Condemned Women

A poem by Charles Baudelaire

Like pensive cattle lying on the sands
They gaze upon the endless seas, until
Feet grope for feet, and hands close over hands,
In languid sweetness or with quivering chill.

Some, with full hearts from long and private talk
In deep groves, where the brooks will chide and tease,
Spell out the love of fretful girlishness,
Carving the fresh green wood of tender trees.

Others, like sisters, walk with stately pace
Where apparitions live in craggy piles,
Where rose like lava for St Anthony
The naked, purple breasts of his great trial.

Some there may be, by sinking resin glow,
Deep in a cave where ancient pagans met,
Who call to help for fevers in a rage,
o Bacchus, silencer of all regret!

And others, with a taste for monkish cloaks,
Who, secreting a lash beneath the cloth,
Within the woods, through solitary nights,
Mingle with tears of pain their passion's froth.

O maidens, demons, monsters - martyrs all,
Spirits disdainful of reality,
Satyrs and seekers of the infinite
With rain of tears or cries of ecstasy,

You whom my soul has followed to your hell,
Poor sisters, let me pity and approve
For all your leaden griefs, for slake less thirsts,
And for your hearts, great urns that ache with love!

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