by: Charles Baudelaire

      HITE maiden with the russet hair,
      Whose garments, through their holes, declare
      That poverty is part of you,
      And beauty too.
      To me, a sorry bard and mean,
      Your youthful beauty, frail and lean,
      With summer freckles here and there,
      Is sweet and fair.
      Your sabots tread the roads of chance,
      And not one queen of old romance
      Carried her velvet shoes and lace
      With half your grace.
      In place of tatters far too short
      Let the proud garments worn at Court
      Fall down with rustling fold and pleat
      About your feet;
      In place of stockings, worn and old,
      Let a keen dagger all of gold
      Gleam in your garter for the eyes
      Of roués wise;
      Let ribbons carelessly untied
      Reveal to us the radiant pride
      Of your white bosom purer far
      Than any star;
      Let your white arms uncovered shine,
      Polished and smooth and half divine;
      And let your elfish fingers chase
      With riotous grace
      The purest pearls that softly glow,
      The sweetest sonnets of Belleau,
      Offered by gallants ere they fight
      For your delight;
      And many fawning rhymers who
      Inscribe their first thin book to you
      Will contemplate upon the stair
      Your slipper fair;
      And many a page who plays at cards,
      And many lords and many bards,
      Will watch your going forth, and burn
      For your return;
      And you will count before your glass
      More kisses than the lily has;
      And more than one Valois will sigh
      When you pass by.
      But meanwhile you are on the tramp,
      Begging your living in the damp,
      Wandering mean streets and alley's o'er,
      From door to door;
      And shilling bangles in a shop
      Cause you with eager eyes to stop,
      And I, alas, have not a sou
      To give to you.
      Then go, with no more ornament,
      Pearl, diamond, or subtle scent,
      Than your own fragile naked grace
      And lovely face.

'To a Brown Beggar-maid' is reprinted from The Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire. Ed. James Huneker. New York: Brentano's, 1919.




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