Hymn to Beauty by Charles P. Baudelaire

Translated from French to English by James McGowan

O Beauty! Do you visit from the sky

Or the abyss? Infernal and divine,

Your gaze bestows both kindnesses and crimes,

So it is said you act on us like wine.

Your eye contains the evening and the dawn;

You pour out odours like an evening storm;

Your kiss is potion from an ancient jar,

That can make heroes cold and children warm.

Are you of heaven or the nether world?

Charmed Destiny, your pet, attends your walk;

You scatter joys and sorrows at your whim,

And govern all, and answer no man’s call.

Beauty you walk on corpses, mocking them;

Horror is charming as your other gems,

And murder is a trinket dancing there

Lovingly on your naked belly’s skin.

You are a candle where the mayfly dies

In flames, blessing this fire’s deadly bloom.

The panting lover bending to his love

Looks like a dying man who strokes his tomb.

What difference, then, from heaven or from hell,

O Beauty, monstrous in simplicity?

If eye, smile, step can open me the way

To find unknown, sublime infinity

Angel or Siren, Spirit, I don’t care

As long as velvet eyes and perfumed head

And glimmering motions, o my queen, can make

The world less dreadful, and the time less dead.

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