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Title: Poems in Prose
Author: Baudelaire, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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POEMS IN PROSE

FROM

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

TRANSLATED BY

ARTHUR SYMONS

LONDON

ELKIN MATHEWS, CORK STREET

1913



The "Petits Poèmes en Prose" are experiments, and they are also
confessions. "Who of us," says Baudelaire in his dedicatory preface,
"has not dreamed, in moments of ambition, of the miracle of a poetic
prose, musical without rhythm and without rhyme, subtle and staccato
enough to follow the lyric motions of the soul, the wavering outlines
of meditation, the sudden starts of the conscience?" This miracle he
has achieved in these _bagatelles laborieuses_, to use his own words,
these astonishing trifles, in which the art is not more novel, precise
and perfect than the quality of thought and of emotion. In translating
into English a few of these little masterpieces, which have given me so
much delight for so many years, I have tried to be absolutely faithful
to the sense, the words, and the rhythm of the original.

A. S.



      CONTENTS

       I. The Favours of the Moon
      II. Which is True?
     III. "L'Invitation au Voyage"
      IV. The Eyes of the Poor
       V. Windows
      VI. Crowds
     VII. The Cake
    VIII. Evening Twilight
      IX. "Anywhere out of the World"
       X. A Heroic Death
      XI. Be Drunken
     XII. Epilogue



I


The Favours of the Moon


The Moon, who is caprice itself, looked in through the window
when you lay asleep in your cradle, and said inwardly: "This is
a child after my own soul."

And she came softly down the staircase of the clouds, and
passed noiselessly through the window-pane. Then she laid
herself upon you with the supple tenderness of a mother, and
she left her colours upon your face. That is why your eyes are
green and your cheeks extraordinarily pale. It was when you
looked at her, that your pupils widened so strangely; and she
clasped her arms so tenderly about your throat that ever since
you have had the longing for tears.

Nevertheless, in the flood of her joy, the Moon filled the room
like a phosphoric atmosphere, like a luminous poison; and all
this living light thought and said: "My kiss shall be upon you
for ever. You shall be beautiful as I am beautiful. You shall
love that which I love and that by which I am loved: water and
clouds, night and silence; the vast green sea; the formless and
multiform water; the place where you shall never be; the lover
whom you shall never know; unnatural flowers; odours which make
men drunk; the cats that languish upon pianos and sob like
women, with hoarse sweet voices!

"And you shall be loved by my lovers, courted by my courtiers.
You shall be the queen of men who have green eyes, and whose
throats I have clasped by night in my caresses; of those that
love the sea, the vast tumultuous green sea, formless and
multiform water, the place where they are not, the woman whom
they know not, the ominous flowers that are like the censers
of an unknown rite, the odours that trouble the will, and the
savage and voluptuous beasts that are the emblems of their
folly."

And that is why, accursed dear spoilt child, I lie now at
your feet, seeking to find in you the image of the fearful
goddess, the fateful godmother, the poisonous nurse of all the
moonstruck of the world.



II


Which is True?


I knew one Benedict?, who filled earth and air with the ideal;
and from whose eyes men learnt the desire of greatness, of
beauty, of glory, and of all whereby we believe in immortality.

But this miraculous child was too beautiful to live long; and
she died only a few days after I had come to know her, and I
buried her with my own hands, one day when Spring shook out her
censer in the graveyards. I buried her with my own hands, shut
down into a coffin of wood, perfumed and incorruptible like
Indian caskets.

And as I still gazed at the place where I had laid away my
treasure, I saw all at once a little person singularly like the
deceased, who trampled on the fresh soil with a strange and
hysterical violence, and said, shrieking with laughter: "Look
at me! I am the real Benedicta! a pretty sort of baggage I am!
And to punish you for your blindness and folly you shall love
me just as I am!"

But I was furious, and I answered: "No! no! no!" And to
add more emphasis to my refusal I stamped on the ground so
violently with my foot that my leg sank up to the knee in the
earth of the new' grave; and now, like a wolf caught in a trap,
I remain fastened, perhaps for ever, to the grave of the ideal.



III


"L'Invitation au Voyage"


There is a wonderful country, a country of Cockaigne, they say,
which I dreamed of visiting with an old friend. It is a strange
country, lost in the mists of the North and one might call it
the East of the West, the China of Europe, so freely does a
warm and capricious fancy flourish there, and so patiently and
persistently has that fancy illustrated it with a learned and
delicate vegetation.

A real country of Cockaigne, where everything is beautiful,
rich, quiet, honest; where order is the likeness and the
mirror of luxury; where life is fat, and sweet to breathe;
where disorder, tumult, and the unexpected are shut out; where
happiness is wedded to silence; where even cooking is poetic,
rich and highly flavoured at once; where all, dear love, is
made in your image.

You know that feverish sickness which comes over us in our
cold miseries, that nostalgia of unknown lands, that anguish
of curiosity? There is a country made in your image, where all
is beautiful, rich, quiet and honest; where fancy has built
and decorated a western China, where life is sweet to breathe,
where happiness is wedded to silence. It is there that we
should live, it is there that we should die!

Yes, it is there that we should breathe, dream, and lengthen
out the hours by the infinity of sensations. A musician has
written an "Invitation à la Valse": who will compose the
"Invitation au Voyage" that we can offer to the beloved, to the
chosen sister?

Yes, it is in this atmosphere that it would be good to live;
far off, where slower hours contain more thoughts, where clocks
strike happiness with a deeper and more significant solemnity.

On shining panels, or on gilded leather of a dark richness,
slumbers the discreet life of pictures, deep, calm, and devout
as the souls of the painters who created it. The sunsets which
colour so richly the walls of dining-room and drawing-room,
are sifted through beautiful hangings or through tall wrought
windows leaded into many panes. The pieces of furniture are
large, curious, and fantastic, armed with locks and secrets
like refined souls. Mirrors, metals, hangings, goldsmith's work
and pottery, play for the eyes a mute and mysterious symphony;
and from all things, from every corner, from the cracks of
drawers and from the folds of hangings, exhales a singular
odour, a "forget-me-not" of Sumatra, which is, as it were, the
soul of the abode.

A real country of Cockaigne, I assure you, where all is
beautiful, clean, and shining, like a clear conscience, like a
bright array of kitchen crockery, like splendid jewellery of
gold, like many-coloured jewellery of silver! All the treasures
of the world have found their way there, as to the house of
a hard-working man who has put the whole world in his debt.
Singular country, excelling others as Art excels Nature, where
Nature is refashioned by dreams, where Nature is corrected,
embellished, re-moulded.

Let the alchemists of horticulture seek and seek again, let
them set ever further and further back the limits to their
happiness! Let them offer prizes of sixty and of a hundred
thousand florins to whoever will solve their ambitious
problems! For me, I have found my "black tulip" and my "blue
dahlia"!

Incomparable flower, recaptured tulip, allegoric dahlia, it
is there, is it not, in that beautiful country, so calm and
so full of dreams, that you live and flourish? There, would
you not be framed within your own analogy, and would you not
see yourself again, reflected, as the mystics say, in your own
"correspondence"?

Dreams, dreams ever! and the more delicate and ambitious the
soul, the further do dreams estrange it from possible things.
Every man carries within himself his natural dose of opium,
ceaselessly secreted and renewed, and, from birth to death, how
many hours can we reckon of positive pleasure, of successful
and decided action? Shall we ever live in, shall we ever pass
into, that picture which my mind has painted, that picture made
in your image?

These treasures, this furniture, this luxury, this order, these
odours, these miraculous flowers, are you. You too are the
great rivers and the quiet canals. The vast ships that drift
down them, laden with riches, from whose decks comes the sound
of the monotonous songs of labouring sailors, are my thoughts
which slumber or rise and fall on your breast. You lead them
softly towards the sea, which is the infinite, mirroring the
depths of the sky in the crystal clearness of your soul; and
when, weary of the surge and heavy with the spoils of the East,
they return to the port of their birth, it is still my thoughts
that come back enriched out of the infinite to you.



IV


The Eyes of the Poor


Ah! you want to know why I hate you to-day It will probably be
less easy for you to understand than for me to explain it to
you; for you are, I think, the most perfect example of feminine
impenetrability that could possibly be found.

We had spent a long day together, and it had seemed to me
short. We had promised one another that we would think the same
thoughts and that our two souls should become one soul; a dream
which is not original, after all, except that, dreamed by all
men, it has been realised by none.

In the evening you were a little tired, and you sat down
outside a new café at the corner of a new boulevard, still
littered with plaster and already displaying proudly its
unfinished splendours. The café glittered. The very gas put on
all the fervency of a fresh start, and lighted up with its full
force the blinding whiteness of the walls, the dazzling sheets
of glass in the mirrors, the gilt of cornices and mouldings,
the chubby-cheeked pages straining back from hounds in leash,
the ladies laughing at the falcons on their wrists, the nymphs
and goddesses carrying fruits and pies and game on their heads,
the Hebes and Ganymedes holding out at arm's-length little jars
of syrups or parti-coloured obelisks of ices; the whole of
history and of mythology brought together to make a paradise
for gluttons. Exactly opposite to us, in the roadway, stood
a man of about forty years of age, with a weary face and a
greyish beard, holding a little boy by one hand and carrying on
the other arm a little fellow too weak to walk. He was taking
the nurse-maid's place, and had brought his children out for
a walk in the evening. All were in rags. The three faces were
extraordinarily serious, and the six eyes stared fixedly at
the new café with an equal admiration, differentiated in each
according to age.

The father's eyes said: "How beautiful it is! how beautiful
it is! One would think that all the gold of the poor world
had found its way to these walls." The boy's eyes said: "How
beautiful it is! how beautiful it is! But that is a house which
only people who are not like us can enter." As for the little
one's eyes, they were too fascinated to express anything but
stupid and utter joy.

Song-writers say that pleasure ennobles the soul and softens
the heart. The song was right that evening, so far as I was
concerned. Not only was I touched by this family of eyes, but
I felt rather ashamed of our glasses and decanters, so much
too much for our thirst. I turned to look at you, dear love,
that I might read my own thought in you; I gazed deep into your
eyes, so beautiful and so strangely sweet, your green eyes that
are the home of caprice and under the sovereignty of the Moon;
and you said to me: "Those people are insupportable to me with
their staring saucer-eyes! Couldn't you tell the head waiter to
send them away?"

So hard is it to understand one another, dearest, and so
incommunicable is thought, even between people who are in love!



V


Windows


He who looks in through an open window never sees so many
things as he who looks at a shut window. There is nothing more
profound, more mysterious, more fertile, more gloomy, or more
dazzling, than a window lighted by a candle. What we can see
in the sunlight is always less interesting than what goes on
behind the panes of a window. In that dark or luminous hollow,
life lives, life dreams, life suffers.

Across the waves of roofs, I can see a woman of middle age,
wrinkled, poor, who is always leaning over something, and who
never goes out. Out of her face, out of her dress, out of her
attitude, out of nothing almost, I have made up the woman's
story, and sometimes I say it over to myself with tears.

If it had been a poor old man, I could have made up his just as
easily.

And I go to bed, proud of having lived and suffered in others.

Perhaps you will say to me: "Are you sure that it is the real
story?" What does it matter, what does any reality outside of
myself matter, if it has helped me to live, to feel that I am,
and what I am?



VI


Crowds


It is not given to every man to take a bath of multitude: to
play upon crowds is an art; and he alone can plunge, at the
expense of humankind, into a debauch of vitality, to whom
a fairy has bequeathed in his cradle the love of masks and
disguises, the hate of home and the passion of travel.

Multitude, solitude: equal terms mutually convertible by the
active and begetting poet. He who does not know how to people
his solitude, does not know either how to be alone in a busy
crowd.

The poet enjoys this incomparable privilege, to be at once
himself and others. Like those wandering souls that go about
seeking bodies, he enters at will the personality of every man.
For him alone, every place is vacant; and if certain places
seem to be closed against him, that is because in his eyes they
are not worth the trouble of visiting.

The solitary and thoughtful walker derives a singular
intoxication from this universal communion. He who mates
easily with the crowd knows feverish joys that must be for
ever unknown to the egoist, shut up like a coffer, and to the
sluggard, imprisoned like a shell-fish. He adopts for his own
all the occupations, all the joys and all the sorrows that
circumstance sets before him.

What men call love is small indeed, narrow and weak indeed,
compared with this ineffable orgie, this sacred prostitution of
the soul which gives itself up wholly (poetry and charity!) to
the unexpected which happens, to the stranger as he passes.

It is good sometimes that the happy of this world should learn,
were it only to humble their foolish pride for an instant,
that there are higher, wider, and rarer joys than theirs. The
founders of colonies, the shepherds of nations, the missionary
priests, exiled to the ends of the earth, doubtless know
something of these mysterious intoxications; and, in the midst
of the vast family that their genius has raised about them,
they must sometimes laugh at the thought of those who pity them
for their chaste lives and troubled fortunes.



VII


The Cake


I was travelling. The landscape in the midst of which I
was seated was of an irresistible grandeur and sublimity.
Something no doubt at that moment passed from it into my
soul. My thoughts fluttered with a lightness like that of the
atmosphere; vulgar passions, such as hate and profane love,
seemed to me now as far away as the clouds that floated in the
gulfs beneath my feet; my soul seemed to me as vast and pure
as the dome of the sky that enveloped me; the remembrance of
earthly things came as faintly to my heart as the thin tinkle
of the bells of unseen herds, browsing far, far away, on the
slope of another mountain. Across the little motionless lake,
black with the darkness of its immense depth, there passed
from time to time the shadow of a cloud, like the shadow of an
airy giant's cloak, flying through heaven. And I remember that
this rare and solemn sensation, caused by a vast and perfectly
silent movement, filled me with mingled joy and fear. In a
word, thanks to the enrapturing beauty about me, I felt that
I was at perfect peace with myself and with the universe; I
even believe that, in my complete forgetfulness of all earthly
evil, I had come to think the newspapers are right after all,
and man was born good; when, incorrigible matter renewing its
exigences, I sought to refresh the fatigue and satisfy the
appetite caused by so lengthy a climb. I took from my pocket
a large piece of bread, a leathern cup, and a small bottle
of a certain elixir which the chemists at that time sold to
tourists, to be mixed, on occasion, with liquid snow.

I was quietly cutting my bread when a slight noise made me
look up. I saw in front of me a little ragged urchin, dark
and dishevelled, whose hollow eyes, wild and supplicating,
devoured the piece of bread. And I heard him gasp, in a low,
hoarse voice, the word: "Cake!" I could not help laughing at
the appellation with which he thought fit to honour my nearly
white bread, and I cut off a big slice and offered it to him.
Slowly he came up to me, not taking his eyes from the coveted
object; then, snatching it out of my hand, he stepped quickly
back, as if he feared that my offer was not sincere, or that I
had already repented of it.

But at the same instant he was knocked over by another little
savage, who had sprung from I know not where, and who was
so precisely like the first that one might have taken them
for twin brothers. They rolled over on the ground together,
struggling for the possession of the precious booty, neither
willing to share it with his brother. The first, exasperated,
clutched the second by the hair; and the second seized one of
the ears of the first between his teeth, and spat out a little
bleeding morsel with a fine oath in dialect. The legitimate
proprietor of the cake tried to hook his little claws into
the usurper's eyes; the latter did his best to throttle his
adversary with one hand, while with the other he endeavoured
to slip the prize of war into his pocket. But, heartened by
despair, the loser pulled himself together, and sent the victor
sprawling with a blow of the head in his stomach. Why describe
a hideous fight which indeed lasted longer than their childish
strength seemed to promise? The cake travelled from hand to
hand, and changed from pocket to pocket, at every moment but,
alas, it changed also in size; and when at length, exhausted,
panting and bleeding, they stopped from the sheer impossibility
of going on, there was no longer any cause of feud; the slice
of bread had disappeared, and lay scattered in crumbs like the
grains of sand with which it was mingled.

The sight had darkened the landscape for me, and dispelled
the joyous calm in which my soul had lain basking; I remained
saddened for quite a long time, saying over and over to myself:
"There is then a wonderful country in which bread is called
cake, and is so rare a delicacy that it is enough in itself to
give rise to a war literally fratricidal!"



VIII


Evening Twilight


The day is over. A great restfulness descends into poor minds
that the day's work has wearied; and thoughts take on the
tender and dim colours of twilight.

Nevertheless from the mountain peak there comes to my balcony,
through the transparent clouds of evening, a great clamour,
made up of a crowd of discordant cries, dulled by distance into
a mournful harmony, like that of the rising tide or of a storm
brewing.

Who are the hapless ones to whom evening brings no calm; to
whom, as to the owls, the coming of night is the signal for a
witches' sabbath? The sinister ululation comes to me from the
hospital on the mountain; and, in the evening, as I smoke, and
look down on the quiet of the immense valley, bristling with
houses, each of whose windows seems to say, "Here is peace,
here is domestic happiness!" I can, when the wind blows from
the heights, lull my astonished thought with this imitation of
the harmonies of hell.

Twilight excites madmen. I remember I had two friends whom
twilight made quite ill. One of them lost all sense of social
and friendly amenities, and flew at the first-comer like a
savage. I have seen him throw at the waiter's head an excellent
chicken, in which he imagined he had discovered some insulting
hieroglyph. Evening, harbinger of profound delights, spoilt for
him the most succulent things.

The other, a prey to disappointed ambition, turned gradually,
as the daylight dwindled, sourer, more gloomy, more nettlesome.
Indulgent and sociable during the day, he was pitiless in the
evening; and it was not only on others, but on himself, that he
vented the rage of his twilight mania.

The former died mad, unable to recognise his wife and child;
the latter still keeps the restlessness of a perpetual
disquietude; and, if all the honours that republics and princes
can confer were heaped upon him, I believe that the twilight
would still quicken in him the burning envy of imaginary
distinctions. Night, which put its own darkness into their
minds, brings light to mine; and, though it is by no means rare
for the same cause to bring about opposite results, I am always
as it were perplexed and alarmed by it.

O night! O refreshing dark! for me you are the summons to
an inner feast, you are the deliverer from anguish! In the
solitude of the plains, in the stony labyrinths of a city,
scintillation of stars, outburst of gas-lamps, you are the
fireworks of the goddess Liberty!

Twilight, how gentle you are and how tender! The rosy lights
that still linger on the horizon, like the last agony of
day under the conquering might of its night; the flaring
candle-flames that stain with dull red the last glories of the
sunset; the heavy draperies that an invisible hand draws out of
the depths of the East, mimic all those complex feelings that
war on one another in the heart of man at the solemn moments of
life.

Would you not say that it was one of those strange costumes
worn by dancers, in which the tempered splendours of a shining
skirt show through a dark and transparent gauze, as, through
the darkness of the present, pierces the delicious past? And
the wavering stars of gold and silver with which it is shot,
are they not those fires of fancy which take light never so
well as under the deep mourning of the night?

"Anywhere out of the World"

Life is a hospital, in which every patient is possessed by the
desire of changing his bed. One would prefer to suffer near the
fire, and another is certain that he would get well if he were
by the window.

It seems to me that I should always be happy if I were
somewhere else, and this question of moving house is one that I
am continually talking over with my soul.

"Tell me, my soul, poor chilly soul, what do you say to living
in Lisbon? It must be very warm there, and you would bask
merrily, like a lizard. It is by the sea; they say that it is
built of marble, and that the people have such a horror of
vegetation that they tear up all the trees. There is a country
after your own soul; a country made up of light and mineral,
and with liquid to reflect them."

My soul makes no answer.

"Since you love rest, and to see moving things, will you come
and live in that heavenly land, Holland? Perhaps you would be
happy in a country which you have so often admired in pictures.
What do you say to Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts,
and ships anchored at the doors of houses?"

My soul remains silent.



IX


"ANYWHERE OUT OF THE WORLD"


"Or perhaps Java seems to you more attractive? Well, there we
shall find the mind of Europe married to tropical beauty."

Not a word. Can my soul be dead?

"Have you sunk then into so deep a stupor that only your own
pain gives you pleasure? If that be so, let us go to the lands
that are made in the likeness of Death. I know exactly the
place for us, poor soul! We will book our passage to Torneo. We
will go still further, to the last limits of the Baltic; and,
if it be possible, further still from life; we will make our
abode at the Pole. There the sun only grazes the earth, and the
slow alternations of light and night put out variety and bring
in the half of nothingness, monotony. There we can take great
baths of darkness, while, from time to time, for our pleasure,
the Aurora Borealis shall scatter its rosy sheaves before us,
like reflections of fireworks in hell!"

At last my soul bursts into speech, and wisely she cries to me:
"Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world!"



X


A Heroic Death


Fancioulle was an admirable buffoon, and almost one of the
friends of the Prince. But for persons professionally devoted
to the comic, serious things have a fatal attraction, and,
strange as it may seem that ideas of patriotism and liberty
should seize despotically upon the brain of a player, one day
Fancioulle joined in a conspiracy formed by some, discontented
nobles.

There exist everywhere sensible men to denounce those
individuals of atrabiliar disposition who seek to depose
princes, and, without consulting it, to reconstitute society.
The lords in question were arrested, together with Fancioulle,
and condemned to death.

I would readily believe that the Prince was almost sorry
to find his favourite actor among the rebels. The Prince
was neither better nor worse than any other prince; but an
excessive sensibility rendered him, in many cases, more cruel
and more despotic than all his fellows. Passionately enamoured
of the fine arts, an excellent connoisseur as well, he was
truly insatiable of pleasures. Indifferent enough in regard to
men and morals, himself a real artist, he feared no enemy but
Ennui, and the extravagant efforts that he made to fly or to
vanquish this tyrant of the world would certainly have brought
upon him, on the part of a severe historian, the epithet of
"monster," had it been permitted, in his dominions, to write
anything whatever which did not tend exclusively to pleasure,
or to astonishment, which is one of the most delicate forms of
pleasure. The great misfortune of the Prince was that he had no
theatre vast enough for his genius. There are young Neros who
are stifled within too narrow limits, and whose names and whose
intentions will never be known to future ages. An unforeseeing
Providence had given to this man faculties greater than his
dominions.

Suddenly the rumour spread that the sovereign had decided to
pardon all the conspirators; and the origin of this rumour was
the announcement of a special performance in which Fancioulle
would play one of his best _rôles_, and at which even the
condemned nobles, it was said, were to be present, an evident
sign, added superficial minds, of the generous tendencies of
the Prince.

On the part of a man so naturally and deliberately eccentric,
anything was possible, even virtue, even mercy, especially if
he could hope to find in it unexpected pleasures. But to those
who, like myself, had succeeded in penetrating further into the
depths of this sick and curious soul, it was infinitely more
probable that the Prince was wishful to estimate the quality
of the scenic talents of a man condemned to death. He would
profit by the occasion to obtain a physiological experience of
a _capital_ interest, and to verify to what extent the habitual
faculties of an artist would be altered or modified by the
extraordinary situation in which he found himself. Beyond this,
did there exist in his mind an intention, more or less defined,
of mercy? It is a point that has never been solved.

At last, the great day having come, the little court displayed
all its pomps, and it would be difficult to realise, without
having seen it, what splendour the privileged classes of a
little state with limited resources can show forth, on a really
solemn occasion. This was a doubly solemn one, both from the
wonder of its display and from the mysterious moral interest
attaching to it.

The Sieur Fancioulle excelled especially in parts either
silent or little burdened with words, such as are often
the principal ones in those fairy plays whose object is to
represent symbolically the mystery of life. He came upon the
stage lightly and with a perfect ease, which in itself lent
some support, in the minds of the noble public, to the idea of
kindness and forgiveness.

When we say of an actor, "This is a good actor," we make use
of a formula which implies that under the personage we can
still distinguish the actor, that is to say, art, effort,
will. Now, if an actor should succeed in being, in relation
to the personage whom he is appointed to express, precisely
what the finest statues of antiquity, miraculously animated,
living, walking, seeing, would be in relation to the confused
general idea of beauty, this would be, undoubtedly, a singular
and unheard of case. Fancioulle was, that evening, a perfect
idealisation, which it was impossible not to suppose living,
possible, real. The buffoon came and went, he laughed, wept,
was convulsed, with an indestructible aureole about his head,
an aureole invisible to all, but visible to me, and in which
were blended, in a strange amalgam, the rays of Art and the
martyr's glory. Fancioulle brought, by I know not what special
grace, something divine and supernatural into even the most
extravagant buffooneries. My pen trembles, and the tears
of an emotion which I cannot forget rise to my eyes, as I
try to describe to you this never-to-be-forgotten evening.
Fancioulle proved to me, in a peremptory, an irrefutable way,
that the intoxication of Art is surer than all others to veil
the terrors of the gulf; that genius can act a comedy on the
threshold of the grave with a joy that hinders it from seeing
the grave, lost, as it is, in a Paradise shutting out all
thought of the grave and of destruction.

The whole audience, _blasé_ and frivolous as it was, soon
fell under the all-powerful sway of the artist. Not a thought
was left of death, of mourning, or of punishment. All gave
themselves up, without disquietude, to the manifold delights
caused by the sight of a masterpiece of living art. Explosions
of joy and admiration again and again shook the dome of the
edifice with the energy of a continuous thunder. The Prince
himself, in an ecstasy, joined in the applause of his court.

Nevertheless, to a discerning eye, his emotion was not
unmixed. Did he feel himself conquered in his power as despot?
humiliated in his art as the striker of terror into hearts, of
chill into souls? Such suppositions, not exactly justified,
but not absolutely unjustifiable, passed through my mind as
I contemplated the face of the Prince, on which a new pallor
gradually overspread its habitual paleness, as snow overspreads
snow. His lips compressed themselves tighter and tighter, and
his eyes lighted up with an inner fire like that of jealousy
or of spite, even while he applauded the talents of his old
friend, the strange buffoon, who played the buffoon so well in
the face of death. At a certain moment, I saw his Highness lean
towards a little page, stationed behind him, and whisper in his
ear. The roguish face of the pretty child lit up with a smile,
and he briskly quitted the Prince's box as if to execute some
urgent commission.

A few minutes later a shrill and prolonged hiss interrupted
Fancioulle in one of his finest moments, and rent alike every
ear and heart. And from the part of the house from whence this
unexpected note of disapproval had sounded, a child darted into
a corridor with stifled laughter.

Fancioulle, shaken, roused out of his dream, closed his eyes,
then re-opened them, almost at once, extraordinarily wide,
opened his mouth as if to breathe convulsively, staggered a
little forward, a little backward, and then fell stark dead on
the boards.

Had the hiss, swift as a sword, really frustrated the hangman?
Had the Prince himself divined all the homicidal efficacy
of his ruse? It is permitted to doubt it. Did he regret his
dear and inimitable Fancioulle? It is sweet and legitimate to
believe it.

The guilty nobles had enjoyed the performance of comedy for the
last time. They were effaced from life.

Since then, many mimes, justly appreciated in different
countries, have played before the court of ----; but none of
them have ever been able to recall the marvellous talents of
Fancioulle, or to rise to the same _favour_.



XI


Be Drunken


Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only
question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time
weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be
drunken continually.

Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as
you will. But be drunken.

And it sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the green
side of a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room,
you should awaken and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped
away from you, ask of the wind, or of the wave, or of the star,
or of the bird, or of the clock, of whatever flies, or sighs,
or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what hour it is; and the
wind, wave, star, bird, clock, will answer you: "It is the hour
to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred slaves
of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry, or
with virtue, as you will."



    XII


    Epilogue


    With heart at rest I climbed the citadel's
    Steep height, and saw the city as from a tower,
    Hospital, brothel, prison, and such hells,

    Where evil comes up softly like a flower.
    Thou knowest, O Satan, patron of my pain,
    Not for vain tears I went up at that hour;

    But, like an old sad faithful lecher, fain
    To drink delight of that enormous trull
    Whose hellish beauty makes me young again.

    Whether thou sleep, with heavy vapours full,
    Sodden with day, or, new apparelled, stand
    In gold-laced veils of evening beautiful,

    I love thee, infamous city! Harlots and
    Hunted have pleasures of their own to give,
    The vulgar herd can never understand.





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