

Comme le sable morne et l'azur des déserts,
Insensibles tous deux à l'humaine souffrance
Comme les longs réseaux de la houle des mers
Elle se développe avec indifférence.

Ses yeux polis sont faits de minéraux charmants,
Et dans cette nature étrange et symbolique
Où l'ange inviolé se mêle au sphinx antique,

Où tout n'est qu'or, acier, lumière et diamants,
Resplendit à jamais, comme un astre inutile,
La froide majesté de la femme stérile.

With Her Pearly, Undulating Dresses

With her pearly, undulating dresses,
Even when she's walking, she seems to be dancing
Like those long snakes which the holy fakirs
Set swaying in cadence on the end of their staffs.

Like the dull sand and the blue of deserts,
Both of them unfeeling toward human suffering,
Like the long web of the ocean's billows,
She unfurls herself with unconcern.

Her glossy eyes are made of charming minerals
And in that nature, symbolic and strange,
Where pure angel is united with ancient sphinx,

Where everything is gold, steel, light and diamonds,
There glitters forever, like a useless star,
The frigid majesty of the sterile woman.


— Translated by William Aggeler

With Waving Opalescence in Her Gown

With waving opalescence in her gown,
Even when she walks along, you think she's dancing.
Like those long snakes which charmers, while entrancing,
Wave with their wands, in cadence, up and down.

Like the sad sands of deserts and their skies,
By human sufferings untouched and free,
Or like the surfy curtains of the sea,
She flaunts a cold indifference. Her eyes

Are made of charming minerals well-burnished.
Her nature, both by sphynx and angel furnished,
Is old, intact, symbolic, and bizarre:

She seems, made all of gems, steel, light, and gold,
In barrenness, majestic, hard, and cold,
To blaze forever, like a useless star.


— Translated by Roy Campbell

Avec ses vêtements ondoyants et nacrés

with all her undulant pearly draperies,
she moves in measures lovelier than a dance,
as in the fakirs' Indian sorceries
tall cobras 'neath a moving rod advance

like drear Sahara's sand or azure skies,
insentient both to human suffering,
like the long lacy nets the surges bring,
her slow indifferent length she amplifies.

her eyes are made from agates polished bright,
and in that strange symbolic soul which links
the inviolate angel and the fabled sphynx,

where all is gold, steel, diamonds and light,
glitters forever, starlike, far, inhuman,
the regal coldness of the sterile woman.


— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks

Sonnet


With her dresses undulating, pearly,
Even walking one would think her dancing,
Like those long serpents which holy charmers
Move in harmony at the tips of their batons.

Like the dull sand and the blue of deserts,
Unmoved alike by human pain,
Like the long fabric of the swell of seas,
She unfolds herself with indifference.

Her polished eyes are of delicious metals,
And in this strange, symbolic nature
Where virgin angel meets with ancient sphinx,

Where all is only gold and steel and light and diamonds,
There shines for ever, like a useless star,
The cold majesty of the sterile woman.


— Translated by Geoffrey Wagner

Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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