Thursday, September 08, 2011

Poem of the Week 9/8/2011: Invitation to the Voyage

Invitation to the Voyage

My child, my sister,
Think of the rapture
Of living together there!
Of loving at will,
Of loving till death,
In the land that is like you!
The misty sunlight
Of those cloudy skies
Has for my spirit the charms,
So mysterious,
Of your treacherous eyes,
Shining brightly through their tears.

There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.

Gleaming furniture,
Polished by the years,
Will ornament our bedroom;
The rarest flowers
Mingling their fragrance
With the faint scent of amber,
The ornate ceilings,
The limpid mirrors,
The oriental splendor,
All would whisper there
Secretly to the soul
In its soft, native language.

There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.

See on the canals
Those vessels sleeping.
Their mood is adventurous;
It's to satisfy
Your slightest desire
That they come from the ends of the earth.
— The setting suns
Adorn the fields,
The canals, the whole city,
With hyacinth and gold;
The world falls asleep
In a warm glow of light.

There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.

- Charles Baudelaire, trans. William Aggeler

Thanks many times to C for alerting me to this poem. It's a marvel of a work, something like a love poem but bursting with a greater love than just the erotic -- more like eros, from somebody who loves the world loving another. You see, the entire poem reads as seductive love poem, but the opening line, "My child, my sister," stages it so that we cannot simply read it as a romantic poem. Instead, it is a love like Whitman's, away from the grasping love of a person and towards a love that is meant to enliven the beloved, more objective, true, and vast!

What is this love? It is a love that is meant to bring the girl closer to what she is meant to be, as the first stanza announces. The speaker implores her to imagine the rapture that comes from living in a world that is like her, a land that matches her sensibility, is the right soil in which she can grow. It also draws out a world that exists for the living person -- expresses the sentiment that the world is here for human life, and that everything that is built reaches to us . This reflection is not egotistical, but hopefully grounded on earth, compassionately and exuberantly offering the things of this world to us, who see and live it.

Apparently it's based on some Claude Lorraine paintings of a ship-flecked, so there's an aesthetic joy in the poem as well; the poem is thus an eckphrastic poem, which is a poem based on a piece of art. Just goes to show an incredible ability to communicate and "read" that is outside the academy -- is translated by nothing but images, and then re-written (and re-translated into english) in a poem.

Thanks all for reading,
till later!