Clark Ashton Smith

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

In a burnt land of ashes, verdureless and bare,
Loudly I made complaint to sun and soil and air,
And in my thoughts, as randomly I wandered on,
Whetted against my heart the dagger I had drawn;
Till at full noon I saw above my head descending
A great funereal cloud, pregnant with storm impending,
Wherefrom a flock of vicious demons craned at me
Like cruel, curious dwarves from some high balcony,
Considering me full coldly. Then, like passersby,
Who make rare sport of some poor madman they espy,
I heard them laugh and whisper, leaning each to each
With evil winks and signs obseener than their speech:

"At leisure contemplate this caricature grotesque,
This clown who turns the part of Hamlet to burlesque,
With wildly rolling eyes and locks upon the wind.
Verily, is it not most pitiful to find
This mendicant, this idle actor, this poor droll,
Who, having learned to play his one successful role,
In caterwauling thus his doleful songs, would dream
To win concern from eagle, cricket, flower and stream,
And even to us, who set such fashions long ago,
Would hoarsely howl his public monologues of woe?"

With pride that towered like the topmost mountains high
To quell the overswollen cloud, the demons' cry,
I would have turned my head, granting nor sign or word,
Had I not seen, midmost of all that filthy herd,
My queen with peerless eyes and bosom without fault.
O crime to shake the very sun from heaven's vault!
She laughed even as they, deriding my distress,
And gave them now and then some soiled, unclean caress.

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Printed on: October 29, 2020