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Paris > Femmes Damnées

Femmes Damnées - Delphine et Hippolyte

Charles Baudelaire 1857 (pub. 1866)

By the pallid light of languid lamps,
On deep cushions steeped in fragrance,
Hippolyta relived the potent caresses
That had parted the veil of her virginity.

She sought, with eyes unsettled, disturbed,
The skies of innocence already remote,
Just as travellers look back to catch
A last glimpse of horizons fading by dawn.

The tears slowly filling her now vacant eyes,
Her exhaustion, her stupor, her voluptuous sorrow,
Her vanquished arms, cast down in submission,
All served to delineate her delicate beauty.

Reclining at her feet, poised in her delight,
Delphine gazed eagerly with flaming eyes
Like a powerful predator surveying her prey
Once she has marked it hers with her fangs.

Strong beauty kneeling before fragile beauty,
Superb, she voluptuously savoured
The wine of her triumph, reaching out
To gather the maiden's tenderest thanks.

She searched the face of her pale victim,
For the silent prayer that sings of pleasure,
And gratitude infinite and sublime
From fluttering eye-lids like a long sigh.

Hippolyta, my love, what is in your heart?
Do you understand now you do not have to give
The holy sacrifice of your first rose-bud
To violent storms that desecrate all?

My kisses are light as may-flies
That at dusk caress limpid lakes,
Those of men would gouge rough furrows
Like crude ploughs savaging your flesh;

Trampling you like a lumbering team
Of oxen with their brutal hooves...
Hippolyta, o my sister! turn to me,
You, my love, my heart, my bride, my all,

Turn to me your eyes of azure and starlight!
For one enchanting, heavenly, narcotic glance,
I would initiate you into darker pleasures
Entrancing you into a dream without end!

Then Hippolyta raised her youthful head:
I am not ungrateful, nor do I repent,
But my Delphine, I suffer and am distraught,
As after some sinful feast of the night.

I am paralysed by such crushing dread,
As black hordes of skeletal spectres
Drag me down ever-shifting paths
Relentlessly toward horizons of blood.

Have we done something unspeakable?
I beg you, soothe my terrors and dread;
I tremble with fear when you call me 'My angel!'
Even so my lips crave only yours.

Do not look at me like that, my soul!
You whom I love forever, my heart's only desire,
Even though you are the trap in which I am caught
And the gateway to my Damnation!

Then Delphine tossed her flowing mane of hair,
And like the tragic oracle on her tripod of fire,
Fatal-eyed, replied with a despotic voice:
Who in Love's presence dares speak of Hell?

Damned forever be that useless dreamer
Who first tried, in his stupidity,
Obsessed with arguments pointless and sterile,
To let morality intrude into matters of Love!

He who would unite in some magical harmony
Darkness with light, night with day,
Will never warm his miserable flesh,
In the red sunlight we know as Love!

Go, if you want, find some stupid youth;
Submit your virgin heart to his brutal lust;
And, filled with remorse, white lipped with horror,
Bring back to me your slaughtered breasts...

Here below you can satisfy but one sole Master!
But the girl, overcome in her distress,
Cried suddenly:- There is within me
A gaping abyss - this abyss is my heart!

Burning like lava, deep as a void!
Nothing satisfies this howling monster
Or slakes the thirst of the Furies
Who, torch in hand, burn into my blood.

Draw the shades to hide us from the world,
And from my lassitude may I find repose!
Let me annihilate myself in your deep bosom,
And find in your breast the respite of the tomb!

Descend, descend, lamentable victims,
Descend the path of eternal Hell!
Plunge the deepest gulf, where all crimes,
Are scourged by a wind not from Heaven sent,

Swirling, boiling with the noise of thunder.
Maddened shadows, run to the goal of your desires;
Never will you gratify your passions,
For from your pleasures your punishment is born.

Never more will light enter your dark cavern;
Though through cracks in the walls fevered miasmas
Filter in, and burning like censers
Suffuse your bodies with their corrupt perfumes.

Your ecstasies, sterile and bitter,
Will parch your throat and wither your skin,
And the raging tempest of your lust
Makes your flesh shudder like a torn flag.

Far from the living world, go wander, condemned,
Running like wolves across the desert,
Chase your destiny, reckless souls,
And flee the infinite you carry within you!