A Rotting Carcase

A poem by Charles Baudelaire

My soul, do you remember the object we saw
on what was a fine summer’s day:
at the path’s far corner, a shameful corpse
on the gravel-bed, darkly lay,

legs in the air, like a lecherous woman,
burning and oozing with poisons,
revealing, with nonchalance, cynicism,
the belly ripe with its exhalations.

The sun shone down on that rot and mould,
as if to grill it completely,
and render to Nature a hundredfold
what she’d once joined so sweetly:

and the sky gazed at that noble carcass,
like a flower, now blossoming.
The stench was so great, that there, on the grass,
you almost considered fainting.

The flies buzzed away on its putrid belly,
from which black battalions slid,
larvae, that flowed in thickening liquid
the length of those seething shreds.

All of the thing rose and fell like a wave,
surging and glittering:
you’d have said the corpse, swollen with vague
breath, multiplied, was living.

And that ‘world’ gave off a strange music,
like the wind, or the flowing river,
or the grain, tossed and turned with a rhythmic
motion, by the winnower.

Its shape was vanishing, no more than a dream,
a slowly-formed rough sketch
on forgotten canvas, the artist’s gleam
of memory alone perfects.

From behind the rocks a restless bitch
glared with an angry eye,
judging the right moment to snatch
some morsel she’d passed by.

And yet you too will resemble that ordure,
that terrible corruption,
star of my eyes, sun of my nature,
my angel, and my passion!

Yes! Such you’ll become, o queen of grace,
after the final sacraments,
when you go under the flowering grass
to rot among the skeletons.

O my beauty! Tell the worms, then, as
with kisses they eat you away,
how I preserved the form, divine essence
of my loves in their decay!

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