Translated from the French
by Lasha Darkmoon
LD: In August 1857, less than two months after Charles Baudelaire published Les Fleurs du Mal (‘The Flowers of Evil’), a French court banned six poems from its contents: Lesbos, Femmes damnés, Le Léthé, À celle qui est trop gaie, Les Bijoux, and Les Métamorphoses du Vampire. The poem below, though it also featured an erotic vampire, was so well written that the censors decided not to ban it; though it was thought that it might have a corrupting effect on susceptible young men— if not women with lesbian tendencies. The femme fatale described in the poem was Baudelaire’s mistress, Jeanne Duval, an actress and dancer of mixed French and black African ancestry. A sex addict who frequently visited brothels, Baudelaire was completely bewitched by her. Here is a sketch of this temptress by Baudelaire.
You, deadlier than a dagger thrust,
Who into my sick heart have come!
You, sleek and lethal in your lust,
Who like a thousand demons swarm
Into my mind, where you have found
Your bed of sin and your domain—
Bitch! vile bitch! to you I’m bound
As is the convict to his chain!
As is the gambler to his dice,
As is the drunkard to his bowl,
As is the carcase to its lice—
Incarnate bitch! bitch without soul!
I begged the knife to put an end
To all my pain . . . poison to pour
Its giddy death into my veins,
Yielding the peace I so longed for!
Alas! these two, they sneered at me,
Both poison and the knife so rude:
“You have no right to be set free
From your accursèd servitude!
Fool! if somehow we could contrive
To free you from your wretched pain,
Your kisses would restore to life
Your Vampire’s rotting corpse again!”