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Incompatibility

Higher there, higher, far from the ways,

from the farms and the valleys, beyond the trees,

beyond the hills and the grasses’ haze,

far from the herd-trampled tapestries,

you discover a sombre pool in the deep

that a few bare snow-covered mountains form.

The lake, in light’s, and night’s, sublime sleep,

is never disturbed in its silent storm.

In that mournful waste, to the unsure ear,

come faint drawn-out sounds, more dead than the

bell,

of some far-off cow, the echoes unclear,

as it grazes the slope, of a distant dell.

On those hills where the wind effaces all signs,

on those glaciers, fired by the sun’s pure light,

on those rocks, where dizziness threatens the mind,

in that lake’s vermilion presage of night,

under my feet, and above my head,

silence, that makes you wish to escape;

that eternal silence, of the mountainous bed

of motionless air, where everything waits.

You would say that the sky, in its loneliness,

gazed at itself in the glass, and, up there,

the mountains listened, in grave watchfulness

to the mystery nothing that’s human can hear.

And when, by chance, a wandering cloud

darkens the silent lake, moving by,

you might think that you saw some spirit’s robe,

or else its clear shadow, travelling, over the sky.

The Owls

Among the black yews, their shelter,

the owls are ranged in a row,

like alien deities, the glow,

of their red eyes pierces. They ponder.

They perch there without moving,

till that melancholy moment

when quenching the falling sun,

the shadows are growing.

Their stance teaches the wise

to fear, in this world of ours,

all tumult, and all movement:

Mankind, drunk on brief shadows,

always incurs a punishment

for his longing to stir, and go.

Courtesy: Kline, A.S., (poetry translation) “Baudelaire 88 selected poems”

Charles Baudelaire, 19th century French poet, and translator whose reputation rests primarily on Les Fleurs du mal (1857; ‘The Flowers of Evil’). It was perhaps the most important and influential poetry collection published in Europe then. Read more

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