Poe and Baudelaire

The lovely DD’s post over at http://fillingspaces.wordpress.com/ reminded me that January 19th was the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe.  As my blog is titled, “Writing the Victorian Gothic”, it is with some shame that I admit to having missed the important date.

So I thought I’d post a poem by Poe, as well as one by Charles Baudelaire.  For it was largely due to the French poet’s painstaking translations of the former, that the man who died broken was brought to the world’s attention.

The Conquerer Worm by Poe

Lo! ’tis a gala night
   Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight.
   In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
   A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
   The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
   Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly-
   Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
   That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
   Invisible Woe!

That motley drama- oh, be sure
   It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
   By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
   To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
   And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
   A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
   The scenic solitude!
It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
   The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
   In human gore imbued.

Out- out are the lights- out all!
   And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
   Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
   Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
   And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

 Dance of Death from “The Seventh Seal”


by: Charles Baudelaire

      ARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,
      Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves
      With all the careless and high-stepping grace,
      And the extravagant courtesan’s thin face.
      Was slimmer waist e’er in a ball-room wooed?
      Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,
      Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod
      With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.
      The swarms that hum about her collar-bones
      As the lascivious streams caress the stones,
      Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,
      Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes
      Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays
      Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,
      Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.
      O charm of nothing decked in folly! they
      Who laugh and name you a Caricature,
      They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,
      The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,
      That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!
      Come you to trouble with your potent sneer
      The feast of Life! or are you driven here,
      To Pleasure’s Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir
      And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?
      Or do you hope, when sing the violins,
      And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,
      To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,
      And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?
      Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!
      Eternal alembic of antique distress!
      Still o’er the curved, white trellis of your sides
      The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.
      And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,
      Among us here, no lover to your mind;
      Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?
      The charms of horror please none but the brave.
      Your eyes’ black gulf, where awful broodings stir,
      Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller
      Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,
      The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.
      For he who has not folded in his arms
      A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,
      Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,
      When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.
      O irresistible, with fleshless face,
      Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:
      “Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,
      Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons!
      Withered Antinoüs, dandies with plump faces,
      Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,
      Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,
      Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.
      From Seine’s cold quays to Ganges’ burning stream,
      The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;
      They do not see, within the opened sky,
      The Angel’s sinister trumpet raised on high.
      In every clime and under every sun,
      Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;
      And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye
      And mingles with your madness, irony!”
Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Comments (12)  
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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh no! I missed it, too. 😦 My dad was the one who introduced me to Poe, and we were going to sit down with a bottle of burgundy and discuss some of our favorite Poe works. I guess that manufactured tradition will have to wait another year.

  2. Jessica, what a lovely tradition that would be! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the mention 🙂 I have a hard time keeping up with the birthdays of my fav authors, too. I really need to get more organized so I can have a decent post ready to go in advance.

    That would be cool, Jessica. If there are any Poe societies where you live they might have their own fête on his birthday that you could join in on.

  4. I’d be lucky to find a reading group period. Dumb town. 😛 hehe If I had the guts, I’d start my own.

  5. Maybe all the book geeks are just in hiding there 😉

  6. You’re welcome, DD! 🙂

  7. Jessica,

    If starting a book club is something you’re interested in, perhaps you could post a flyer at your local library.

  8. Edgar Allan Poe reminded me on twitter 😉 awesome poems

  9. […] of Poe… It was recently his birthday, and two of my favorite bloggers, Gypsy Scarlett and DD, posted a little tribute him you might check […]

  10. Chazz,

    So that’s what Poe is up to these days! 😉

    Glad you liked the poems. 🙂

  11. What else would you do when in the ground?

  12. The ground couldn’t contain me.

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