The Mask

A poem by Charles Baudelaire

Allegorical Statue in the Style of the Renaissance

for Ernest Christophe, sculptor

Let us observe this prize, of Tuscan charm;
In how the muscles of the body flow
Those holy sisters, Grace and Strength, abound.
This woman, this extraordinary piece,
Divinely robust, admirably slim,
Was made to be enthroned on sumptuous beds
As entertainment for a pope or prince.

Also, observe the fine voluptuous smile
Where Self-conceit parades its ecstasy;
This long, sly, languorous and mocking gaze;
This dainty visage, with its filmy veil,
Each trait of which cries out triumphantly,
'Pleasure invites Me, and I wear Love's crown!'
In this creation of such majesty
Excitement flows from her gentility!
Let us approach and look from every side!

O blasphemy of art! fatal surprise!
This woman fashioned to embody bliss
Is at the top a monster with two heads!

But no! it's just a mask, a trick design,
This visage lit by an exquisite air,
And look, see here how cruelly it is clenched,
The undissembling face of the true head,
Turned to the shelter of the face that lies.
O beauty, how I pity you! the great
Stream of your tears ends in my anxious heart;
Your lie transports me, and my soul drinks up
The seas brought forth by Sorrow from your eyes!

But what has made her cry? A beauty who
Could have all mankind conquered at her feet,
What secret pain gnaws at her hardy tlank?

The reason, fool, she cries is that she's lived!
And that she lives! But what she most deplores,
What makes her tremble even to her knees,
Is that tomorrow she'll be living still!
Tomorrow, every day! - And so will we!

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