The Carcass Poem by Charles Baudelaire

The Carcass

Rating: 3.0


Remember that object we saw, dear soul,
In the sweetness of a summer morn:
At a bend of the path a loathsome carrion
On a bed with pebbles strewn,

With legs raised like a lustful woman,
Burning and sweating poisons,
It spread open, nonchalant and scornful,
Its belly, ripe with exhalations.

The sun shone onto the rotting heap,
As if to bring it to the boil,
And tender a hundredfold to vast Nature
All that together she had joined;

And the sky watched that superb carcass
Like a flower blossom out.
The stench was so strong that on the grass
You thought you would pass out.

Flies hummed upon the putrid belly,
Whence larvae in black battalions spread
And like a heavy liquid flowed
Along the tatters deliquescing.

All together it unfurled, and rose like a wave
And bubbling it sprang forth;
One might have believed that, with a faint breath filled,
The body, multiplying, lived.

And this world gave out a strange music
Like of running water and of wind,
Or of grain in a winnow
Rhythmically shaken and tossed.

Form was erased and all but a vision,
A sketch slow to take shape
On a forgotten canvas, which the artist finishes
From memory alone.

Behind the rocks a fretting bitch
Looked at us with fierce mien
Anxious to retrieve from the corpse
A morsel that she had dropped.

Yet to this rot you shall be like,
To this horrid corruption,
Star of my eyes, sun of desire,
You, my angel and my passion!

Yes, such you shall be, you, queen of all graces,
After the last sacraments,
When you go beneath the grass and waxy flowers,
To mold among the skeletons.

Then, oh my beauty! You must tell the vermin,
As it eats you up with kisses,
That I have preserved the form and essence divine
Of my decayed loves.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Joseph 28 September 2021

Her legs were spread out like a lecherous , sweating out poisonous fumes, who opened in slick invitational style her stinking and festering womb. … this is a translation of the second verse by James McGowan (Oxford)

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Joseph 28 September 2021

The first line of this verse ends " lecherous " I apologise for the missing word.

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Matthew 11 September 2019

What was the carcass of?

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Morgan 09 December 2019

We went over this poem in a class and my teacher said it's a dead prostitute, but I don't know if that is 100% correct or not.

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Lucianne Fasolo 26 September 2007

I have read this poem in the Portuguese translation, and I read the original too (with some difficulty, lol) . Baudelaire must be turning in his grave now, because whoever translated The Carcass butchered the rhymes! It was all rhymed, no free verses there...

8 1 Reply
perez 22 June 2019

this may be 12 years late, but who cares? When you translate a poem, you should give more value to the content than the rhyme. If you would try to make it rhyme, the content would be modified a lot

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