Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SWAN; TO VICTOR HUGO, by CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE SWAN; TO VICTOR HUGO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Andromache, I think of you! - this small river
Last Line: Of captives, of the conquered! . . . Of many others more!
Subject(s): Birds; Mythology - Classical; Swans


Andromache, I think of you! -This small river,
Poor sad mirror where formerly shone
The immense majesty of your widow's sorrows,
This deceptive Simois, increased by your tears,

Suddenly has fecundated my fertile memory
As I crossed the new-built Carrousel.
-The old Paris is no more (the form of a city
Changes more quickly, alas! than the heart of a mortal);

I see only in mind all this camp of hutments,
This heap of roughed-out capitals and shafts,
The grasses, the large stone blocks greened by puddle-water,
And, shining in the windows, the jumbled bric-a-brac.

There at one time was set down a menagerie;
There I saw one morning, at the hour when Work
Awakens under cold and clear skies, when the street-cleaning
Pushes a gloomy hurricane into the silent air,

A swan which had escaped from his cage,
And rubbing the dry pavement with his webbed feet,
He dragged his white plumage on the rough ground.
Opening his beak beside a dry gutter,

He bathed his wings nervously in the dust,
And, heart full of his happy natal lake, said:
"Water, when then will you rain down? When will you strike, thunderbolt?"
I see this unhappy being, strange and fatal myth,

Towards the sky at times, towards the ironic, cruelly blue sky,
Straining his hungering head on a convulsive neck,
Like the man written of by Ovid,
As if he spoke reproaches to God!


Paris changes, but nothing in my melancholy
Has strired! new palaces, scaffoldings, stones,
Old quarters of the city, all becomes allegory for me,
And my loved memories are heavier than rocks.

So before this Louvre an image oppresses me;
I think of my great swan, with his mad gestures,
Ridiculous and sublime, like the exiled,
And gnawed by a truceless desire! and then I think of you,

Andromache, fallen from the arms of a great husband,
A low chattel, under the hand of the superb Pyrrhus,
Bent in ecstasy beside an empty tomb;
Widow of Hector, alas! and wife of Helenus.

I think of the negress, emaciated and consumptive,
Stamping in the mud, and seeking with haggard glance
The absent coconut palms of superb Africa
Behind the immense walling of the fog;

Of whoever has lost what never can be refound,
Never! never! of those who drink deep of tears
And suck the breasts of that kindly she-wolf, Sorrow!
Of starveling orphans drying up like flowers!

Thus in the forest where my mind exiles itself
An old Memory sounds a full blast on the horn!
I think of the sailors forgotten on an island,
Of captives, of the conquered! . . . of many others more!

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