Charles Baudelaire

(9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867 / Paris)

The Albatross


Often to pass the time on board, the crew
will catch an albatross, one of those big birds
which nonchalently chaperone a ship
across the bitter fathoms of the sea.

Tied to the deck, this sovereign of space,
as if embarrassed by its clumsiness,
pitiably lets its great white wings
drag at its sides like a pair of unshipped oars.

How weak and awkward, even comical
this traveller but lately so adoit -
one deckhand sticks a pipestem in its beak,
another mocks the cripple that once flew!

The Poet is like this monarch of the clouds
riding the storm above the marksman's range;
exiled on the ground, hooted and jeered,
he cannot walk because of his great wings.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Sunday, April 03, 2011

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  • Rookie Theresa Minu Dominic (6/1/2012 4:33:00 AM)

    This is a not the best translation. There is a better one. I think it's by James Mcgowan.

    Often, when bored, the sailors of the crew
    Trap albatross, the great birds of the seas,
    Mild trave11ers escorting in the blue
    Ships gliding on the ocean's mysteries.

    And when the sailors have them on the planks,
    Hurt and distraught, these kings of a11 outdoors
    Piteously let trail along their flanks
    Their great white wings, dragging like useless oars.

    This voyager, how comical and weak!
    Once handsome, how unseemly and inept!
    One sailor pokes a pipe into his beak,
    Another mocks the flier's hobbled step.

    The Poet is a kinsman in the clouds
    Who scoffs at archers, loves a stormy day;
    But on the ground, among the hooting crowds,
    He cannot walk, his wings are in the way. (Report) Reply

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