TO A MADONNA
by: Charles Baudelaire
mistress, I would build for thee
- An altar deep in the sad soul of me;
- And in the darkest corner of my heart,
- From mortal hopes and mocking eyes apart,
- Carve of enamelled blue and gold a shrine
- For thee to stand erect in, Image divine!
- And with a mighty Crown thou shalt be crowned
- Wrought of the gold of my smooth Verse, set round
- With starry crystal rhymes; and I will make,
- O mortal maid, a Mantle for thy sake,
- And weave it of my jealousy, a gown
- Heavy, barbaric, stiff, and weighted down
- With my distrust, and broider round the hem
- Not pearls, but all my tears in place of them.
- And then thy wavering, trembling robe shall be
- All the desires that rise and fall in me
- From mountain-peaks to valleys of repose,
- Kissing thy lovely body's white and rose.
- For thy humiliated feet divine,
- Of my Respect I'll make thee Slippers fine
- Which, prisoning them within a gentle fold,
- Shall keep their imprint like a faithful mould.
- And if my art, unwearying and discreet,
- Can make no Moon of Silver for thy feet
- To have for Footstool, then thy heel shall rest
- Upon the snake that gnaws within my breast,
- Victorious Queen of whom our hope is born!
- And thou shalt trample down and make a scorn
- Of the vile reptile swollen up with hate.
- And thou shalt see my thoughts, all consecrate,
- Like candles set before thy flower-strewn shrine,
- O Queen of Virgins, and the taper-shine
- Shall glimmer star-like in the vault of blue,
- With eyes of flame for ever watching you.
- While all the love and worship in my sense
- Will be sweet smoke of myrrh and frankincense.
- Ceaselessly up to thee, white peak of snow,
- My stormy spirit will in vapours go!
- And last, to make thy drama all complete,
- That love and cruelty may mix and meet,
- I, thy remorseful torturer, will take
- All the Seven Deadly Sins, and from them make
- In darkest joy, Seven Knives, cruel-edged and keen,
- And like a juggler choosing, O my Queen,
- That spot profound whence love and mercy start,
- I'll plunge them all within thy panting heart!
MORE POEMS BY CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
'To a Madonna' is reprinted from
The Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire. Ed. James
Huneker. New York: Brentano's, 1919.