To a Passing Stranger, by Charles Baudelaire (trans. Darkmoon)

The deafening traffic roared round me in the street.
Tall, slim, in full mourning, noble in her
grief, a woman passed by, with one stately hand
lifting and swinging the rich hem of her gown:

Swiftfooted, aristocratic, statuesque.
As for me, like a maniac possessed, I drank
from her eye…livid sky, where tempests take shape,
the sweetness that enthrals, the pleasure that kills!

A lightening flash . . . then night! Lovely passerby,
whose glance has suddenly given me new life,
will I see you again only in Eternity?

Elsewhere—far from here! too late! perhaps never!
Where you flee, where I go, neither of us knows—
O you whom I might have loved, O you who knew it!

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2 thoughts on “To a Passing Stranger, by Charles Baudelaire (trans. Darkmoon)

  1. I’m glad you did this very literal translation of Baudelaire’s poem. It’s almost a word-for-word rendition of the original. Here is Roy Campbell trying to do it in rhyme:

    TO A PASSER BY

    The deafening street roared on. Full, slim, and grand
    In mourning and majestic grief, passed down
    A woman, lifting with a stately hand
    And swaying the black borders of her gown;

    Noble and swift, her leg with statues matching;
    I drank, convulsed, out of her pensive eye,
    A livid sky where hurricanes were hatching,
    Sweetness that charms, and joy that makes one die.

    A lighting-flash — then darkness! Fleeting chance
    Whose look was my rebirth — a single glance!
    Through endless time shall I not meet with you?

    Far off! too late! or never! — I not knowing
    Who you may be, nor you where I am going —
    You, whom I might have loved, who know it too!

    — Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (1952)

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