Spleen (I)

Charles Baudelaire

Pluviôse, irrité contre la ville entière,
De son urne à grands flots verse un froid ténébreux
Aux pâles habitants du voisin cimetière
Et la mortalité sur les faubourgs brumeux.
Mon chat sur le carreau cherchant une litière
Agite sans repos son corps maigre et galeux;
L'âme d'un vieux poète erre dans la gouttière
Avec la triste voix d'un fantôme frileux.
Le bourdon se lamente, et la bûche enfumée
Accompagne en fausset la pendule enrhumée
Cependant qu'en un jeu plein de sales parfums,
Héritage fatal d'une vieille hydropique,
Le beau valet de coeur et la dame de pique
Causent sinistrement de leurs amours défunts.
January, irritated with the whole city,
Pours from his urn great waves of gloomy cold
On the pale occupants of the nearby graveyard
And death upon the foggy slums.
My cat seeking a bed on the tiled floor
Shakes his thin, mangy body ceaselessly;
The soul of an old poet wanders in the rain-pipe
With the sad voice of a shivering ghost.
The great bell whines, the smoking log
Accompanies in falsetto the snuffling clock,
While in a deck of cards reeking of filthy scents,
My mortal heritage from some dropsical old woman,
The handsome knave of hearts and the queen of spades
Converse sinisterly of their dead love affair.
- Translated by William Aggeler
The Month of Rains, incensed at life, outpours
Out of her urn, a dark chill, like a penance,
Over the graveyards and their wan, grey tenants
And folk in foggy suburbs out of doors.
My cat seeks out a litter on the ground
Twitching her scrawny body flecked with mange.
The soul of some old poet seems to range
The gutter, with a chill phantasmal sound.
The big bell tolls: damp hearth-logs seem to mock,
Whistling, the sniffle-snuffle of the clock,
While in the play of odours stale with must,
Reminders of a dropsical old crone,
The knave of hearts and queen of spades alone
Darkly discuss a passion turned to dust.
- Translated by Roy Campbell
Late January
Pluviose, hating all that lives, and loathing me,
Distills his cold and gloomy rain and slops it down
Upon the pallid lodgers in the cemetery
Next door, and on the people shopping in the town.
My cat, for sheer discomfort, waves a sparsely-furred
And shabby tail incessantly on the tiled floor;
And, wandering sadly in the rain-spout, can be heard
The voice of some dead poet who had these rooms before.
The log is wet, and smokes; its hissing high lament
Mounts to the bronchial clock on the cracked mantel there;
While (heaven knows whose they were - some dropsical old maid's)
In a soiled pack of cards that reeks of dirty scent,
The handsome jack of hearts and the worn queen of spades
Talk in suggestive tones of their old love-affair.
- Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay
November, vexed with all the capital,
whelms in a death-chill from her gloomy urn
the cold pale dead beneath the graveyard wall,
the death-doomed who in dripping houses yearn.
Grimalkin prowls, a gaunt and scurvy ghoul,
seeking a softer lair for her sojourn;
along the eaves an ancient poet's soul
shivers and wails, a ghost no eyes discern.
the whining church-bell and the log a-sputter
repeat the rheumy clock's falsetto mutter;
while in a pack of cards, scent-filled and vile,
grim relic of a dropsical old maid,
the queen of spades and knave of hearts parade
their dead amours, with many an evil smile.
- Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks

Last updated January 14, 2019