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Le Serpent Qui Danse – a translation by Ian Brinton

The following poem is a translation of Baudelaire’s early ‘Le Serpent Qui Danse’.

~

A Serpent’s Dance

How I love, dear indolence, to gaze
……….Upon your body of delight,
That flickering of material
……….A shimmering of skin!

Upon the dark depths of your hair
……….A tangle of pungent odour,
A wild scented ocean
……….Of surging blues and brown,

As a vessel setting sail
……….Upon an early morning breeze,
My erring soul embarks
……….For far-distant skies.

Your eyes let nothing show
……….Of the sweet or of the sour
But like two frigid jewels
……….Gold is merged with steel.

Gazing at your moves
……….Of rhythmic carelessness,
One might say you were a snake
……….Responding to the charmer’s stick.

Burdened with idleness
……….Your child-like head
Wags with the sluggish motion
……….Of a baby elephant,

And your body stretches out in leaning forward
……….Like a trim vessel
That sways from side to side before dipping
……….A yard-arm in the sea.

Like a flood-tide swollen by the deep groan
……….Of a melting glacier,
When the saliva in your mouth surges up
……….To the tooth’s tip,

I seem to quaff Bohemian wine,
……….Powerful and bitter,
A sky of moisture strewing
……….Stars in my heart!

~

Ian Brinton’s recent publications include Islands of Voices, an edition of the selected poems of Douglas Oliver (Shearsman Books) and a translation of the selected poems of Mallarmé introduced by J.H. Prynne (Muscaliet Press). Forthcoming publications include a translation of the selected poems of Valéry introduced by Michael Heller (Muscaliet Press) and a sequence of poems by Philippe Jaccottet (Equipage). His Paris Scenes by Baudelaire will appear from Two Rivers Press in July 2021.

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