by Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)
Translation © by Emily Wyatt

Bénédiction
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG SPA
Lorsque, par un décret des puissances suprêmes,
Le Poète apparaît en ce monde ennuyé,
Sa mère épouvantée et pleine de blasphèmes
Crispe ses poings vers Dieu, qui la prend en pitié :

- " Ah ! que n'ai-je mis bas tout un nœud de vipères,
Plutôt que de nourrir cette dérision !
Maudite soit la nuit aux plaisirs éphémères
Où mon ventre a conçu mon expiation !

Puisque tu m'as choisie entre toutes les femmes
Pour être le dégoût de mon triste mari,
Et que je ne puis pas rejeter dans les flammes,
Comme un billet d'amour, ce monstre rabougri,

Je ferai rejaillir ta haine qui m'accable
Sur l'instrument maudit de tes méchancetés,
Et je tordrai si bien cet arbre misérable
Qu'il ne pourra pousser ses boutons empestés ! "

Elle ravale ainsi l'écume de sa haine,
Et, ne comprenant pas les desseins éternels,
Elle-même prépare au fond de la Géhenne
Les bûchers consacrés aux crimes maternels.

Pourtant, sous la tutelle invisible d'un Ange,
L'Enfant déshérité s'enivre de soleil,
Et dans tout ce qu'il boit et dans tout ce qu'il mange
Retrouve l'ambroisie et le nectar vermeil.

Il joue avec le vent, cause avec le nuage,
Et s'enivre en chantant du chemin de la croix ;
Et l'Esprit qui le suit dans son pélerinage
Pleure de le voir gai comme un oiseau des bois.

Tous ceux qu'il veut aimer l'observent avec crainte,
Ou bien, s'enhardissant de sa tranquillité,
Cherchent à qui saura lui tirer une plainte,
Et font sur lui l'essai de leur férocité.

Dans le pain et le vin destinés à sa bouche
Ils mêlent de la cendre avec d'impurs crachats ;
Avec hypocrisie ils jettent ce qu'il touche,
Et s'accusent d'avoir mis leurs pieds dans ses pas.

Sa femme va criant sur les places publiques :
" Puisqu'il me trouve [belle et qu'il veut]1 m'adorer,
Je ferai le métier des idoles antiques,
[Que souvent il fallait repeindre et]2 redorer ;

Et je me [soûler]3 de nard, d'encens, de myrrhe,
De génuflexions, de viandes et de vins,
Pour savoir si je puis dans un cœur qui m'admire
Usurper en riant les hommages divins !

Et quand je m'ennuierai de ces farces impies,
Je poserai sur lui ma frêle et forte main;
Et mes ongles, pareils aux ongles des harpies,
Sauront jusqu'à son cœur se frayer un chemin.

Comme un tout jeune oiseau qui tremble et qui palpite,
J'arracherai ce cœur tout rouge de son sein,
Et, pour rassasier ma bête favorite,
Je le lui jetterai par terre avec dédain ! "

Vers le Ciel, où son œil voit un trône splendide,
Le Poète serein lève ses bras pieux,
Et les vastes éclairs de son esprit lucide
Lui dérobent l'aspect des peuples furieux :

[15.] - "Soyez béni, mon Dieu, qui donnez la souffrance
Comme un divin remède à nos impuretés, 
Et comme la meilleure et la plus pure essence
Qui prépare les forts aux saintes voluptés !

Je sais que vous gardez une place au Poète
Dans les rangs bienheureux des saintes Légions,
Et que vous l'invitez à l'éternelle fête
Des Trônes, des Vertus, des Dominations.

Je sais que la douleur est la noblesse unique
Où ne mordront jamais la terre et les enfers,
Et qu'il faut pour tresser ma couronne mystique 
Imposer tous les temps et tous les univers.

Mais les bijoux perdus de l'antique Palmyre,
Les métaux inconnus, les perles de la mer,
[Montés par votre main]4, ne pourraient pas suffire
À ce beau diadème éblouissant et clair ;

Car il ne sera fait que de pure lumière,
Puisée au foyer saint des rayons primitifs,
Et dont les yeux mortels, dans leur splendeur entière,
Ne sont que des miroirs obscurcis et plaintifs ! "

J. Harvey sets stanzas 15, 17-19

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Les Fleurs du mal, Spleen et Idéal, Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1857, pages 11-14.

Note: In the 1861 and 1868 editions, the spelling variant "pèlerinage" in line 33 is used in place of "pélerinage". Moreover, the incorrect spelling "jeterai" in the 1857 edition has been replaced with "jetterai" in line 64.

1 1861 and 1868 editions: "assez belle pour"
2 1861 and 1868 editions: "Et comme elles je veux me faire"
3 1861 and 1868 editions: "soûlerai"
4 1861 edition, 1868 edition, and J. Harvey: "Par votre main montés"

Authorship

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Emily Wyatt) , "Benediction", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Cyril Meir Scott) , "Benediction", appears in The Flowers of Evil, first published 1909
  • POR Portuguese (Português) (Delfim Guimarães) , "Benção"
  • SPA Spanish (Español) (Alberto Bonati) , copyright © 2007, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit [Guest Editor]

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Last modified: 2019-08-11 09:40:13
Line count: 76
Word count: 617

Benediction
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
When, by a decree of the supreme powers,
The Poet appears in this bored world,
His mother, appalled and full of blasphemies,
Clenches her fists at God,  who takes pity on her:

- "Ah! would that I had borne a whole knot of vipers,
Rather than nurtured this mockery!
Cursed be the night of passing pleasures
During which my belly conceived my atonement!

Since you have chosen me from among all women
To be the disgust of my unhappy husband,
And since I cannot cast into the flames,
Like a love-letter, this stunted monster,

I will make your hatred which overwhelms me rebound
On the cursed instrument of your malice,
And I will twist this miserable tree so well,
That it will not be able to sprout its pestilent buds!"

She swallows thus the froth of her hatred,
And, not understanding the eternal designs,
Prepares herself at the bottom of Gehenna1
The pyres dedicated to maternal crimes.

Nevertheless, under the invisible guardianship of an Angel,
The rejected Child becomes intoxicated with sunshine,
And in all that he drinks and in all that he eats
Finds again ambrosia and crimson nectar2.

He plays with the wind, talks with the cloud,
And becomes intoxicated singing of the Way of the Cross;
And the Spirit which follows him in his pilgrimage
Weeps to see him cheerful as a bird of the wood.

All those whom he wants to love watch him with fear,
Or indeed, emboldened by his tranquility,
Seek for the one who can draw from him a groan,
And test their ferocity on him.

In the bread and wine3 destined for his mouth
They mix ashes with their tainted spit;
With hypocrisy they throw away that which he touches,
And accuse themselves for having put their feet in his footprints.

His wife goes about public places crying:
"Since he finds me beautiful enough so as to love me,
I will adopt the role of ancient idols,
And like them I want to get myself regilded; 

And I will get drunk on nard, on frankincense, on myrrh,
On genuflections, on meats and wines,
So as to know if I can, in a heart which admires me,
Laughingly usurp divine homage!

And when I become bored of these wicked farces,
I will lay upon him my slight but strong hand;
And my nails, like the claws of harpies,
Will know how to tear themselves a path right to his heart.

Like a baby bird which trembles and flutters,
I will snatch out that heart, all red, from his breast,
And to satisfy my favourite dog,
I will throw it on the ground for him with scorn!"

Towards Heaven, where his eye beholds a splendid throne, 
The Poet, serene, lifts his pious arms,
And the great lightning flashes from his clear-sighted spirit
Hide from him the appearance of the enraged people:

- "Blessed be you, my God, who gives suffering
As a divine remedy for our impurities
And as the best and the purest essence
Which prepares the strong for holy pleasures!

I know that you keep a place for the Poet
In the blissful ranks of the holy Legions,
And that you invite him to the everlasting celebration,
Of Thrones, of Virtues, of Dominations4.

I know that pain is the only nobility
Into which Earth and Hell will never get their teeth, 
And that you must, in order to braid my mystical crown,
Tax every era and every universe.

But the lost jewellery of ancient Palmyra5,
The unknown metals, the pearls of the sea,
By your hand mounted, could not suffice
For this beautiful diadem, dazzling and bright;

Because it will be made only of pure light,
Drawn from the holy fire of pristine rays,
And of which mortal eyes, in all their splendour,
Are only reflections, misted and tearful!"

View original text (without footnotes)
Translator's notes:
1 Biblical (& Jewish/Islamic) destination for wicked souls, often used in literature as synonymous with Hell; originally the physical place where apostates sacrificed children to appease non-Christian gods (as the Valley of the Son of Hinnom).
2 Ambrosia and nectar were the food and drink respectively of the classical gods.
3 as in the Christian Eucharist (continuing the divine allegory)
4 in Christianity, members of the hierarchy of angels.
5 ancient and important city in central Syria, "Bride of the Desert". It fell into disuse post-C16 but the name remained in use.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2012 by Emily Wyatt, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you must ask the copyright-holder(s) directly for permission. If you receive no response, you must consider it a refusal.

    Emily Wyatt.  Contact: cobbsquint (AT) gmail (DOT) com

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Text added to the website: 2012-10-09 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:05:04
Line count: 76
Word count: 637