The Flâneur

Paris > Au Lecteur

Au Lecteur / To the Reader

Charles Baudelaire 1855

Stupidity, error, sin and stinginess,
Inhabit our souls and obsess our bodies,
And we feed our bland remorse,
Like beggars suckling their lice.

Our sins are stubborn, our repentance slovenly;
We make ourselves pay richly for our confessions,
And blithely return to the slimy path,
Believing cheap tears wash away all our stains.

On the pillow of evil it is Satan Trismegistus
Who cradles long our bewitched spirits,
And the precious metal of our will
Is vaporised utterly by this learned alchemist.

It is the Devil who pulls our puppet-strings!
In loathsome things we discover charms;
Each day towards Hell we descend a step,
Unhorrified, through stinking darkness.

Just as a poor libertine kisses and devours
The damaged breast of some ancient whore,
We steal a passing pleasure clandestine,
Squeezing it hard like an old orange.

Dense, swarming, like a million worms,
In our brains carouse a nation of Demons,
And, when we breathe, Death in our lungs
Descends, like an invisible river, with muffled laments.

If rape, poison, dagger, conflagration,
Have not yet embroidered their waggish designs
On the banal canvas of our piteous destinies,
It is only that our soul, alas! lacks daring.

But amongst the jackals, panthers, hounds,
Monkeys, scorpions, vultures, serpents,
The monsters yelping, howling, grunting, slithering,
In the vile zoo of our vices,

There is one more ugly, more malicious, more foul!
Although he makes no great gestures nor great cries,
He would willingly shatter the earth into fragments
And in a yawn swallow the world;

Ennui! - his eye burdened with an involuntary tear,
He dreams of scaffolds smoking his hookah.
You know him, reader, this refined monster,
- Hypocrite reader, - my double, - my brother!