A Beatrice

A poem by Charles Baudelaire

One day in ashy, cindery terrains,
As I meandered, making my complaint
To nature, slowly sharpening the knife
Of thought against the whetstone of my heart,
In plainest day I saw around my head
A lowering cloud as weighty as a storm,
Which bore within a vicious demon throng
Who showed themselves as cruel and curious dwarfs.
Disdainfully they circled and observed
And, as a madman draws a crowd to jokes,
I heard them laugh and whisper each to each,
Giving their telling nudges and their winks:
'Now is the time to roast this comic sketch,
This shadow-Hamlet, who takes the pose
The indecisive stare and straying hair.
A pity, isn't it, to see this fraud,
This posturer, this actor on relief?
Because he plays his role with some slight art
He thinks his shabby whining entertains
The eagles, and the insects, brooks and flowers.
Even to us, who wrote these trite charades,
He mouths the speeches of his paltry show.'

I had authority (my giant pride
Can easily disperse that chattering rout)
And simply could have turned my sovereign head,
Had I not seen, among that filthy troupe,
O crime that did not make the sun to swerve!
My heart's bright queen, she of the matchless gaze,
Who laughed with those who fed on my distress,
And stroked them more than once with low caress.

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