To the Reader
Foolishness, error, sin, niggardliness,
Occupy our minds and work on our bodies,
And we feed our mild remorse,
As beggars nourish their vermin.
Our sins are insistent, our repentings are limp;
We pay ourselves richly for our admissions,
And we gaily go once more on the filthy path
Believing that by cheap fears we shall wash away all our sins.
On the pillow of evil it is Satan Trismegistus
Who soothes a long while our bewitched mind,
And the rich metal of our determination
Is made vapor by that learned chemist.
It is the Devil who holds the reins which make us go!
In repulsive objects we find something charming;
Each day we take one more step towards Hell —
Without being horrified — across darknesses that stink.
Like a beggarly sensualist who kisses and eats
The martyred breast of an ancient strumpet,
We steal where we may a furtive pleasure
Which we handle forcefully like an old orange.
Tight, swarming, like a million worms,
A population of Demons carries on in our brains,
And, when we breathe, Death into our lungs
Goes down, an invisible river, with thick complaints.
If rape, poison, the dagger, arson,
Have not as yet embroidered with their pleasing designs
The recurrent canvas of our pitiable destinies,
It is that our spirit, alas, is not brave enough.
But among the jackals, the panthers, the bitch-hounds,
The apes, the scorpions, the vultures, the serpents,
The monsters screeching, howling, grumbling, creeping,
In the infamous menagerie of our vices,
There is one uglier, wickeder, more shameless!
Although he makes no large gestures nor loud cries
He willingly would make rubbish of the earth
And with a yawn swallow the world;
He is Ennui! — His eye filled with an unwished-for tear,
He dreams of scaffolds while puffing at his hookah.
You know him, reader, this exquisite monster,
— Hypocrite reader, — my likeness, — my brother!
-Baudelaire (Translated by Eli Siegal)