LE LÉTHÉ LETHE
Charles Baudelaire trans. David Constantine
Viens sur mon coeur, âme cruelle et sourde,
Tigre adoré, monstre aux airs indolents;
Je veux longtemps plonger mes doigts tremblants
Dans l'épaisseur de ta crinière lourde;

Dans tes jupons remplis de ton parfum
Ensevelir ma tête endolorie,
Et respirer, comme une fleur flétrie,
Le doux relent de mon amour défunt.

Je veux dormir! dormir plutôt que vivre!
Dans un sommeil aussi doux que la mort,
J'étalerai mes baisers sans remords
Sur ton beau corps poli comme le cuivre.

Pour engloutir mes sanglots apaisés
Rien ne me vaut l'abîme de ta couche;
L'oubli puissant habite sur ta bouche,
Et le Léthé coule dans tes baisers.

À mon destin, désormais mon délice,
J'obéirai comme un prédestiné
Martyr docile, innocent condamné,
Dont la ferveur attise le supplice,

Je sucerai, pour noyer ma rancoeur,
Le népenthès et la bonne ciguë
Aux bouts charmants de cette gorge aiguë,
Qui n'a jamais emprisonné de coeur.
Your soul is deaf to mine and cruel but lie
Tigerish, indolent monster I adore,
Here on my heart, I wish to steep and steady
My hands in the heavy thicket of your hair

Or in your skirts, that smell of you, entomb
My head full of the dolorous hurts you gave
And breathe in what's still left of love, its grave
And after-smell, its over-opened bloom.

I want to sleep, more than I want to live,
In a sleep as soft on me as death would be
And lay my kisses like one glad to give
The length of you who are smooth and coppery.

To swallow up my sobbing when it stops
There's nowhere better than your bed's deep pit;
At the waters of your mouth I can forget;
You slip me Lethe through your parting lips.

I will obey my fate, henceforth my bliss,
The way the elect, the predestined, do,
As docile martyr, condemned innocent, who
Self-stokes the hot pyre hotter with holiness;

And drown my bitterness by sucking good
Hemlock and nepenthes at the tart
Points of your tight breasts that never did
Under their charms contain a captive heart.

Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © David Constantine 2006; publ. in Modern Poetry in Translation III.5


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