by Charles Baudelaire
J'aime le souvenir de ces époques nues,
Dont Phoebus se plaisait à dorer les statues.
Alors l'homme et la femme en leur agilité
Jouissaient sans mensonge et sans anxiété,
Et, le ciel amoureux leur caressant l'échine,
Exerçaient la santé de leur noble machine.
Cybèle alors, fertile en produits généreux,
Ne trouvait point ses fils un poids trop onéreux,
Mais, louve au coeur gonflé de tendresses communes
Abreuvait l'univers à ses tétines brunes.
L'homme, élégant, robuste et fort, avait le droit
D'être fier des beautés qui le nommaient leur roi;
Fruits purs de tout outrage et vierges de gerçures,
Dont la chair lisse et ferme appelait les morsures!
Le Poète aujourd'hui, quand il veut concevoir
Ces natives grandeurs, aux lieux où se font voir
La nudité de l'homme et celle de la femme,
Sent un froid ténébreux envelopper son âme
Devant ce noir tableau plein d'épouvantement.
Ô monstruosités pleurant leur vêtement!
Ô ridicules troncs! torses dignes des masques!
Ô pauvres corps tordus, maigres, ventrus ou flasques,
Que le dieu de l'Utile, implacable et serein,
Enfants, emmaillota dans ses langes d'airain!
Et vous, femmes, hélas! pâles comme des cierges,
Que ronge et que nourrit la débauche, et vous, vierges,
Du vice maternel traînant l'hérédité
Et toutes les hideurs de la fécondité!
Nous avons, il est vrai, nations corrompues,
Aux peuples anciens des beautés inconnues:
Des visages rongés par les chancres du coeur,
Et comme qui dirait des beautés de langueur;
Mais ces inventions de nos muses tardives
N'empêcheront jamais les races maladives
De rendre à la jeunesse un hommage profond,
- À la sainte jeunesse, à l'air simple, au doux front,
À l'oeil limpide et clair ainsi qu'une eau courante,
Et qui va répandant sur tout, insouciante
Comme l'azur du ciel, les oiseaux et les fleurs,
Ses parfums, ses chansons et ses douces chaleurs!
I Love to Think of Those Naked Epochs
I love to think of those naked epochs
Whose statues Phoebus liked to tinge with gold.
At that time men and women, lithe and strong,
Tasted the thrill of love free from care and prudery,
And with the amorous sun caressing their loins
They gloried in the health of their noble bodies.
Then Cybele, generous with her fruits,
Did not find her children too heavy a burden;
A she-wolf from whose heart flowed boundless love for all,
She fed the universe from her tawny nipples.
Man, graceful, robust, strong, was justly proud
Of the beauties who proclaimed him their king;
Fruits unblemished and free from every scar,
Whose smooth, firm flesh invited biting kisses!
Today, when the Poet wishes to imagine
This primitive grandeur, in places where
Men and women show themselves in a state of nudity,
He feels a gloomy cold enveloping his soul
Before this dark picture full of terror.
Monstrosities bewailing their clothing!
Ridiculous torsos appropriate for masks!
Poor bodies, twisted, thin, bulging or flabby,
That the god Usefulness, implacable and calm,
Wrapped up at tender age in swaddling clothes of brass!
And you, women, alas! pale as candies,
Whom Debauch gnaws and feeds, and you, virgins,
Who trail the heritage of the maternal vice
And all the hideousness of fecundity!
Degenerate races, we have, it's true,
Types of beauty unknown to the ancient peoples:
Visages gnawed by cankers of the heart
And what one might say were languor's marks of beauty;
But these inventions of our backward Muses
Will never prevent unhealthy races
From paying to their youth deep and sincere homage,
- To holy youth, with serene brow and guileless air,
With eyes bright and clear, like a running brook,
Which goes spreading over all things, as free from care
As the blue of the sky, the birds and the flowers,
Its perfumes, its songs and its sweet ardor!
- Translated by William Aggeler
I Love the Thought of Those Old Naked Days
I love the thought of those old naked days
When Phoebus gilded torsos with his rays,
When men and women sported, strong and fleet,
Without anxiety or base deceit,
And heaven caressed them, amorously keen
To prove the health of each superb machine.
Cybele then was lavish of her guerdon
And did not find her sons too gross a burden:
But, like a she-wolf, in her love great-hearted,
Her full brown teats to all the world imparted.
Bold, handsome, strong, Man, rightly, might evince
Pride in the glories that proclaimed him prince -
Fruits pure of outrage, by the blight unsmitten,
With firm, smooth flesh that cried out to be bitten.
Today the Poet, when he would assess
Those native splendours in the nakedness
Of man or woman, feels a sombre chill
Enveloping his spirit and his will.
He meets a gloomy picture, which be loathes,
Wherein deformity cries out for clothes.
Oh comic runts! Oh horror of burlesque!
Lank, flabby, skewed, pot-bellied, and grotesque!
Whom their smug god, Utility (poor brats!)
Has swaddled in his brazen clouts "ersatz"
As with cheap tinsel. Women tallow-pale,
Both gnawed and nourished by debauch, who trail
The heavy burden of maternal vice,
Or of fecundity the hideous price.
We have (corrupted nations) it is true
Beauties the ancient people never knew -
Sad faces gnawed by cancers of the heart
And charms which morbid lassitudes impart.
But these inventions of our tardy muse
Can't force our ailing peoples to refuse
Just tribute to the holiness of youth
With its straightforward mien, its forehead couth,
The limpid gaze, like running water bright,
Diffusing, careless, through all things, like the light
Of azure skies, the birds, the winds, the flowers,
The songs, and perfumes, and heart-warming powers.
- Translated by Roy Campbell,
I Love The Naked Ages Long Ago
I love the naked ages long ago
When statues were gilded by Apollo,
When men and women of agility
Could play without lies and anxiety,
And the sky lovingly caressed their spines,
As it exercised its noble machine.
Fertile Cybele, mother of nature, then,
Would not place on her daughters a burden,
But, she-wolf sharing her heart with the people,
Would feed creation from her brown nipples.
Men, elegant and strong, would have the right
To be proud to have beauty named their king;
Virgin fruit free of blemish and cracking,
Whose flesh smooth and firm would summon a bite!
The Poet today, when he would convey
This native grandeur, would not be swept away
By man free and woman natural,
But would feel darkness envelop his soul
Before this black tableau full of loathing.
O malformed monsters crying for clothing!
O ludicrous heads! Torsos needing disguise!
O poor writhing bodies of every wrong size,
Children that the god of the Useful swaths
In the language of bronze and brass!
And women, alas! You shadow your heredity,
You gnaw nourishment from debauchery,
A virgin holds maternal lechery
And all the horrors of fecundity!
We have, it is true, corrupt nations,
Beauty unknown to the radiant ancients:
Faces that gnaw through the heart's cankers,
And talk with the cool beauty of languor;
But these inventions of our backward muses
Are never hindered in their morbid uses
Of the old for profound homage to youth,
-To the young saint, the sweet air, the simple truth,
To the eye as limpid as the water current,
To spread out over all, insouciant
Like the blue sky, the birds and the flowers,
Its perfumes, its songs and its sweet fervors.
Translated by William A. Sigler
Last updated January 14, 2019