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

Hymne à la Beauté
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG
Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l'abîme,
Ô Beauté ? ton regard, infernal et divin,
Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime,
Et l'on peut pour cela te comparer au vin.
Tu contiens dans ton œil le couchant et l'aurore ;
Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux ;
Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore
Qui font le héros lâche et l'enfant courageux.

Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres ?
Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien ;
Tu sèmes au hasard la joie et les désastres,
Et tu gouvernes tout et ne réponds de rien.

Tu marches sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques ;
De tes bijoux l'Horreur n'est pas le moins charmant,
Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chères breloques,
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement.

L'éphémère ébloui vole vers toi, chandelle,
Crépite, flambe et dit : Bénissons ce flambeau !
L'amoureux pantelant incliné sur sa belle
A l'air d'un moribond caressant son tombeau.

Que tu viennes du ciel ou de l'enfer, qu'importe,
Ô Beauté ! monstre énorme, effrayant, ingénu !
Si ton œil, ton souris, ton pied, m'ouvrent la porte
D'un Infini que j'aime et n'ai jamais connu ?

De Satan ou de Dieu, qu'importe ? Ange ou Sirène,
Qu'importe, si tu rends, -- fée aux yeux de velours,
Rhythme parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine ! --
L'univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds ?

Confirmed with Les Fleurs du mal, Spleen et Idéal, Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1861, pages 51-52. Note: this was number 21 in the 1861 edition of Les Fleurs du mal but number 22 in subsequent editions.

Note: modern French spelling would change "Rhythme" (line 7-3) to "Rythme"


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):

Research team for this text: Harry Joelson , Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2007-07-29
Line count: 28
Word count: 240

Hymn to Beauty
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
Do you come from the immense heavens or come out of the abyss,
O Beauty? your look, infernal and divine,
Pours out confusedly good deeds and bad,
And for that we can compare you to wine.

You contain in your eye the dusk and the dawn;
You scatter scents like a stormy evening;
Your kisses are a philtre6 and your mouth an amphora 
Which make the hero faint-hearted and the child brave.

Do you come out of the black chasm or descend from the stars?
Fate, enchanted, follows at your petticoats like a dog;
You sow at random joy and disasters,
And you govern everything but answer for nothing.

You walk on dead men, Beauty, whom you mock;
Of your jewels, Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest trinkets,
Dances lovingly on your proud stomach.

The dazzled mayfly flies towards you, candle,
Crackles, burns and says: "Bless this beacon!"
The panting lover bent over his pretty one
Appears as a dying man caressing his own tomb.

Whether you come from Heaven or from Hell, who cares,
O Beauty! huge, dreadful, naive monster!
If your eye, your smile, your foot, open the door for me
To an Infinity which I love but have never known?

From Satan or from God, who cares? Angel or Siren,
Who cares, if you render -- fairy with eyes of velvet,
Rhythm, perfume, glimmer, o my only queen! --
The universe less hideous and the moments less onerous?


  • 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.

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This text was added to the website: 2012-10-09
Line count: 28
Word count: 244