The Albatross by Charles BaudelaireSubmitted by JuliaM9 on Tue, 12/30/2008 - 2:54am
I do have a love-hate relationship with Romantic poets. Sometimes I want to shake them and say, "Stop it! Stop trying to make it seem so beautiful! Stop being so proud of yourselves and your own melancholy!" Maybe it's a gender thing-- male romantic poets seem to duke it out or out-macho each other by seeing who can be darker, more mysterious, madder. It is beautiful sometimes (it being bipolar disorder/mental illness), but romanticizing (pun intended) it that way is dangerous and somehow untruthful. Romanticized portrayals of mental illness don't sit right with me, and don't seem to be a step in the right direction. It doesn't feel right to gloss over (or glorify too much) the ugly that comes with the pretty.
The poem below is a "love" from my love-hate relationship with Romantic poetry and Romantic poets. . . right on, Baudelaire. I won't say too much about it, other than that I feel like it hits at what I feel like without making it too pretty. The last line doesn't translate that well and is better in French; I'm including the original French version of the poem, too. I'm new to this site, so maybe someone has put it out there already. In any case, I hope it resonates with someone as much as it does with me.
by Charles Baudelaire (translated by Eli Siegel)
Often, to amuse themselves the men of the crew
Lay hold of the albatross, vast birds of the seas-
Who follow, sluggish companions of the voyage,
The ship gliding on the bitter gulfs.
Hardly have they placed them on the planks,
Than these kings of the azure, clumsy and shameful,
Let, piteously, their great wings in white,
Like oars, drag at their sides.
This winged traveler, how he is awkward and weak!
He, lately so handsome, how comic he is and uncomely!
Someone bothers his beak with a short pipe,
Another imitates, limping, the ill thing that flew!
The poet resembles the prince of the clouds
Who is friendly to the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
Banished to ground in the midst of hootings,
His wings, those of a giant, hinder him from walking.
[and in the original french]
Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes d'équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.
À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.
Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid!
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait!
Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.