Charles Baudelaire: “Autumn Song”

Autumn Song

I.
Soon we’ll descend into dark icy depths,
Farewell, bright clarity of our brief summer days!
Already I hear, like the news of a death,
the sound of wood falling on the paved alleyways.

Winter is returning to hold my soul in his spell.
He brings hate, horror, chills, and hard labor beneath his stick.
And my heart, like the sun in its far glacial hell,
will soon shrivel down to an icy, red brick.

I listen, shaking, as each log tumbles.
The hoisting of gallows makes a less wretched sound.
My spirit resembles a tower that crumbles
As a battering ram brings it down to the ground.

And it seems to me, lulled by this monotone din,
That someone’s shutting a coffin, in the blink of an eye.
But for whom? — It was summer, and now autumn’s closed in.
The mysterious noise sounds just like a goodbye.

II.
I love your long eyes and the green they assume,
Your beauty is sweet, but today it’s bitter to me,
And nothing, not your love, nor the fire of your room,
Is worth half as much as the sunlight on the sea.

Yet love me and mother me, O heart so tender,
Though I am ungrateful and one you should shun,
Be a mistress or sister, be the fading splendor
Of the glorious autumn and the setting sun.

Your task will be short, for my grave waits with desire!
Let me lay my head upon your lap, as I mourn
The end of a summer that was white as a fire
And the last, gold rays of the season that’s been torn.

Charles Baudelaire

Translated from French by Paul Weinfield, © 2013
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