La Chevelure (Her Hair)

Charles Baudelaire

Ô toison, moutonnant jusque sur l'encolure!
Ô boucles! Ô parfum chargé de nonchaloir!
Extase! Pour peupler ce soir l'alcôve obscure
Des souvenirs dormant dans cette chevelure,
Je la veux agiter dans l'air comme un mouchoir!
La langoureuse Asie et la brûlante Afrique,
Tout un monde lointain, absent, presque défunt,
Vit dans tes profondeurs, forêt aromatique!
Comme d'autres esprits voguent sur la musique,
Le mien, ô mon amour! nage sur ton parfum.
J'irai là-bas où l'arbre et l'homme, pleins de sève,
Se pâment longuement sous l'ardeur des climats;
Fortes tresses, soyez la houle qui m'enlève!
Tu contiens, mer d'ébène, un éblouissant rêve
De voiles, de rameurs, de flammes et de mâts:
Un port retentissant où mon âme peut boire
À grands flots le parfum, le son et la couleur
Où les vaisseaux, glissant dans l'or et dans la moire
Ouvrent leurs vastes bras pour embrasser la gloire
D'un ciel pur où frémit l'éternelle chaleur.
Je plongerai ma tête amoureuse d'ivresse
Dans ce noir océan où l'autre est enfermé;
Et mon esprit subtil que le roulis caresse
Saura vous retrouver, ô féconde paresse,
Infinis bercements du loisir embaumé!
Cheveux bleus, pavillon de ténèbres tendues
Vous me rendez l'azur du ciel immense et rond;
Sur les bords duvetés de vos mèches tordues
Je m'enivre ardemment des senteurs confondues
De l'huile de coco, du musc et du goudron.
Longtemps! toujours! ma main dans ta crinière lourde
Sèmera le rubis, la perle et le saphir,
Afin qu'à mon désir tu ne sois jamais sourde!
N'es-tu pas l'oasis où je rêve, et la gourde
Où je hume à longs traits le vin du souvenir?
Head of Hair
O fleecy hair, falling in curls to the shoulders!
O black locks! O perfume laden with nonchalance!
Ecstasy! To people the dark alcove tonight
With memories sleeping in that thick head of hair.
I would like to shake it in the air like a scarf!
Sweltering Africa and languorous Asia,
A whole far-away world, absent, almost defunct,
Dwells in your depths, aromatic forest!
While other spirits glide on the wings of music,
Mine, O my love! floats upon your perfume.
I shall go there, where trees and men, full of vigor,
Are plunged in a deep swoon by the heat of the land;
Heady tresses be the billows that carry me away!
Ebony sea, you hold a dazzling dream
Of rigging, of rowers, of pennons and of masts:
A clamorous harbor where my spirit can drink
In great draughts the perfume, the sound and the color;
Where the vessels gliding through the gold and the moire
Open wide their vast arms to embrace the glory
Of a clear sky shimmering with everlasting heat.
I shall bury my head enamored with rapture
In this black sea where the other is imprisoned;
And my subtle spirit caressed by the rolling
Will find you once again, O fruitful indolence,
Endless lulling of sweet-scented leisure!
Blue-black hair, pavilion hung with shadows,
You give back to me the blue of the vast round sky;
In the downy edges of your curling tresses
I ardently get drunk with the mingled odors
Of oil of coconut, of musk and tar.
A long time! Forever! my hand in your thick mane
Will scatter sapphires, rubies and pearls,
So that you will never be deaf to my desire!
Aren't you the oasis of which I dream, the gourd
From which I drink deeply, the wine of memory?
- Translated by William Aggeler
Her Hair
O fleece that down her nape rolls, plume on plume!
O curls! O scent of nonchalance and ease!
What ecstasy! To populate this room
With memories it harbours in its gloom,
I'd shake it like a banner on the breeze.
Hot Africa and languid Asia play
(An absent world, defunct, and far away)
Within that scented forest, dark and dim.
As other souls on waves of music swim,
Mine on its perfume sails, as on the spray.
I'll journey there, where man and sap-filled tree
Swoon in hot light for hours. Be you my sea,
Strong tresses! Be the breakers and gales
That waft me. Your black river holds, for me,
A dream of masts and rowers, flames and sails.
A port, resounding there, my soul delivers
With long deep draughts of perfumes, scent, and clamour,
Where ships, that glide through gold and purple rivers,
Fling wide their vast arms to embrace the glamour
Of skies wherein the heat forever quivers.
I'll plunge my head in it, half drunk with pleasure -
In this black ocean that engulfs her form.
My soul, caressed with wavelets there may measure
Infinite rocking& in embalmed leisure,
Creative idleness that fears no storm!
Blue tresses, like a shadow-stretching tent,
You shed the blue of heavens round and far.
Along its downy fringes as I went
I reeled half-drunken to confuse the scent
Of oil of coconuts, with musk and tar.
My hand forever in your mane so dense,
Rubies and pearls and sapphires there will sow,
That you to my desire be never slow -
Oasis of my dreams, and gourd from whence
Deep-draughted wines of memory will flow.
- Translated by Roy Campbell
The Fleece
O shadowy fleece that falls and curls upon those bare
Lithe shoulders! O rich perfume of forgetfulness!
O ecstasy! To loose upon the midnight air
The memories asleep in this tumultuous hair,
I long to rake it in my fingers, tress by tress!
Asia the languorous, the burning solitude
Of Africa - a whole world, distant, all but dead -
Survives in thy profundities, O odorous wood!
My soul, as other souls put forth on the deep flood
Of music, sails away upon thy scent instead.
There where the sap of life mounts hot in man and tree,
And lush desire untamed swoons in the torrid zone,
Undulant tresses, wild strong waves, oh, carry me!
Dream, like a dazzling sun, from out this ebony sea
Rises; and sails and banks of rowers propel me on.
All the confusion, all the mingled colors, cries,
Smells of a busy port, upon my senses beat;
Where smoothly on the golden streakèd ripples flies
The barque, its arms outspread to gather in the skies,
Against whose glory trembles the unabating heat.
In this black ocean where the primal ocean roars,
Drunken, in love with drunkenness, I plunge and drown;
Over my dubious spirit the rolling tide outpours
Its peace - oh, fruitful indolence, upon thy shores,
Cradled in languor, let me drift and lay me down!
Blue hair, darkness made palpable, like the big tent
Of desert sky all glittering with many a star
Thou coverest me - oh, I am drugged as with the blent
Effluvia of a sleeping caravan, the scent
Of coco oil impregnated with musk and tar.
Fear not! Upon this savage mane for ever thy lord
Will sow pearls, sapphires, rubies, every stone that gleams,
To keep thee faithful! Art not thou the sycamored
Oasis whither my thoughts journey, and the dark gourd
Whereof I drink in long slow draughts the wine of dreams?
- Translated by George Dillon
Of Her Hair
O fleece, billowing on her neck! O ecstasy!
O curls, O perfume rich with nonchalance, O rare!.
Tonight to fill the alcove's warm obscurity,
To make that hair evoke each dormant memory,
I long to wave it like a kerchief in the air.
Africa smoldering and Asia languorous,
A whole far distant world, absent and almost spent,
Dwells in your forest depths, mystic and odorous!
As others lose themselves in the harmonious,
So, love, my heart floats lost upon your haunting scent.
I shall go where both man and tree, albeit strong,
Swoon deep beneath the rays of sunlight's blazing fires.
Thick tresses, be the waves to bear my dreams along!
Ebony sea, your dazzling dream contains a throng
Of sails, of wafts, of oarsmen, and of masts like spires.
A noisy harbor where my thirsty soul may drain
Hues, sounds and fragrances, in draughts heavy and sweet,
Where vessels gliding down a moiré-and-gold sea lane
Open their vast arms wide to clutch at the domain
Of a pure sky ashimmer with eternal beat.
Deep shall I plunge my head, avid of drunkenness,
In this black sea wherein the other sea lies captured,
And my soul buoyant at its undulant caress
Shall find you once again, O fruitful idleness,
O long lullings of ease, soft, honeyed and enraptured.
O blue-black hair, pennon with sheen and shadow fraught,
You give me back the vast blue skies of dawn and dusk,
As on the downy edges of your tresses, caught
In your soft curls, I grow drunken and hot, distraught
By mingled scents of cocoanut and tar and musk.
Sapphires, rubies, pearls - my hand shall never tire
Of strewing these through your thick mane - how lavishly! -
Lest Life should ever turn you deaf to my desire!
You are the last oasis where I dream, afire,
The gourd whence deep I quaff the wine of memory.
- Translated by Jacques LeClercq
The Head of Hair
O Fleece, foaming to the neck!
O curls! O scent of laziness!
Ecstasy! This evening, to people the dark comers
Of memories that are sleeping in these locks,
I would wave them in the air like a handkerchief!
Languorous Asia and burning Africa,
A whole world, distant, absent, almost extinct,
Lives in the depths of your perfumed jungle;
As other souls sail along on music,
So mine, O my love, swims on your scent.
I shall go over there where trees and men, full of sap,
Faint away slowly in the passionate climate;
O strong locks, be the sea-swell that transports me!
You keep, O sea of ebony, a dazzling dream
Of sails and sailormen, flames and masts:
A resounding haven where in great waves
My soul can drink the scent, the sound and color;
Where ships, sliding in gold and watered silk,
Part their vast arms to embrace the glory
Of the pure sky shuddering with eternal heat
I shall plunge my head, adoring drunkenness,
Into this black ocean where the other is imprisoned;
And my subtle spirit caressed by the sway
Will know how to find you, O pregnant idleness!
In an infinite cradle of scented leisure!
Blue hair, house of taut darkness,
You make the blue of the sky seem huge and round for me;
On the downy edges of your twisted locks
I hungrily get drunk on the muddled fragrances
Of coconut oil, of musk and tar
For a long time! For ever! Amongst your heavy mane
My hand will strew the ruby, pearl and sapphire
To make you never deaf to my desire!
For are you not the oasis where I dream, the gourd
Where in great draughts I gulp the wine of memory?
- Translated by Geoffrey Wagner
O fleece, that down the neck waves to the nape!
O curls! O perfume nonchalant and rare!
O ecstasy! To fill this alcove shape
With memories that in these tresses sleep,
I would shake them like penions in the air!
Languorous Asia, burning Africa,
And a far world, defunct almost, absent,
Within your aromatic forest stay!
As other souls on music drift away,
Mine, O my love! still floats upon your scent.
I shall go there where, full of sap, both tree
And man swoon in the heat of the southern climates;
Strong tresses be the swell that carries me!
I dream upon your sea of amber
Of dazzling sails, of oarsmen, masts, and flames:
A sun-drenched and reverberating port,
Where I imbibe colour and sound and scent;
Where vessels, gliding through the gold and moiré,
Open their vast arms as they leave the shore
To clasp the pure and shimmering firmament.
I'll plunge my head, enamored of its pleasure,
In this black ocean where the other hides;
My subtle spirit then will know a measure
Of fertile idleness and fragrant leisure,
Lulled by the infinite rhythm of its tides!
Pavilion, of autumn-shadowed tresses spun,
You give me back the azure from afar;
And where the twisted locks are fringed with down
Lurk mingled odors I grow drunk upon
Of oil of coconut, of musk, and tar.
A long time! always! my hand in your hair
Will sow the stars of sapphire, pearl, ruby,
That you be never deaf to my desire,
My oasis and my gourd whence I aspire
To drink deep of the wine of memory.
Translated by Anonymous





Last updated January 14, 2019