A Carcass by Charles Baudelaire trans. RJ Dent


 Remember that thing that we saw, my love,
          on a beautiful, fresh morning in June:
a disgusting carcass by a path’s curve,
          in a new flowerbed scattered with stones,

legs in the air, like a horny woman,
          burning, sweating with a mass of diseases,
nonchalantly and shamelessly showing
          its bloated stomach full of noxious fumes.

The sun shone down upon this rottenness,
          as to roast it with its golden fire,
so giving back a hundredfold at least
          all that was joined together by nature;

until it burst apart, an parting flower
          watched by the heavens, a superb carcass
with an overwhelming stink; you were sure  
          you’d faint right there and then upon the grass.

The flies were buzzing on flesh grown putrid,
          and out of it poured black battalions
of maggots, flowing like a thick liquid
          along the length of those living tatters.

The whole thing rose and fell in liquid waves
          rushing, seething, sparkling, heaving, moving,
swollen with breath, as if the cadaver,
          was somehow alive and multiplying.

And this world gave out strange musical sounds,
          like flowing water or the blowing breeze,
or grain that harvesters rhythmically pound,​
          then shake and turn in their baskets with ease.

Deformed, it faded as fragmented dreams;
          a sketchbook full of forgotten outlines
and which the artist has to then complete
          with no help, but from memory alone.

From back behind the rocks, a restless hound
          watched us with fierce eyes as it angrily
waited for that one moment it could snatch
          the piece of bone it had almost pulled free.

– And you will be just like this rottenness,
          the same as this horrible infection;
you, star of my eyes, sun of my nature,
          you, my perfect angel and my passion.

Yes, you will be like this, my graceful queen,
          right after the last rites have been intoned,
when you go beneath grass and flowering weeds,
           to moulder there alone amongst the bones.

And then, my love, make sure you tell the worms,
           the ones who now devour you with soft mouths,
that I kept the essence, the divine form
           of what I’d call my decomposing love.

RJ Dent is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist and short story writer. He has translated Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil (2009), and Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror (illustrated by Salvadore Dali) (2011) to critical acclaim. His poems, short stories, novellas and essays continue to appear in numerous magazines and journals.

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