A Voyage to Cythera flowers,
by Charles Baudelaire
My heart, like a bird, flew about joyously
And hovered in freedom around the riggings;
The ship rolled under a sky without clouds,
Like an angel intoxicated with a radiant sun.
What is this sad dark island? It is Cythera,
They tell us, a famous country in songs,
The banal Eldorado of all the playboys.
Look! After all, it's a poor land.
-- Island of sweet secrets and celebrations of the heart!
The proud phantom of ancient Venus
Hovers above your seas like an aroma,
And fills the mind with love and langour.
Beautiful island with green myrtle, full of opened
Venerated forever by all nations,
Where the sigh of adoring hearts
Rolls like incense over a garden of roses
Or the eternal cooing of a turtledove!
-- Cythera was but a land of the most wasted kind,
A rocky desert disturbed by bitter cries.
yet I could half distinguish an unusual object!
It was not a temple with bosky shadows,
Where the young priestess, lover of flowers,
Walked, her body burning with secret fire,
And her dress half opening in the passing breeze;
But there as we grazed the coast close enough
To disturb the birds with our white sails,
We saw it was a three-forked gallows,
Standing out in black from the sky, like a cypress.
Ravenous birds perched on their prey
Were ferociously demolishing a ripe body that had been
Each one planting, like an instrument, its impure beak
In all the bleeding parts of the rotting flesh;
The eyes were two holes, and from the collapsed belly
The heavy intestines flowed over the thighs,
And its tormentors, gorged with hideous food,
Had totally castrated it with their sharp beaks.
Under its feet, a flock of jealous beasts,
With uplifted muzzles, were moving and prowling
A very large animal in the middle behaved
Like a leader surrounded by his aides.
Inhabitant of Cythera, child of so beautiful a sky,
In silence you bore these insults
As expiation for your infamous cults
And for the sins which deprived you of a tomb.
Ridiculous victim of the gallows, your grief is mine!
When I saw your floating limbs, I felt,
Mounting toward my mouth, like a vomiting
The long stream of bile of old grief;
Before you, poor wretch with so precious a memory,
I felt all the beaks and all the jaws
of lancinating crows and black panthers
Who once dearly loved to tear my flesh.
-- The sky was charming, the sea unclouded;
For me all would be henceforth black and bloody,
Alas! and I had, as in a thick shroud,
Buried my heart in this allegory.
In your island, O Venus, I found standing
Only a symbolic gallows from which my image was
-- O Lord, give me the strength and the courage
To contemplate without disgust my heart and my body!