The Beacons

A poem by Charles Baudelaire


Ubens, oblivious garden of indolence,
Pillow of cool flesh where no man dreams of love,
Where life flows forth in troubled opulence,
As airs in heaven and seas in ocean move.

Leonard Da Vinci, sombre and fathomless glass,
Where lovely angels with calm lips that smile,
Heavy with mystery, in the shadow pass,
Among the ice and pines that guard some isle.

Rembrandt, sad hospital that a murmuring fills,
Where one tall crucifix hangs on the walls,
Where every tear-drowned prayer some woe distils,
And one cold, wintry ray obliquely falls.

Strong Michelangelo, a vague far place
Where mingle Christs with pagan Hercules;
Thin phantoms of the great through twilight pace,
And tear their shroud with clenched hands void of ease.

The fighter's anger, the faun's impudence,
Thou makest of all these a lovely thing;
Proud heart, sick body, mind's magnificence:
Puget, the convict's melancholy king.

Watteau, the carnival of illustrious hearts,
Fluttering like moths upon the wings of chance;
Bright lustres light the silk that flames and darts,
And pour down folly on the whirling dance.

Goya, a nightmare full of things unknown;
The fœtus witches broil on Sabbath night;
Old women at the mirror; children lone
Who tempt old demons with their limbs delight.

Deacroix, lake of blood ill angels haunt,
Where ever-green, o'ershadowing woods arise;
Under the surly heaven strange fanfares chaunt
And pass, like one of Weber's strangled sighs.

And malediction, blasphemy and groan,
Ecstasies, cries, Te Deums, and tears of brine,
Are echoes through a thousand labyrinths flown;
For mortal hearts an opiate divine;

A shout cried by a thousand sentinels,
An order from a thousand bugles tossed,
A beacon o'er a thousand citadels,
A call to huntsmen in deep woodlands lost.

It is the mightiest witness that could rise
To prove our dignity, O Lord, to Thee;
This sob that rolls from age to age, and dies
Upon the verge of Thy Eternity!

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