Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BEATRICE, by CHARLES BAUDELAIRE



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BEATRICE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In a hard, burned land of ash, stripped of leaves
Last Line: And pitched them, now and then, a lewd caress.
Subject(s): Beatrice Portinari (1266-1290); Hell


In a hard, burned land of ash, stripped of leaves,
As I groaned one day to acres of charred trees,
Wandering aimlessly, broken by my thoughts,
Which slowly sharpened daggers at my heart,
I saw descending over me, at noon,
A black cloud, storm-wide, carrying a troop
Of vicious demons, stunted like old dwarves,
Who, cruelly curious, pried into my wounds.
Proudly and coldly they examined me,
And, like pedestrians staring at a madman,
I heard them laugh and whisper savagely.
They made lewd signs and winked disdainfully:
"Let us study well this caricature of man,
This shadow Hamlet, posturing as he moans,
Looking so undecided, letting the wind shake
His locks. Isn't it funny to see this rake,
This tramp, this clown, this laid-off mountebank,
Pretend, because he plays his role with wit,
To interest eagles, flowers, brooks, and crickets
In his stale recitals of imagined pain
And tries beguiling even us with shows,
Tricks that we invented long ago?"

I would have turned my sovereign head aside
(My pride could dominate, as from a mountaintop,
That cloud of demons and their disturbing cries)
Had I not seen among that obscene troop-Ah, crime that strangely did not stagger
the sun!-The empress of my heart, with crystal eyes,
Who, laughing with them, mocked my black distress
And pitched them, now and then, a lewd caress.





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