The Flask – Charles Baudelaire – Lines of the Day

There are some strong perfumes that cannot be contained.
Which seep through any glass of bottle or of vial.
For instance, taking up an Oriental chest,
Whose stubborn lock will creak and groan on opening,

Or poking through a house, in closets shut for years,
Full of the smell of time – acrid, musty, dank.
One comes, perhaps, upon a flask of memories
In whose escaping scent a soul returns to life.

A thousand thoughts have slept cocooned within this flask,
But sweetly trembling there, packed closely in the dark;
Now they release their wings and take their gaudy flight,
Tinged with an azure blue, rose-glazed, spangled in gold.

Fluttering to the brain through the unsettled air,
Rapturous memory pervades the atmosphere;
The eyes are forced to close, Vertigo grasps the soul,
And thrusts her with his hands into the mist of mind.

He forces her to lie next to an ancient tomb,
From which with cloying scent–Lazarus splitting his shroud–
A gaunt cadaver moves to its awakening:
Ghosts of a spoiled love, enchanting though impure.

So when I am entombed to mortal memory,
When I am closeted in some deserted house,
When I’ve been thrown away, an old forgotten flask,
Decrepit, dusty, cracked, rejected, filthy, rank,

I will be tomb for you, beloved pestilence,
The witness of your force and of its virulence
Dear poison made by angels, drink that eats my soul,
Oh you who are the life and ruin of my heart!

Translated by James McGowan

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