The Former Life

Translation of Charles Baudelaire’s “La Vie Antérieure”

I lived for years beneath vast porticoes
Ocean suns tinged with myriad fiery lights,
And whose upright, majestic pillars, nights,
Reminded me of vast, basaltic grottos.

The sea-swell, rolling images of the skies,
In a mystical and solemn manner bound
The all-powerful harmonies of its sound
With the sunset’s colors mirrored in my eyes.

That was the place where I lived in voluptuous calm,
Surrounded by azure skies, and splendors, and waves,
Waited on by naked, fragrant slaves

Who fanned and freshened my brow with fronds of palm,
And whose sole task was to deepen and divine
The hidden sorrow causing me to pine.

La Vie Antérieure

J’ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques
Que les soleils marins teignaient de mille feux,
Et que leurs grands piliers, droits et majestueux,
Rendaient pareils, le soir, aux grottes basaltiques.

Les houles, en roulant les images des cieux,
Mêlaient d’une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout-puissants accords de leur riche musique
Aux couleurs du couchant reflété par mes yeux.

C’est là que j’ai vécu dans les voluptés calmes,
Au milieu de l’azur, des vagues, des splendeurs
Et des esclaves nus, tout imprégnés d’odeurs,

Qui me rafraîchissaient le front avec des palmes,
Et dont l’unique soin était d’approfondir
Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir.

Emily Leithauser

Emily Leithauser

Emily Leithauser’s first book, The Borrowed World, was the winner of the 2015 Able Muse Book Award. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Blackbird, Literary Imagination, and Unsplendid, among other journals. Her scholarship has been published in The Hopkins Review and The Global South. This fall, she will begin a position as an assistant professor of English at Centenary College of Louisiana.
Emily Leithauser

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Author: Emily Leithauser

Emily Leithauser’s first book, The Borrowed World, was the winner of the 2015 Able Muse Book Award. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Blackbird, Literary Imagination, and Unsplendid, among other journals. Her scholarship has been published in The Hopkins Review and The Global South. This fall, she will begin a position as an assistant professor of English at Centenary College of Louisiana.