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 Read More

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. 

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Hymn to Satan: A Baudelaire Translation

Baudelaire is a symbol as well as a symptom of the human sickness. This is what happens to a man who has lost his spiritual bearings and expects to find an artificial paradise in drugs, sex and Satanism.  

By CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
Translated from the French
by Lasha Darkmoon

Hymn to Satan

O you among all angels consummate,
God stripped of honor, God betrayed by fate,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

O Prince of exiles, you who suffered wrong,
Who still undaunted rise up ever strong,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

You, lord and master of the occult art,
Wise healer of the harrowed human heart,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

You who, through love, beneath malignant skies,
Give lepers their first taste of paradise,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

You who, in teaching girls to act like whores,
Bring them to rags and syphilitic sores,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

You who, on a tall building’s outer ledge,
Propel the sleepwalker toward the edge,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

You who, to soothe his soul, inspires man
To make the best gunpowder that he can,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

You who, with death, your darling in delusion,
Invented Hope—that beautiful illusion—
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

O refuge of all who in God’s angry eyes
Have failed the entrance test to paradise,
Satan, have pity on my long despair!

PRAYER

Glory and praise to thee, Satan on high
Who reigned in heaven once, yet vanquished lie
In deepest hell now—plunged in dreams and silence!
Grant that my soul rest one day in thy presence:
There where the Tree of Knowledge spreads its shade,
Building a brave new temple round your head.

Baudelaire’s ‘Hymn to Satan’, Two Translations

“La plus belle des ruses du diable
est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas.”

quote-the-devil-s-finest-trick-is-to-persuade-you-that-he-does-not-exist-charles-baudelaire-74-3-0311

EDITOR’S NOTE:  We offer below the French original of Baudelaire’s Les Litanies de Satan (‘Hymn to Satan’), followed by two translations of the poem, the first by William Aggeler and the second by Lasha Darkmoon. 

Skeptics who doubt the Devil’s real existence will obviously derive little satisfaction from reading a poem in praise of a non-existent person. They are therefore advised either to skip the poem and its translations, or, if they prefer, to display their intellectual superiority in the Comments section by poking fun at Baudelaire for his gullibility. Read More

Two Baudelaire translations in different styles

Baudelaire_crop

Left, portrait of French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Editor John Scott Montecristo: These two translations of Baudelaire’s sonnet Sépulture (‘Sepulchre’) illustrate the difference between an accurate, literal translation by William Aggeler and an “imitation translation” by Lasha Darkmoon.
The Aggeler version follows the original French poem closely, word for word. It can do this easily enough because it makes no attempt to capture the musicality of Baudelaire’s poem. By using free verse—i.e., chopped-up prose—Aggeler is prepared to sacrifice the sound effects of the original in order to obtain strict verbal accuracy.
The second version by Lasha Darkmoon does the opposite. Though less accurate verbally, it makes use of rhyme and metre, as Baudelaire himself does, to capture the rhythm and musicality of the original. For Darkmoon, sound takes precedence over sense.

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Au Lecteur — Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire, 1863,  four years before his death
Charles Baudelaire, 1863,
four years before his death

Baudelaire’s first book of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal (“Flowers of Evil”), was published in 1857 when the poet was 36. Six of the poems, some of which have already been translated here by Lasha Darkmoon, were immediately banned as obscene. Au Lecteur stood as the book’s preface, containing some of the most quotable lines in French literature.

Victor Hugo was to enthuse, “Your fleurs du mal shine and dazzle like stars. I applaud your vigorous spirit!” Others were not so impressed. “Everything in it which is not hideous is incomprehensible,” the poetry critic of Le Figaro wrote angrily. “And everything one understands is putrid”. 

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