To the Reader

A poem by Charles Baudelaire

Stupidity and error, avarice and vice,
possess our spirits, batten on our flesh,
we feed that fond remorse, our guest,
like ragged beggars nourishing their lice.


Our sins are mulish, our repentance vain:
we make certain our confessions pay,
we’ll happily retrace the muddied way,
thinking vile tears will wash away the stain.


Satan Trismegistes rocks the bewitched
Mind, endlessly, on evil’s pillow, till,
all the precious metal of our will’s
vaporised by that knowing alchemist.


The Devil pulls the strings that make us move!
We take delight in such disgusting things:
one step nearer Hell each new day brings
us, void of horror, to the stinking gloom.


We clutch at furtive pleasure as we pass,
like the debauchee whose lips are pressed
to some antique whore’s battered breast,
squeezing the rotten orange that we grasp.


Packed, and seething like a million worms,
a host of Demons riot in our brains,
and when we breathe, invisibly, Death drains
into our lungs, stream full of silent groans.
If poison, arson, knives, base desire,
haven’t yet embroidered deft designs
on the dull canvas of our pitiful lives
it’s only, alas, because our souls lack fire.


Among the jackals, bitches, panthers,
monkeys, scorpions, serpents, vultures,
that screech, howl, grunt, and crawl, ogres,
in the vile menagerie of our errors,


there’s one of uglier, nastier, fouler birth!
Without one wild gesture, one savage yell,
it would willingly send this world to hell,
and in one great yawn swallow up the earth:


it’s Boredom! in its eye’s an involuntary tear,
dreaming of scaffolds, as it smokes its hookah,
You know it, Reader, that fastidious monster,
hypocrite, Reader, my brother, and my peer!

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