Charles Baudelaire

(9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867 / Paris)

Les Phares (The Beacons) - Poem by Charles Baudelaire

Rubens, fleuve d'oubli, jardin de la paresse,
Oreiller de chair fraîche où l'on ne peut aimer,
Mais où la vie afflue et s'agite sans cesse,
Comme l'air dans le ciel et la mer dans la mer;

Léonard de Vinci, miroir profond et sombre,
Où des anges charmants, avec un doux souris
Tout chargé de mystère, apparaissent à l'ombre
Des glaciers et des pins qui ferment leur pays;

Rembrandt, triste hôpital tout rempli de murmures,
Et d'un grand crucifix décoré seulement,
Où la prière en pleurs s'exhale des ordures,
Et d'un rayon d'hiver traversé brusquement;

Michel-Ange, lieu vague où l'on voit des Hercules
Se mêler à des Christs, et se lever tout droits
Des fantômes puissants qui dans les crépuscules
Déchirent leur suaire en étirant leurs doigts;

Colères de boxeur, impudences de faune,
Toi qui sus ramasser la beauté des goujats,
Grand coeur gonflé d'orgueil, homme débile et jaune,
Puget, mélancolique empereur des forçats;

Watteau, ce carnaval où bien des coeurs illustres,
Comme des papillons, errent en flamboyant,
Décors frais et légers éclairés par des lustres
Qui versent la folie à ce bal tournoyant;

Goya, cauchemar plein de choses inconnues,
De foetus qu'on fait cuire au milieu des sabbats,
De vieilles au miroir et d'enfants toutes nues,
Pour tenter les démons ajustant bien leurs bas;

Delacroix, lac de sang hanté des mauvais anges,
Ombragé par un bois de sapins toujours vert,
Où, sous un ciel chagrin, des fanfares étranges
Passent, comme un soupir étouffé de Weber;

Ces malédictions, ces blasphèmes, ces plaintes,
Ces extases, ces cris, ces pleurs, ces Te Deum,
Sont un écho redit par mille labyrinthes;
C'est pour les coeurs mortels un divin opium!

C'est un cri répété par mille sentinelles,
Un ordre renvoyé par mille porte-voix;
C'est un phare allumé sur mille citadelles,
Un appel de chasseurs perdus dans les grands bois!

Car c'est vraiment, Seigneur, le meilleur témoignage
Que nous puissions donner de notre dignité
Que cet ardent sanglot qui roule d'âge en âge
Et vient mourir au bord de votre éternité!

The Beacons

Rubens, river of oblivion, garden of indolence,
Pillow of cool flesh where one cannot love,
But where life moves and whirls incessantly
Like the air in the sky and the tide in the sea;

Leonardo, dark, unfathomable mirror,
In which charming angels, with sweet smiles
Full of mystery, appear in the shadow
Of the glaciers and pines that enclose their country;

Rembrandt, gloomy hospital filled with murmuring,
Ornamented only with a large crucifix,
Lit for a moment by a wintry sun,
Where from rot and ordure rise tearful prayers;

Angelo, shadowy place where Hercules' are seen
Mingling with Christs, and rising straight up,
Powerful phantoms, which in the twilights
Rend their winding-sheets with outstretched fingers;

Boxer's wrath, shamelessness of Fauns, you whose genius
Showed to us the beauty in a villain,
Great heart filled with pride, sickly, yellow man,
Puget, melancholy emperor of galley slaves;

Watteau, carnival where the loves of many famous hearts
Flutter capriciously like butterflies with gaudy wings;
Cool, airy settings where the candelabras' light
Touches with madness the couples whirling in the dance

Goya, nightmare full of unknown things,
Of fetuses roasted in the midst of witches' sabbaths,
Of old women at the mirror and of nude children,
Tightening their hose to tempt the demons;

Delacroix, lake of blood haunted by bad angels,
Shaded by a wood of fir-trees, ever green,
Where, under a gloomy sky, strange fanfares
Pass, like a stifled sigh from Weber;

These curses, these blasphemies, these lamentations,
These Te Deums, these ecstasies, these cries, these tears,
Are an echo repeated by a thousand labyrinths;
They are for mortal hearts a divine opium.

They are a cry passed on by a thousand sentinels,
An order re-echoed through a thousand megaphones;
They are a beacon lighted on a thousand citadels,
A call from hunters lost deep in the woods!

For truly, Lord, the clearest proofs
That we can give of our nobility,
Are these impassioned sobs that through the ages roll,
And die away upon the shore of your Eternity.


— Translated by William Aggeler

The Beacons

Rubens, the grove of case, Nepenthe's river
Couch of cool flesh, where Love may never be,
But where life ever flows and seems to quiver
As air in heaven, or, in the sea, the sea.

Da Vinci, dusky mirror and profound,
Where angels, smiling mystery, appear,
Shaded by pines and glaciers, that surround
And seem to shut their country in the rear.

Rembrandt, sad hospital of murmurs, where
Adorned alone by one great crucifix,
From offal-heaps exhales the weeping prayer
That winter shoots a sunbeam to transfix.

Vague region, Michelangelo, where Titans
Are mixed with Christs: and strong ghosts rise, in crowds
To stand bolt upright in the gloom that lightens,
With gristly talons tearing through their shrouds.

Rage of the boxer, mischief of the faun,
Extracting beauty out of blackguards' looks —
The heart how proud, the man how pinched and drawn —
Puget the mournful emperor of crooks!

Watteau, the carnival, where famous hearts
Go flitting by like butterflies that burn,
While through gay scenes each chandelier imparts
A madness to the dancers as they turn.

Goya's a nightmare full of things unguessed,
Of foeti stewed on nights of witches' revels.
Crones ogle mirrors; children scarcely dressed,
Adjust their hose to tantalise the devils.

A lake of gore where fallen angels dwell
Is Delacroix, by firwoods ever fair,
Where under fretful skies strange fanfares swell
Like Weber's sighs and heartbeats in the air.

These curses, blasphemies, and lamentations,
These ecstasies, tears, cries and soaring psalms —
Through endless mazes, their reverberations
Bring, to our mortal hearts, divinest balms.

A thousand sentinels repeat the cry.
A thousand trumpets echo. Beacon-tossed
A thousand summits flare it through the sky,
A call of hunters in the jungle lost.

And certainly this is the most sublime
Proof of our worth and value, Oh Divinity,
That this great sob rolls on through ageless time
To die upon the shores of your infinity.


— Translated by Roy Campbell

Les Phares


Rubens, great river of oblivion,
garden of ease, cool flesh no lovers crave,
but where the floods of life unceasing run,
like wind on wind or wave on ocean wave;

Da Vinci — deep and sombre looking-glass
enchanting angels haunt, with subtle smile
all mystery-charged, while shadows dark amass
and pines and ice-cliffs bound their prison-isle;

Rembrandt — a piteous murmuring hospital
where ordure streams in tears and orisons,
stripped to the crucifix on one bare wall
illumed by one chill dart from wintry suns;

vast desert void, — o Michael Angelo!
— where TItans mix with Christs, and twilight clouds
where mighty spectres rise up stark and slow
— whose opening fingers rend their mouldered shrouds;

the rage of boxers and the satyrs' lust
— thou who hast found a grace in toiling knaves,
great heart, in a poor bilious body thrust
— Puget, the gloomy king of galley-slaves;

Watteau — bright carnival, where courtly pairs,
like butterflies in satin, flit about;
flaming in misty groves 'neath resin-flares
which pour their madness on the whirling rout;

Goya, who in a nightmare-horde unfurls
hags boiling foetuses in witches' milk,
beldames before the glass and naked girls
for demon-lovers tightening hose of silk;

and Delacroix — dark lake of blood forlorn
'mid fadeless firs, where evil angels fare,
a sullen sky wherefrom a faery horn
floats, faint as Oberon's horn through muffling air;

these curses, blasphemies and these laments,
these ecstasies, cries, tears, hossanas from
a thousand caverns, form one echo, whence
— death-doomed, we draw a heavenly opium!

theirs is a blast a thousand sentinels
pass on with their trumpets in a thousand moods;
a torch upon a thousand citadels,
a hail from hunters lost in pathless woods!

for truly, 'tis the mightiest voice our souls
command, o Lord, to prove their worth to Thee:
this ardent sob which down the ages rolls
and dies against Thy verge, Eternity!


— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks

The Beacons

Reubens, river of forgetfulness, garden of sloth,
Pillow of wet flesh that one cannot love,
But where life throngs and seethes without cease
Like the air in the sky and the water in the sea.

Leonardo da Vinci, sinister mirror,
Where these charming angels with sweet smiles
Charged with mystery, appear in shadows
Of glaciers and pines that close off the country.

Rembrandt, sad hospital full of murmurs
Decorated only with a crucifix,
Where tearful prayers arise from filth
And a ray of winter light crosses brusquely.

Michelangelo, a wasteland where one sees Hercules
Mingling with Christ, and rising in a straight line
Powerful phantoms that in the twilight
Tear their shrouds with stretching fingers.

Rage of a boxer, impudence of a faun,
You who gather together the beauty of the boor,
Your big heart swelling with pride at man defective and yellow,
Puget, melancholy emperor of the poor.

Watteau, this carnival of illustrious hearts
Like butterflies, errant and flamboyant,
In the cool decor, with delicate lightning in the chandeliers
Crossing the madness of the twirling ball.

Goya, nightmare of unknown things,
Fetuses roasting on the spit,
Harridans in the mirror and naked children
Tempting demons by loosening their stockings.

Delacroix, haunted lake of blood and evil angels,
Shaded by evergreen forests of dark firs,
Where, under a grieving sky, strange fanfares
Pass, like a gasping breath of Weber.

These curses, these blasphemies, these moans,
These ecstasies, these tears, these cries of 'Te Deum'
Are an echo reiterated in a thousand mazes;
It is for mortal hearts a divine opium!

It is a cry repeated by a thousand sentinels,
An order returned by a thousand megaphones,
A beacon lighting a thousand citadels
A summons to hunters lost in the wide woods.

For truly, O Lord, what better testimony
Can we give to our dignity
Than this burning sob that rolls from age to age
And comes to die on the shore of Your eternity?


Translated by William A. Sigler


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010



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