by: Charles Baudelaire
I think of you! The stream,
- The poor, sad mirror where in bygone days
- Shone all the majesty of your widowed grief,
- The lying Simoïs flooded by your tears,
- Made all my fertile memory blossom forth
- As I passed by the new-built Carrousel.
- Old Paris is no more (a town, alas,
- Changes more quickly than man's heart may change);
- Yet in my mind I still can see the booths;
- The heaps of brick and rough-hewn capitals;
- The grass; the stones all over-green with moss;
- The débris, and the square-set heaps of tiles.
- There a menagerie was once outspread;
- And there I saw, one morning at the hour
- When toil awakes beneath the cold, clear sky,
- And the road roars upon the silent air,
- A swan who had escaped his cage, and walked
- On the dry pavement with his webby feet,
- And trailed his spotless plumage on the ground.
- And near a waterless stream the piteous swan
- Opened his beak, and bathing in the dust
- His nervous wings, he cried (his heart the while
- Filled with a vision of his own fair lake):
- "O water, when then wilt thou come in rain?
- Lightning, when wilt thou glitter?"
- Sometimes yet
- I see the hapless bird -- strange, fatal myth--
- Like him that Ovid writes of, lifting up
- Unto the cruelly blue, ironic heavens,
- With stretched, convulsive neck a thirsty face,
- As though he sent reproaches up to God!
- Paris may change; my melancholy is fixed.
- New palaces, and scaffoldings, and blocks,
- And suburbs old, are symbols all to me
- Whose memories are as heavy as a stone.
- And so, before the Louvre, to vex my soul,
- The image came of my majestic swan
- With his mad gestures, foolish and sublime,
- As of an exile whom one great desire
- Gnaws with no truce. And then I thought of you,
- Andromache! torn from your hero's arms;
- Beneath the hand of Pyrrhus in his pride;
- Bent o'er an empty tomb in ecstasy;
- Widow of Hector -- wife of Helenus!
- And of the negress, wan and phthisical,
- Tramping the mud, and with her haggard eyes
- Seeking beyond the mighty walls of fog
- The absent palm-trees of proud Africa;
- Of all who lose that which they never find;
- Of all who drink of tears; all whom grey grief
- Gives suck to as the kindly wolf gave suck;
- Of meagre orphans who like blossoms fade.
- And one old Memory like a crying horn
- Sounds through the forest where my soul is lost . . .
- I think of sailors on some isle forgotten;
- Of captives; vanquished . . . and of many more.
MORE POEMS BY CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
'The Swan' is reprinted from The
Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire. Ed. James Huneker.
New York: Brentano's, 1919.