Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE VOYAGE; TO MAXIME DU CAMP, by CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

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THE VOYAGE; TO MAXIME DU CAMP, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: To the child, in love with maps and pictures
Last Line: What matter? Into the unknown in search of the new!
Subject(s): Travel; Journeys; Trips


To the child, in love with maps and pictures,
The universe is vast as his appetite.
Ah how immense the world is by lamplight!
How small the world is in recollection!

One morning we set out, our brains full of fire,
Our hearts swollen with rancor and harsh longing,
And we go, following the wave's rhythm,
Cradling our infinite on the seas' finite:

Some are glad to leave a squalid birthplace,
Or their abhorred cradles; some, astrologers
Drowned in a woman's eyes, their tyrannical
Circe of the dangerous perfumes.

Not to be turned to beasts, they make themselves
Drunk on space and light and the flaming skies;
The frost that bites them, the suns that tan them,
Slowly wear away the marks of kisses.

But the true travelers are those who leave
For leaving's sake; light hearts like balloons,
They never swerve from their fatality,
And say, without knowing why: "Let us go on!"

Those whose desires have the shape of clouds,
Who dream, like a recruit of the cannon,
Of boundless, changing, unknown pleasures
Whose name the human mind has never known!


We imitate-horror! -the top and ball,
Waltzing and skipping; even in our sleep
Curiosity torments and rolls us
Like a merciless Angel whipping suns.

Strange lot, in which the goal displaces itself,
And being nowhere may be anywhere!
In which Man, whose hope never flags, goes always
Running like a madman in search of rest!

Our soul's a ship seeking its Icaria;
A voice shouts from the bridge: "Open your eyes!"
From the top, ardent and mad, another cries:
"Love . . . glory . . . happiness!" Hell is a sandbar!

Each island signaled by the man on watch
Is an Eldorado promised by Fate;
Imagination, preparing her feast,
Sees only a reef in the dawning light.

Poor lover of chimerical countries!
Must we toss him in chains, or in the sea, this
Inventor of Americas, this drunken
Sailor whose vision poisons the abyss?

Such is the old vagrant who paws the mud
And dreams, nose in air, of dazzling Edens;
His bewitched eye beholds a Capua
All around, where the candle lights a hovel.


Marvelous travelers! What noble tales
We read in your eyes profound as oceans!
Show us your chests of splendid memories,
Astounding jewels, made of wind and stars.

We will sail without steam or canvas!
Enliven the boredom of our prisons;
Pass across our spirits, stretched like canvases,
Your memories in their frames of horizons.

Tell us, what have you seen?


"We have seen stars
And billows; and we have also seen sands;
And, despite shocks and unforeseen disasters,
We were often bored, as you were here.

The sun's splendor above violet seas,
The splendor of cities in the setting sun,
Made our hearts burn with restless ardor
To plunge into a sky of seductive light.

The richest cities, the noblest landscapes,
Never possess the mysterious
Attraction of those chance makes out of clouds.
And desire kept us forever anxious.

-Enjoyment augments the strength of desire.
Desire, ancient tree that thrives on pleasure,
All the while your bark thickens and hardens,
Your branches would look more closely on the sun!

When will you stop growing, great tree, longer
Lived than the cypress? -Yet we were careful
To cull a few sketches for your album,
Brothers who think all that's exotic fair!

We bowed before idols with trunks, and
Thrones constellated with shining jewels,
And carven palaces whose fairy pomp
Would make your bankers ruinous dreams.

Costumes like a drunkenness for the eyes
We say; women with painted teeth and nails,
And skilled fakirs whom the snake caresses."


And then, after that what?


"O childish brains!

Lest we forget the most important thing,
Everywhere, without wishing to, we viewed,
From top to bottom of the fatal ladder,
The dull pageant of everlasting sin:

Woman, conceited slave, neither amused
Nor disgusted by her self-worship;
Man, hot, gluttonous tyrant, hard and grasping,
Slave of a slave, gutter in the sewer;

The hangman enjoying, the martyr sobbing,
The fete that spices and perfumes the blood;
The despot unnerved by power's poison,
The mob in love with the brutalizing whip;

A great many religions like our own,
All scaling heaven; Holiness seeking
Its pleasure in nails and haircloth, as a
Delicate wallows in a feather bed;

Babbling Mankind, drunk with its own genius,
And mad as it ever was, crying out
To God, in its furious agony:
'O my fellow, my master, I curse thee!'

And the less stupid, bold lovers of Madness,
Fleeing the herd fenced in by Destiny,
To take refuge in a vast opium!
-Thus the everlasting news of the whole globe."


A bitter knowledge we gain by traveling!
The world, monotonous and small, today,
Yesterday, tomorrow, reflects our image:
Dreadful oasis in a waste of boredom!

Shall we depart or stay? Stay if you can;
Depart if you must. Some run, others crouch
To deceive the watchful, deadly foe, Time!
There are those, alas! who run without rest,

Like the wandering Jew and the apostles,
Whom nothing suffices, carriage or ship,
To flee that base retiary; others
Wear him out without leaving their cradles.

When at last he has his foot on our backs,
Then we'll be able to hope and cry: on!
Just as we used to set out for China,
Eyes fixed on the horizon and hair streaming,

We will embark on the sea of Darkness
With the joyous hearts of young passengers;
Listen to those charming, mournful voices
Singing: "Come this way, who desire to eat

The perfumed Lotus! Here are gathered the
Miraculous fruits your hearts hunger for;
Come and grow drunk on the strange mildness
Of this afternoon without an ending."

We know the ghost by its familiar speech;
Our Pylades stretch out their arms to us.
"To renew your heart, swim towards your Electra!"
Cries she whose knees we kissed in former days.


Death, old captain, it's time to weigh anchor!
This country bores us, O Death! Let us set sail!
If the sea and sky are as black as ink,
Our hearts, you know well, are bursting with rays!

Pour your poison on us; let it comfort
Us! We long, so does this fire burn our brains,
To dive into the gulf, Hell or Heaven,
What matter? Into the Unknown in search of the new!

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