TO A BROWN BEGGAR-MAID
by: Charles Baudelaire
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.
MORE POEMS BY CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
'To a Brown Beggar-maid' is reprinted
from The Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire.
Ed. James Huneker. New York: Brentano's, 1919.