THE CAT: An ‘Erotic’ Poem by Charles Baudelaire *

Translated from the French
by Lasha Darkmoon

[LD] The poem is ostensibly about a cat.  In actual fact, it is about Baudelaire’s dusky mulatto mistress, Jeanne Duval,  a feline beauty with whom the French poet remained totally obsessed for roughly 20 years. He is said to have loved his half-French half-Haitian mistress more than any other woman in his life, apart from his mother who always came first. 

‘The Cat’ was not one of Baudelaire’s six  “banned poems”. Its eroticism is veiled in double meanings.  Most people reading the poem would assume that the poet (pictured here) is talking about a cat, not a feline femme fatale.  Here is a painting of Baudelaire’s mistress by Manet — what he saw in her is a mystery, as she doesn’t seem particularly stunning  to me.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say—each man to his taste.

By today’s standards, even Baudelaire’s six banned poems are extraordinarily tame. When published in 1857 in Les Fleurs du Mal (‘Flowers of Evil’), during the height of the Victorian era, it was thought that these poems would have a corrupting effect on youth. The average reader here, it is hoped, will not be corrupted by my translation of “The Cat”. [LD]   

CAT  WOMAN  AND  CAT

“Queen of delicious domination!—
Are you a goddess in disguise?”

[1]

Just see her padding through my brain,
As if it were her furnished flat:
This frisky, fascinating Cat!
Were she to mew, the low-pitched strain

Of her voice, softer than softest sighs,
Would scarce be audible; but her
Purr’s the thing, her husky purr—
Her purr, that’s where her secret lies!

Her velvet voice, it filters down
Into the darkrooms of my brain;
It thrills me like a poetry line
Or liqueur that I love to drain.

It soothes my sorrows and it lulls
My soul to sleep with ecstasy.
To say the thing it wants to say,
It has no need for words at all.

My heart’s the perfect instrument
For her to play soft music on.
Her rich and vibrant undertone,
Her royal purr’s my ravishment.

The sound you make, mysterious Cat—
O noble Cat so strange of mood!—
Cat in whose breast dark angels brood!—
I’ve never heard a note like that!

[2]

From her proud pelt all golden brown
So sweet a fragrance flows, its balm
Soaks through me as I run my palm
Once up her silken flank, and down.

Familiar spirit at my side!—
Presiding judge and inspiration!—
Queen of delicious domination!—
Are you a goddess in disguise?

Now when my eyes draw back again,
Back from this kitty I adore,
To look within myself and pore
Upon the map of my own brain,

I look and see with wild surprise
Flash back at me from lucent pools
Two blazing lamps, two burning jewels—
The fire opals of her eyes!

22 thoughts to “THE CAT: An ‘Erotic’ Poem by Charles Baudelaire *”

  1. Beautifully translated! And very accurate too, on the whole, given that it isn’t easy to translate using the original rhyme and metre as LD does here — since she aims for musicality first and foremost.

    Unlike French, Italian and Spanish, English has far fewer words that rhyme. This makes rhyming translations much more difficult. For example, there’s no word in the English language that rhymes with “orange”.

    1. Saki –

      I saw your cry for help…. so I searched and found two words you can now use….

      Orange rhymes with ‘Blorenge’ (a mountain in Wales) and ‘sporange’ (a technical word for a sac where spores are made).

      An orange sporange was seen in Blorenge!! 🙂

  2. Quote : “The poem is ostensibly about a cat. In actual fact, it is about Baudelaire’s dusky mulatto mistress, Jeanne Duval, a feline beauty with whom the French poet remained totally obsessed for roughly 20 years. He is said to have loved his half-French half-Haitian mistress more than any other woman in his life…”

    I take it that this post to stir a debate about race mixing? Men seeking other races is quite common, Thomas Jefferson comes to mind. Why don’t Whites stick with Whites?

    People are often obsessed with other races, and there may be a genetic reason for this. I’ve seen first hand how crazy it can get, way back when I was serving in the USAF we went to South Korea, I think it was Kunsan AFB, and were billeted in an off base hotel. One of the crew members was a blond American cutie. The Korean men were absolutely smitten and falling all over themselves – even the manager sent flowers to her room. All the woman in Korea (and Japan) are all black haired. They never saw a blond apparently. I was alarmed and embarrassed.

    Needless to say almost everyone (save me) were busy at the brothels. I was a married Catholic man and would never betray my wife nor would I ever defile myself with a prostitute. The Korean prostitutes were underaged, like 14, because they age badly. By their mid twenties they are not cute anymore. So that is a little dirty secret of what our men in uniform ALL DO while over there serving their country. Servicemen have a saying what goes TDY stays TDY (temporary duty). Sexual mores are different out in the islands and in Asia and this underage girl problem is WAY WAY BIGGER than most people realize.

    So back to genetics. Why did the naked Hawaiian women swim out to Captain Cook’s ship and immediately engage in sex with those sailors? Reason? DNA. Women instinctively mate outside of the tribe to improve their genetics. The scientific reason was found in the San Diego t-shirt study. The so-called “sweaty t-shirt” genetic study of evolutionary psychology found that women prefer men the farthest from their own genes ostentially because it improves the disease resistance of her offspring. Women often “fall in love” with a man’s smell it is reported. This could of been the real reason why Baudelaire was obsessed – subconscious signals from chemical attraction!

    Also, a little off topic, I was researching today how many white people are in the world. It dawned on me this morning I had no idea how many White Europeans are actually on the planet. Whites are under attack, the race war is on, and I have no idea of who actually (or what defines) a white person. It’s complicated. Are we talking about European White, what about those Italians? What about those White Koreans and White Japanese? They have white skin. What exactly defines a “white” person and why don’t whites have a clearinghouse with this information. Look at how many Jewish organizations are set up to monitor their “race”.

    Do you know how many white people there are? I didn’t and I don’t remember anyone in our movement every throwing out a number. Usually Google gives you an answer. Nope, Goolag Ai doesn’t know. I spent an hour looking and finally found an answer on Quora (link below). Not sure if that number is accurate.

    https://www.quora.com/How-many-white-people-are-there-in-the-world

    here are the quoted outtakes from that article:

    “490 million White people in and around Europe”

    “The True White Population of the United States – 190,000,000”

    “The final number is 760 Million.”

    1. Yukon,

      In a review of Patrick J. Buchanan”s “The Death of the West” Erving L. Briggs wrote in part: “Not a single European country—save Moslem Albania—has a birth rate that will enable it to survive ….through this century. By 2050 1/10th of the world’s people will be of European descent.”

      It looks like at “760 million” true Whites, the ten percent mark has already been achieved long before 2050. The Death of the West was published in 2001.

      Through hammering into the skulls of whites about over population and the use of the contraception, the white race finds itself in a real pickle. The median age of whites is almost 50. Already, in many of the flesh pot cities in America white school students are a decided minority.

      Here’s the kicker. Five percent of present day world wide whites are female by any reasonable estimate. Less then half of that cohort are of child bearing age with many having only one child and many not any. So I put it to you. The chances of any whites being around by 2100, except for some specimens in some Chinese zoos, are slim to none.

      For those who are and have been paying attention, unless there is some miracle of divine intervention, this coming extinction of the white race is part of a carefully crafted plan worked by the eternal enemy of the white race. The stone-age third world invasion and infestation by disease of the white western world, are the shock troops (Islam), brought in for the kill, by this eternal enemy.

      And when the Aryan man and women are seem only in picture books and old film there will be this profound silence on the planet.

      (Notice how the so-called conservatives flap their gums, “legal immigration” this and “legal immigration” that. This is a subtle mind trick by the enemy of the white race. All third world invasion must stop now if there is any snowball chance in hell of the whites surviving past 2100 at the present rate of decline. TJ entertains the thought that the white race has already passed the point of no return. Why? Because if whites don’t do themselves with below replacement birth rates the growing populations of non-whites living among the whites will finish the devil’s work just like what is going on right now in the former white Civilization of South Africa.)

      Let’s hope that we whites don’t forget to turn out the lights when we exit this mortal plain. The party’s over.

      1. Although I like Pat Buchanan he never touches on the roles Jews had and have in The Death of The West. There were countless synagogues in Europe in the Middle Ages. Probably not one mosque.
        Pat knows the misdeeds of jews against Spain the Muslims attacked. Jews were instrumental in subjugating the Spaniards and other Europeans.

  3. I must confess, this poem by Beaudlaire strikes home for me. I once was obsessed with an “octoroon” woman, whose voice and touch soothed me no end! After being told by my wife to “get a mistress”, I met this woman, and instantly was smitten. (My wife wasn’t interested in romantic coupling after she gave birth to our daughter, and she was raised knowing her own father kept a mistress in Washington.)
    The woman was very passionate, and told me she “loved” me like no other. I reciprocated, and went after romance for which I was starved. She was exotic, well-mannered, and sexually insatiable. It ended when she threatened to shoot me for “cheating” (which she imagined). I knew she’d do it, too! 😁

    1. It seems to me that she told me one of her great-grandmothers was a negress. People have eight great grandparents, hence “octoroon”. I wrote a poem about her, too, which I showed Lasha. Lasha didn’t think it worthy to publish….

      1. @ Gilbert Huntly

        Why not share this poem with us here in the Comment section? I’d love to read it! Admin won’t mind, because Admin has repeatedly said that whenever poems are published on this site we are more than welcome to submit our own poems for peer approval. I’m sure your poem about this octoroon femme fatale will be of tremendous interest to us all and will give us an insight into your soul.

        How dark was this woman exactly? An octoroon could easily pass as white. I’ve known Eurasians with gorgeous goldenbrown skins.

        It’s funny how attitudes toward skin color change. In past times a goldenbrown sun tan was despised because only the lower classes were tanned from working out of doors in the fields. High class ladies made a point of avoiding sunlight, staying indoors and going outside only with parasols. Paleness went with aristocracy. The poet Byron tried to cultivate his “interesting pallor” by drinking vinegar. Anaemia was a fashionable disease!

        Nowadays tans are all the rage because it means you have lots of money and leisure to go on cruises and take foreign holidays in sunny lands.

        Anyway, why not share your Octoroon Lady Poem with us? I for one would love to read it.

        — Sardonicus,
        Zen Buddhist Monastery,
        Osaka, Japan

      2. Hello, Sard. Maybe the poem was too personal. It was, for me, anyway. The woman resided near me, and we often rode and hiked together. Each of our houses had a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge, and we often watched the sunset while drinking wine in her hot tub on the cliff…. After I left her, she would send photographs of the sunset to make me think of her. I wrote this back to her, one morning:

        When I gaze upon the ridges to the west
        As men have done since ancient days of yore,
        I wonder if my thoughts and yours meet there,
        As they have done so many times, before…

        When I gaze upon Old Moon when he is full
        Or half his crescent face or smile I see,
        I wonder if his face you look upon,
        And sometimes think of me…

        When Old Sun smiles and fills the earth with warmth,
        Inspiring new beginnings into life,
        I wonder what beginnings might have been
        If you had been my wife?

        And so it goes, and so it is, at times
        When apart, in love, our mortal bodies be,
        I wonder if in love, at least, our thoughts are wed
        And while I think of you, you think of me.

        Sard, I went downstairs one morning to start breakfast for a woman I had in bed upstairs, and checked my email, and saw that my pretty octoroon had sent me another golden sunset picture from her house. So, I wrote this back, rather quickly. I meant it to be a nice gesture – but I suppose my hast was felt in the reading… 😉

      3. Thanks for sharing your poem with us, Gilbert. Very touching.
        Did your sexy octoroon lover return the favor
        by penning you a passionate response in rhyming verse? 🙂

      4. I had another woman with me because that is the best way to “get over” a broken heart – at least, I thought so at the time. 🙂

      5. Sardonicuys, whiter/lighter skin still is fashionable.
        “In many Native American communities, “Red-Black Cherokees” were denied acceptance into the tribe, while those with lighter skin were welcomed.”
        Don’t call me whitey, shudra.
        “My skin color was particularly concerning to my mother, since we were an upper-caste Brahmin family.”

  4. Srimad Bhagavatam 3.31.38

    “Just try to understand the mighty strength of My māyā in the shape of woman, who by the mere movement of her eyebrows can keep even the greatest conquerors of the world under her grip.”

  5. MB, yes, “as above so below” also has (at least)
    two meanings.

    Although Krishna is so beautiful that He can attract millions of Cupids and is therefore called Madana-mohana, “the attractor of Cupid,” Radharani can attract even Krishna. She is therefore called Madana-mohana-mohini—”the attractor of the attractor of Cupid.”

    1. As above so below?
      Is that not the slogan of Aleister Crowley and the satanists?
      Also Hermès Trismegistus and Pythagoras used it?

    2. hp
      One application of “As above so below” looks at 2 triangles. One pointing upward signifies “above”, one pointing downward “below”. Move the two together and you get the Star of David. My impression is that encircling this signifies a containment reflecting the “Great Cycle” and being(s) subjugated to it.

      Whereas the equivalent 3 sides of the 2 – Z’s forming the swastika are open-ended to suggest breaking out of the containment

      A “jew vs. Aryan” kinda thing

      1. BH, there’s a whole lot of suppressing not just this and that but the immensity of historical truth. Whenever the Jews talk about PAGAN temples, this means Vedic Hindu temples.

        Pharoahs architects were Vishnu maharshis (Vaishnavites), highly evolved seers. In the metal statue of IMOTHEP, you can see the U mark etched deeply on the arm.

        Calicut kings had the Dravidian emblem of the six pointed star, symbolizing Anahata Chakra, on the legs of their messenger hawks.

        6000 year old Lord Rama and Hanuman carvings in Silemania, Iraq.

        And on and on and on..

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