A poem by Charles Baudelaire

Once, once only, sweet and lovable woman,
you leant your smooth arm on mine
(that memory has never faded a moment
from the shadowy depths of my mind):

it was late: the full moon spread its light
like a freshly minted disc,
and like a river, the solemnity of night
flowed over sleeping Paris.

Along the houses, under carriage gates,
cats crept past furtively,
ears pricked, or else like familiar shades,
accompanied us slowly.

Suddenly, in our easy intimacy,
that flower of the pale light,
from you, rich, sonorous instrument, eternally
quivering gaily, bright,

from you, clear and joyous as a fanfare
in the glittering dawn
a strange, plaintive sigh escaped
a faltering tone

as from some stunted child, detestable, sullen, foul,
whose family in shame
hide it for years, to conceal it from the world
in the cellar’s dark cave.

My poor angel, that harsh voice of yours cried:
‘That nothing on earth is certain,
and however carefully it’s disguised,
human selfishness rips the curtain:

it’s a hard life being a lovely woman,
it’s the banal occupation
of a cold, crazed dancer who summons
the mechanical smile’s occasion:

it’s stupid to build on the mortal heart:
everything shatters, love and beauty,
till Oblivion hurls them into its cart,
and returns them to Eternity!’

I’ve often recalled that enchanted silence,
its moon, and its languor: all
of that dreadful whispered confidence
in the heart’s confessional.

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