To Francesca, my praises: A Baudelaire Translation

This exquisite poem by Baudelaire was not written in French, as most of his poems are, but in Latin. It is influenced by the great Latin hymns of the Middle Ages, many of them written in rhyme. This translation (originally published here in October 2010) attempts to imitate the rhyme scheme and musicality of Baudelaire’s hymn to his sweetheart, an unknown young lady he worshipped from afar in the tradition of Dante and Petrarch.

Translated  by Lasha Darkmoon


See, I practise a new art
As my angel plays her part
In the desert of my heart.

Now be crowned with garlands gay
Lovely woman fair and fey
Who washes all my sins away.

Let me drink oblivion from
Your sweet mouth as I succumb
To your kisses as they come!

When I trod the path of shame,
When I did things you might blame—
Then, my angel, then you came!

See, my star of shining light,
In the wreck of my soul’s night,
On your altar fall in flight. 

Source of every good and sum
Of eternal youth, ah come
Let me sing who now plays dumb!

What was foul, you burnt to bits.
That
was crooked: now it fits.
My will was weak: you strengthened it.

In my hunger, you the inn;
In the dark, my lamp; and in
Your chaste arms, an end to sin.

Add your strength to mine and give
Some sweeter scented additive:
O balm of Gilead, in me live!

Let your chastity confound
My lustful loins and there abound,
Strew your holy water round.

O Lady, be my Golden Bowl!—
My sacred bread, my wine, my soul!—
My fleeting youth, my Beautiful!

—  Baudelaire’s Franciscae mea laudes
f
reely translated from the Latin.

9 thoughts to “To Francesca, my praises: A Baudelaire Translation”

  1. The “free translation” from Latin is, itself, a beauty. I doubt the Latin would have flowed so smoothly. (I cannot read it, but only assume from the bit I DO remember…)

    The translator is a poet, indeed! 🙂🙂

  2. @ Gilbert Huntly

    Yes, truly beautiful.

    And your own poems are pretty good also, showing a distinctly romantic streak and a liking for traditional verse in rhyme in meter, before the arrival of the barbarians with their so called “free verse” — which, according to Robert Frost, was “like playing tennis without the net”.

  3. @ ADMIN

    re “The Realist”

    I suggest you block all future posts from this hateful troll. None of his comments have the slightest merit. All his posts reek of petty spite and malice. He never has a good word to say about this website, the sour-faced sonofabitch.

  4. @ Gilbert Huntly
    @ Saki

    Lasha Darlmoon’s translation of the original Latin version by Baudelaire is not strictly accurate. That’s OK for two reasons:

    (1) She describes her translation as a “free translation”, indicating that linguistic accuracy is not her main concern. Her main concern is “musicality”, i,e. capturing the beautiful sound effects of the original through rhyme and meter. Which she manages to do exceptionally well.

    (2) A linguistically accurate version of the original Latin version is impossible in rhyme and meter; it would only be possible in pedestrian prose. And it would have no magic at all, no musicality. It would be dead and dry and soulless.

    However inaccurate Lasha Darkmoon’s “musical” version is, Baudelaire would have preferred it to any more accurate version that was unmusical, insipid and boring.

    — Latin Teacher and Translator

    1. Here is Baudelaire’s original Latin version of the poem which I have often given to my students of medieval and Late Latin to translate:

      FRANCISCAE MEAE LAUDES

      Novis te cantabo chordis,
      O novelletum quod ludis
      In solitudine cordis.

      Esto sertis implicata,
      Ô femina delicata
      Per quam solvuntur peccata!

      Sicut beneficum Lethe,
      Hauriam oscula de te,
      Quae imbuta es magnete.

      Quum vitiorum tempegtas
      Turbabat omnes semitas,
      Apparuisti, Deitas,

      Velut stella salutaris
      In naufragiis amaris…..
      Suspendam cor tuis aris!

      Piscina plena virtutis,
      Fons æternæ juventutis
      Labris vocem redde mutis!

      Quod erat spurcum, cremasti;
      Quod rudius, exaequasti;
      Quod debile, confirmasti.

      In fame mea taberna
      In nocte mea lucerna,
      Recte me semper guberna.

      Adde nunc vires viribus,
      Dulce balneum suavibus
      Unguentatum odoribus!

      Meos circa lumbos mica,
      O castitatis lorica,
      Aqua tincta seraphica;

      Patera gemmis corusca,
      Panis salsus, mollis esca,
      Divinum vinum, Francisca!

      — Charles Baudelaire

    2. That’s what I was trying to say, Latin Teacher! Thanks for the clarification! 🙂😉
      (I only took Latin in high school because it was required for college admission.)
      Lasha took this piece and made it POETRY.

      1. Three years of Latin taught me:
        “Et tu, Brute?” “No, man…. I ain’t et nuttin’ yet.” 🙂

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