13 September 2006 | Vol. 6, No. 3

To the Reader

Infatuation, sadism, lust, avarice

possess our souls and drain the body's force;

we spoonfeed our adorable remorse,

like whores or beggars nourishing their lice.

Our sins are mulish, our confessions lies;

we play to the grandstand with our promises,

we pray for tears to wash our filthiness;

importantly pissing hogwash through our styes.

The devil, watching by our sickbeds, hissed

old smut and folk-songs to our soul, until

the soft and precious metal of our will

boiled off in vapor for this scientist.

Each day his flattery makes us eat a toad,

and each step forward is a step to hell,

unmoved, through previous corpses and their smell

asphyxiate our progress on this road.

Like the poor lush who cannot satisfy,

we try to force our sex with counterfeits,

die drooling on the deliquescent tits,

mouthing the rotten orange we suck dry.

Gangs of demons are boozing in our brain—

ranked, swarming, like a million warrior-ants,

they drown and choke the cistern of our wants;

each time we breathe, we tear our lungs with pain.

If poison, arson, sex, narcotics, knives

have not yet ruined us and stitched their quick,

loud patterns on the canvas of our lives,

it is because our souls are still too sick.

Among the vermin, jackals, panthers, lice,

gorillas and tarantulas that suck

and snatch and scratch and defecate and fuck

in the disorderly circus of our vice,

there's one more ugly and abortive birth.

It makes no gestures, never beats its breast,

yet it would murder for a moment's rest,

and willingly annihilate the earth.

It's BOREDOM. Tears have glued its eyes together.

You know it well, my Reader. This obscene

beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine—

you—hypocrite Reader—my double—my brother!

– Robert Lowell, tr.

About the author:

1821-1867. Charles Baudelaire was among the most important poets of the nineteenth century. His most famous collection is Les Fleurs du mal ("The Flowers of Evil"). Learn more about Charles Baudelaire at Wikipedia.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Charles Baudelaire at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 6, No. 3, where "To the Reader" ran on September 13, 2006. List other work with these same labels: poetry, classic, translation, rhyme.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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