The Perfume Flask


Charles Baudelaire

There are strong perfumes for which all matter

Is porous. One could say they go through glass.

On opening a container that has come from the East,

Whose creaking lock resists and grates,

Or in a deserted house, some cabinet

Full of the acrid odor of the Past, dusty and black,

Sometimes one finds an antique vial which remembers,

From which gushes forth a living soul come back to life.

Many thoughts were sleeping, death-like chrysalides,

Quivering softly in the heavy shadows,

That free their wings and rise up in flight,

Tinged with azure, glazed with rose, spangled with gold.

That is the bewitching souvenir which flutters

In the troubled air; the eyes close; dizziness

Seizes the vanquished soul, shoves it with both hands

Toward a darkened abyss of human pollution:

He throws it down at the edge of an ancient abyss,

Where, like stinking Lazarus tearing wide his shroud,

There moves as it wakes up, the ghostly cadaver

Of a rancid old love, charming and sepulchral.

Thus, when I'll be lost to the memory

Of humanity, when I'll be thrown into the corner

Of a dismal cabinet, a desolate old vial,

Decrepit, cracked, slimy, dirty, dusty, abject,

Delightful pestilence! I will be your coffin,

The witness of your strength and of your virulence,

Beloved poison prepared by the angels! Liqueur

That consumes me, O the life and death of my heart!

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