Charles Baudelaire

(9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867 / Paris)

La Muse Vénale (The Venal Muse) - Poem by Charles Baudelaire

Ô muse de mon coeur, amante des palais,
Auras-tu, quand Janvier lâchera ses Borées,
Durant les noirs ennuis des neigeuses soirées,
Un tison pour chauffer tes deux pieds violets?

Ranimeras-tu donc tes épaules marbrées
Aux nocturnes rayons qui percent les volets?
Sentant ta bourse à sec autant que ton palais
Récolteras-tu l'or des voûtes azurées?

II te faut, pour gagner ton pain de chaque soir,
Comme un enfant de choeur, jouer de l'encensoir,
Chanter des Te Deum auxquels tu ne crois guère,

Ou, saltimbanque à jeun, étaler tes appas
Et ton rire trempé de pleurs qu'on ne voit pas,
Pour faire épanouir la rate du vulgaire.


The Venal Muse

Muse of my heart, you who love palaces,
When January frees his north winds, will you have,
During the black ennui of snowy evenings,
An ember to warm your two feet blue with cold?

Will you bring the warmth back to your mottled shoulders,
With the nocturnal beams that pass through the shutters?
Knowing that your purse is as dry as your palate,
Will you harvest the gold of the blue, vaulted sky?

To earn your daily bread you are obliged
To swing the censer like an altar boy,
And to sing Te Deums in which you don't believe,

Or, hungry mountebank, to put up for sale your charm,
Your laughter wet with tears which people do not see,
To make the vulgar herd shake with laughter.


— Translated by William Aggeler


The Venal Muse

Muse of my heart, of palaces the lover,
Where will you, when the blast of winter blows
In the black boredom of snowed lights, discover
A glowing brand to warm your violet toes?

How will you there revive your marbled skin
At the chill rays your shutters then disperse?
The gold of azure heavens will you win
When empty are your palate and your purse?

You'll need each evening, then, to earn your bread,
As choirboys swinging censers that are dead
Who sing Te Deums which they disbelieve:

Or, fasting pierrette, trade your loveliness
And laughter, soaked in tears that none can guess,
The boredom of the vulgar to relieve.


— Translated by Roy Campbell


The Venal Muse

Lover of palaces, Muse of my heart, O sweet,
When hailstones fly from January's frosty sling,
On snowy nights amid black ennui, who shall bring
A cheery log to thaw your violet chill feet?
Shall you warm your wan mottled shoulder with the wing
Of bleak nocturnal beams that soar from the dank street?
Knowing you have no coin in purse nor bread to eat,
Shall you rake gold from blue arched skies for harvesting?

To earn your daily bread as the dense nights grow denser,
Shall you play acolyte and blithely swing your censer,
Chanting faithless Te Deums; or a moment after,
A famished mountebank, sell the charmed mysteries
Of laughter bathed in tears that no man ever sees
To rouse the rabble herd to fits of obscene laughter?


— Translated by Jacques LeClercq


The Mercenary Muse

Muse of my heart, so fond of palaces, reply:
When January sends those blizzards wild and white,
Shall you have any fire at all to huddle by,
Chafing your violet feet in the black snowy night?

Think: when the moon shines through the window, shall you try
To thaw your marble shoulders in her square of light?
Think: when your purse is empty and your palate dry,
Can you from the starred heaven snatch all the gold in sight?

No, no; if you would earn your bread, you have no choice
But to become a choir-boy, and chant in a loud voice
Te Deums you have no faith in, and swing your censer high;

Or be a mountebank, employing all your art —
Yes, on an empty stomach and with an anguished heart —
To chase the boredom of the liverish gallery.


— Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay


La Muse vénale

o Muse I love, whom palaces delight,
when 'round thy door the blasts of winter cry,
wilt have, while snowy eves in boredom die,
one ember left for feet all freezing white?

wilt warm thy cold blue shoulders in the light
the stars impart through shutters left awry?
— or climb, with hungry mouth and purse, the sky
to glean the gold from azure vaults of night?

thou must, to earn thy daily bread, employ
a well-swung censer, like a choir-boy,
and chant Te Deum from a heart unstirred,

or, starving clown, lay bare thy loveliness
and laugh through tears thou darest not confess,
to rouse the bilious humour of the herd.


— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks


The Venal Muse

O muse of my heart, lover of palaces,
Will you bring, when January lets loose its sleet
And its black evenings without solace,
An ember to warm my violet feet?
What will revive your bruised shoulders,
The nocturnal rays that pierce the shutters?
When you cannot feel your palace, just your empty billfold,
How will you harvest the gold of azure vaults and gutters?

You should, to earn your bread today
Like a choir boy with a censer to wave,
Sings hymns with feeling but without belief.

Or, a starving rip-off artist, selling your charm
And your laughter shades the tears so no one sees the harm
In bringing to bloom an ordinary rat, a vulgar thief.


Translated by William A. Sigler

The Mercenary Muse

O Muse of my heart, votary of palaces,
Shall you, when January looses its boreal winds,
Have any firebrand to warm your violet feet
In the black boredoms of snowy evenings?

Shall you revive your marble shoulders
By the gleams of night that stab the shutters?
And, feeling your purse as empty as your palace,
Will you reap the gold of azure skies?

To win your evening bread you need,
Like a choir-boy, to play with the censer,
To chant the Te Deums you scarcely believe in,

Or, famished vagabond, expose your charms
And your laughter soaked in crying that is not seen,
In order to dispel the spleen of the people.


— Translated by Geoffrey Wagner


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010



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