“The Vampire” by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire was an innovative and macabre French poet of the 19th century.

You who, like a thrusting knife,
plunged into my plaintive heart;
You who, strong as a demon horde,
Arrived, insane and all adorned:

From my humble spirit
Build your bed and your domain;
O wretch to whom I am bound
Like a convict to his chain,

Like a gambler to his game,
Like a drunkard to his flask,
Like vermin to a putrid corpse—
Be damned, you bitch! Be damned!

I prayed a speedy sword
Would liberate me with a slash,
And I begged deceptive poison
To aid my craven will.

But alas! Both glaive and venom
Eyed me with disdain and said:
“You’re not worthy to be loosed
From this accursed thrall,

You fool! And even if our efforts
Should free you from her empire,
Your kisses would no doubt revive
The body of your vampire!”

—Translated by David Bowles
March 13, 2014

Original French

Toi qui, comme un coup de couteau,
Dans mon cœur plaintif es entrée ;
Toi qui, forte comme un troupeau
De démons, vins, folle et parée,

De mon esprit humilié
Faire ton lit et ton domaine ;
– Infâme à qui je suis lié
Comme le forçat à la chaîne,

Comme au jeu le joueur têtu,
Comme à la bouteille l’ivrogne,
Comme aux vermines la charogne,
– Maudite, maudite sois-tu !

J’ai prié le glaive rapide
De conquérir ma liberté,
Et j’ai dit au poison perfide
De secourir ma lâcheté.

Hélas ! Le poison et le glaive
M’ont pris en dédain et m’ont dit :
” Tu n’es pas digne qu’on t’enlève
À ton esclavage maudit,

Imbécile ! – de son empire
Si nos efforts te délivraient,
Tes baisers ressusciteraient
Le cadavre de ton vampire ! “

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