Swans Commentary » swans.com August 23, 2010  



L'examen de minuit
Midnight Enquiry


by Charles Baudelaire

English translation by Gilles d'Aymery





La pendule, sonnant minuit,
Ironiquement nous engage
À nous rappeler quel usage
Nous fîmes du jour qui s'enfuit :
— Aujourd'hui, date fatidique,
Vendredi, treize, nous avons,
Malgré tout ce que nous savons,
Mené le train d'un hérétique.

Nous avons blasphémé Jésus,
Des Dieux le plus incontestable !
Comme un parasite à la table
De quelque monstrueux Crésus,
Nous avons, pour plaire à la brute,
Digne vassale des Démons,
Insulté ce que nous aimons
Et flatté ce qui nous rebute ;

Contristé, servile bourreau,
Le faible qu'à tort on méprise ;
Salué l'énorme Bêtise,
La Bêtise au front de taureau ;
Baisé la stupide Matière
Avec grande dévotion,
Et de la putréfaction
Béni la blafarde lumière.

Enfin, nous avons, pour noyer
Le vertige dans le délire,
Nous, prêtre orgueilleux de la Lyre,
Dont la gloire est de déployer
L'ivresse des choses funèbres,
Bu sans soif et mangé sans faim !...
— Vite soufflons la lampe, afin
De nous cacher dans les ténèbres !
The clock, striking midnight,
Ironically engages us
To recall the use
We made of the vanishing day:
—Today, fateful date,
Friday, the thirteenth, we have,
In spite of everything we know,
Lived the way of a heretic.

We have blasphemed Jesus,
The most incontestable of all Gods!
Like a parasite at the table
of some horrifying Croesus,
We have, to please the thug,
Worthy advocate of Demons,
Insulted what we love
And flattered what repels us;

Saddened, servile executioner,
The weak we improperly despise;
Saluted the colossal Stupidity,
The Stupidity like a bull's brow;
Kissed the dull Matter
With great devotion,
And of the putrefaction
Blessed the pallid light.

Finally, we have, to drown
The vertigo in delirium,
We, arrogant priest of the Lyre,
Whose glory is to instate
The intoxication of lugubrious things,
Drunk without thirst and eaten without hunger!
— Let us quickly turn off the lamp, in order
To hide in the darkness!


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Feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. Baudelaire's poem is in the public domain. The English translation is copyrighted, © Gilles d'Aymery 2010. All rights reserved.


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About the Author

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) was an eminent French poet and critic (more about him on Wikipedia, in French or in English). This poem was first published in 1863 in the literary magazine Le Boulevard. It was incorporated in the third edition of Les fleurs du mal (poorly translated as "The Flowers of Evil") in 1868, after the death of the poet. One can read the work in its entirety at the Gutemberg Project. Another Web site worthy of interest is fleursdumal.org where one can find the various editions of Les fleurs du mal. In regard to this specific poem, fleursdumal.org offers several English translations by William Aggler, Roy Campbell, George Dillon, and Jacques LeClercq, which are all intriguing if not fully satisfying as no translation, including this one, can transpose or reflect the cultural signifier expressed in a single language and culture.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art16/xxx142.html
Published August 23, 2010