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La Beauté par Charles Baudelaire

Je suis belle, ô mortels! comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s’est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière.

Je trône dans l’azur comme un sphinx incompris;
J’unis un coeur de neige à la blancheur des cygnes;
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes,
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.

Les poètes, devant mes grandes attitudes,
Que j’ai l’air d’emprunter aux plus fiers monuments,
Consumeront leurs jours en d’austères études;

Car j’ai, pour fasciner ces dociles amants,
De purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles:
Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartés éternelles!



Oedipus and the Sphinx by Gustave Moreauis (1864)

Oedipus and the Sphinx by Gustave Moreauis (1864)


Beauty

I am beautiful, O mortals, like a dream of stone
And my breasts where each is murdered in his turn
Are made to inspire in the poet a love
Eternal and mute as matter.

I’m throned in the sky like an unfathomed sphinx
Joining a heart of snow with the whiteness of swans.
I hate movement that mixes up lines
And I never laugh and I never cry.

Poets before my great poses that I seem
To have borrowed from the proudest monuments
Will consume their days in austere studies

For I have to fascinate these docile lovers
Pure mirrors that make all things more beautiful
My eyes, my large eyes constantly bright, eternal.


Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1880)

Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1880)


I translated La Beauté, a poem I like a lot, in my 30s. This week, after many years, I looked at it again and wondered if I should change a word: big eyes to large eyes. The poet says larges yeux so why don’t I? Say them. Big. Large. I do like big, the way it sounds and is pronounced in a shorter amount of time than large, but with a little more clout. Of the two words to my ear big sounds a little more loud. Large goes on a little longer, makes it larger, and that r there in the middle raising its roar is nice too. Years ago I chose big over large, large over big today. In 20 years, who knows? And here we have to smile—Who cares? Baudelaire’s poem is Baudelaire’s poem: larges yeux aux clartés éternelles.


The Birth of Venus by Henry Courtney Selous (1852)

The Birth of Venus by Henry Courtney Selous (1852)


L'Amour et Psyché par William Adolphe Bouguereau (1889)

L’Amour et Psyché par William Adolphe Bouguereau (1889)



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