Charles Baudelaire

9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867 / Paris

L'Ennemi (The Enemy)

Ma jeunesse ne fut qu'un ténébreux orage,
Traversé çà et là par de brillants soleils;
Le tonnerre et la pluie ont fait un tel ravage,
Qu'il reste en mon jardin bien peu de fruits vermeils.

Voilà que j'ai touché l'automne des idées,
Et qu'il faut employer la pelle et les râteaux
Pour rassembler à neuf les terres inondées,
Où l'eau creuse des trous grands comme des tombeaux.

Et qui sait si les fleurs nouvelles que je rêve
Trouveront dans ce sol lavé comme une grève
Le mystique aliment qui ferait leur vigueur?

— Ô douleur! ô douleur! Le Temps mange la vie,
Et l'obscur Ennemi qui nous ronge le coeur
Du sang que nous perdons croît et se fortifie!

The Enemy

My youth has been nothing but a tenebrous storm,
Pierced now and then by rays of brilliant sunshine;
Thunder and rain have wrought so much havoc
That very few ripe fruits remain in my garden.

I have already reached the autumn of the mind,
And I must set to work with the spade and the rake
To gather back the inundated soil
In which the rain digs holes as big as graves.

And who knows whether the new flowers I dream of
Will find in this earth washed bare like the strand,
The mystic aliment that would give them vigor?

Alas! Alas! Time eats away our lives,
And the hidden Enemy who gnaws at our hearts
Grows by drawing strength from the blood we lose!
— Translated by William Aggeler
The Enemy

My youth was but a tempest, dark and savage,
Through which, at times, a dazzling sun would shoot
The thunder and the rain have made such ravage
My garden is nigh bare of rosy fruit.

Now I have reached the Autumn of my thought,
And spade and rake must toil the land to save,
That fragments of my flooded fields be sought
From where the water sluices out a grave.

Who knows if the new flowers my dreams prefigure,
In this washed soil should find, as by a sluit,
The mystic nourishment to give them vigour?

Time swallows up our life, O ruthless rigour!
And the dark foe that nibbles our heart's root,
Grows on our blood the stronger and the bigger!
— Translated by Roy Campbell

The Ruined Garden

My childhood was only a menacing shower,
cut now and ten by hours of brilliant heat.
All the top soil was killed by rain and sleet,
my garden hardly bore a standing flower.

From now on, my mind's autumn! I must take
the field and dress my beds with spade and rake
and restore order to my flooded grounds.
There the rain raised mountains like burial mounds.

I throw fresh seeds out. Who knows what survives?
What elements will give us life and food?
This soil is irrigated by the tides.

Time and nature sluice away our lives.
A virus eats the heart out of our sides,
digs in and multiplies on our lost blood.
— Translated by Robert Lowell

The Enemy

I think of my gone youth as of a stormy sky
Infrequently transpierced by a benignant sun;
Tempest and hail have done their work; and what have I? —
How many fruits in my torn garden? — scarcely one.

And now that I approach the autumn of my mind,
And must reclaim once more the inundated earth —
Washed into stony trenches deep as graves I find
I wield the rake and hoe, asking, 'What is it worth?'

Who can assure me, these new flowers for which I toil
Will find in the disturbed and reconstructed soil
That mystic aliment on which alone they thrive?

Oh, anguish, anguish! Time eats up all things alive;
And that unseen, dark Enemy, upon the spilled
Bright blood we could not spare, battens, and is fulfilled.
— Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay

L'Ennemi

my youth was all a murky hurricane;
not oft did the suns of splendour burst the gloom;
so wild the lightning raged, so fierce the rain,
few crimson fruits my garden-close illume.

now I have touched the autumn of the mind,
I must repair and smooth the earth, to save
my little seed-plot, torn and undermined,
guttered and gaping like an open grave.

and will the flowers all my dreams implore
draw from this garden wasted like a shore
some rich mysterious power the storm imparts?

— o grief! o grief! time eats away our lives,
and the dark Enemy gnawing at our hearts
sucks from our blood the strength whereon he thrives!
— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks

The Enemy

My youth was nothing but a black storm
Crossed now and then by brilliant suns.
The thunder and the rain so ravage the shores
Nothing's left of the fruit my garden held once.

I should employ the rake and the plow,
Having reached the autumn of ideas,
To restore this inundated ground
Where the deep grooves of water form tombs in the lees.

And who knows if the new flowers you dreamed
Will find in a soil stripped and cleaned
The mystic nourishment that fortifies?

—O Sorrow—O Sorrow—Time consumes Life,
And the obscure enemy that gnaws at my heart
Uses the blood that I lose to play my part.
Translated by William A. Sigler
43 Total read