Charles Baudlaire, The Albatross, from le fleur du mal

11 Aug

Albatrosses

Often our sailors, for an hour of fun,
Catch albatrosses on the after breeze
Through which these trail the ship from sun to sun
As it skims down the deep and briny seas.

Scarce have these birds been set upon the poop,
Than, awkward now, they, the sky’s emperors,
Piteous and shamed, let their great white wings droop
Beside them like a pair of idle oars.

These wingèd voyagers, how gauche their gait!
Once noble, now how ludicrous to view!
One sailor bums them with his pipe, his mate
Limps, mimicking these cripples who once flew.

Poets are like these lords of sky and cloud,
Who ride the storm and mock the bow’s taut strings,
Exiled on earth amid a jeering crowd,
Prisoned and palsied by their giant wings.

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