Femme Fatale : Two French Poems


Both these short poems, translated from the French by Lasha Darkmoon, depict an identical romantic situation: a brief encounter with a beautiful woman.

The poet is instantly smitten by a mysterious female passing by in the street or some other public place.  He gets a fleeting glimpse of this enchanting creature . . .  and then she is suddenly gone, never to be seen again.

The first poem is by early French Romantic Gerard de Nerval; the second is by his younger contemporary Charles Baudelaire, author of the notoriously decadent Fleurs du Mal (1857).

1.  The Girl in the Luxembourg Gardens

by Gerard de Nerval (pictured)

This lovely young girl, she glided by
With footsteps firm and strong: 
A flower in her hand held high
And on her lips, a song.

The only human being to light
The darkness in my heart.
Her one bright look lit up my night—
Ah, what bewitching art!

But no! my youth long since lies dead.
Farewell, girl of my dreams!
Rare scent . . . magic . . . sweet music fled!—
My happiness too, it seems.

—   §   —

2.  Lovely  Passerby

by Charles Baudelaire (pictured)

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;
Swift-footed, 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!