by: Charles Baudelaire

      ADONNA, 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!

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




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