A Carcass

A poem by Charles Baudelaire

Remember, my love, the object we saw
That beautiful morning in June:
By a bend in the path a carcass reclined
On a bed sown with pebbles and stones;

Her legs were spread out like a lecherous whore,
Sweating out poisonous fumes,
Who opened in slick invitational style
Her stinking and festering womb.

The sun on this rottenness focused its rays
To cook the cadaver till done,
And render to Nature a hundredfold gift
Of all she'd united in one.

And the sky cast an eye on this marvellous meat
As over the flowers in bloom.
The stench was so wretched that there on the grass
You nearly collapsed in a swoon.

The flies buzzed and droned on these bowels of filth
Where an army of maggots arose,
Which flowed with a liquid and thickening stream
On the animate rags of her clothes.

And it rose and it fell, and pulsed like a wave,
Rushing and bubbling with health.
One could say that this carcass, blown with vague breath,
Lived in increasing itself.

And this whole teeming world made a musical sound
Like babbling brooks and the breeze,
Or the grain that a man with a winnowing-fan
Turns with a rhythmical ease.

The shapes wore away as if only a dream
Like a sketch that is left on the page
Which the artist forgot and can only complete
On the canvas, with memory's aid.

From back in the rocks, a pitiful bitch
Eyed us with angry distaste,
Awaiting the moment to snatch from the bones
The morsel she'd dropped in her haste.

And you, in your turn, will be rotten as this:
Horrible, filthy, undone,
O sun of my nature and star of my eyes,
My passion, my angel in one!

Yes, such will you be, o regent of grace,
After the rites have been read,
Under the weeds, under blossoming grass
As you moulder with bones of the dead.

Ah then, o my beauty, explain to the worms
Who cherish your body so tine,
That I am the keeper for corpses of love
Of the form, and the essence divine!

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