Butchering Baudelaire

Clément loves Baudelaire and wrestled his translation of “Lethe” into the daily slice.

A collection of Baudelaire’s poems, Les Fleurs du mal, was first published in 1857 by the poet’s friend Auguste Poulet-Malassis. It created a sensation. Eleven hundred copies were printed. Within a month the French government stepped in. The poet went to court and, as a result, six poems had to be deleted. Of course this only increased sales. Since then there have been numerous ghastly translations of the delightfully lurid works. Here’s an example Clément’s version. But first, the original:

Le Léthé

Viens sur mon coeur, âme cruelle et sourde,
Tigre adoré, monstre aux airs indolents;
Je veux longtemps plonger mes doigts tremblants
Dans l’épaisseur de ta crinière lourde;

Dans tes jupons remplis de ton parfum
Ensevelir ma tête endolorie,
Et respirer, comme une fleur flétrie,
Le doux relent de mon amour défunt.

Je veux dormir! dormir plutôt que vivre!
Dans un sommeil aussi doux que la mort,
J’étalerai mes baisers sans remords
Sur ton beau corps poli comme le cuivre.

Pour engloutir mes sanglots apaisés
Rien ne me vaut l’abîme de ta couche;
L’oubli puissant habite sur ta bouche,
Et le Léthé coule dans tes baisers.

À mon destin, désormais mon délice,
J’obéirai comme un prédestiné;
Martyr docile, innocent condamné,
Dont la ferveur attise le supplice,

Je sucerai, pour noyer ma rancoeur,
Le népenthès et la bonne ciguë
Aux bouts charmants de cette gorge aiguë
Qui n’a jamais emprisonné de coeur.

Charles Baudelaire


Lethe

Come, sit on my heart, soul deaf and unfair,
Adored tigress with the indolent air;
I’ve longed to plunge trembling digits
In the thickness of your heavy hair,

In your skirts filled with perfume,
To bury my head, filled with pain,
and inhale, like a faded flower,
The last sweet scent of my dead love.

I want to sleep! To sleep more than live!
In a sleep as sweet as death,
I’ll spread my kisses without remorse,
on your beautiful, copper-polished corpse.

To smother my soft sobs
Your bed is the only abyss;
Vast oblivion lives on your lips,
And Lethe flows from your kiss.

To my destiny, ultimately my delight,
I will bow like one preordained;
the docile martyr, innocent condemned,
Whose fervor makes greater the pain.

And to bury my rancour, I will suck
Nepenthe and fine hemlock
From the charming tips of breasts so sharp
They cannot imprison a heart.

— translation Clément (with liberties, e.g. corps is translated here as corpse)


—Erin Orison, DEAD LOVE/the Daily Slice

  • http://leslie-insidemyhead.com Leslie Lee

    Ewwwww. Gross.

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