Hymn to Beauty

Clark Ashton Smith

(Translated "from the French of Charles Pierre Baudelaire")

Fallest thou from the heavens, or soarest from the abyss,
O Beauty? Thy regard infernal and divine
Pours out, in vast confusion, crime and benefice,
And therefore one might well compare thee unto wine.

The sunset and the dawn in thy deep eyes are holden;
Thou sheddest forth perfumes like a tempestuous eve;
Thy mouth, a philtered amphora, doth the child embolden,
And heroes fail in the web thy slow caresses weave.

Comest thou from the black profound, or stars above?
Destiny, like a god, follows thy scented gown;
Sowing, all chancefully, disaster, joy and love,
Thou art the irnperatrix of all, the slave of none.

Thou tramplest on the dead with mockeries eternal;
Horror is half thy jewel-laden rosary;
And Murder is a precious amulet infernal
That on thy bosom burns and trembles amorously.

The ephemera flies to hail thee, candle of all our night,
And flaming dies, in adoration of its doom;
The lover leans toward the breast of his delight
Even as a dying man, fain to caress his tomb.

Be thou from hell or heaven, say, what matters it,
O Beauty! fearful sphinx ingenuous, if alone
Thy foot, thine eye, thy smile, unbar the Infinite
Which I have always loved and never yet have known?

Angel or sorceress, from God or Lucifer,
What matter—O my fay with velvet eyes—if thus
Thou renderest, by rhythm, gleam and flying myrrh,
The world less execrable and time less burdenous?

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