by: Charles Baudelaire

      HERE are some powerful odours that can pass
      Out of the stoppard flagon; even glass
      To them is porous. Oft when some old box
      Brought from the East is opened and the locks
      And hinges creak and cry; or in a press
      In some deserted house, where the sharp stress
      Of odours old and dusty fills the brain;
      An ancient flask is brought to light again,
      And forth the ghosts of long-dead odours creep.
      There, softly trembling in the shadows, sleep
      A thousand thoughts, funereal chrysalides,
      Phantoms of old the folding darkness hides,
      Who make faint flutterings as their wings unfold,
      Rose-washed and azure-tinted, shot with gold.
      A memory that brings languor flutters here:
      The fainting eyelids droop, and giddy Fear
      Thrusts with both hands the soul towards the pit
      Where, like a Lazarus from his winding-sheet,
      Arises from the gulf of sleep a ghost
      Of an old passion, long since loved and lost.
      So I, when vanished from man's memory
      Deep in some dark and sombre chest I lie,
      An empty flagon they have cast aside,
      Broken and soiled, the dust upon my pride,
      Will be your shroud, beloved pestilence!
      The witness of your might and virulence,
      Sweet poison mixed by angels; bitter cup
      Of life and death my heart has drunken up!

'The Flask' is reprinted from The Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire. Ed. James Huneker. New York: Brentano's, 1919.




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