Charles Baudelaire

“The Voyage,”


How sour the knowledge the travelers bring away!
The world’s monotonous and small; we see
ourselves today, tomorrow, yesterday,
an oasis of horror in sands of ennui!

Shall we move or rest? Rest, if you can rest;
move if you must. One runs, but others drop
and trick their vigilant antagonist.
Time is a runner who can never stop,

the Wandering Jew or Christ’s Apostles. Yet
nothing’s enough; no knife goes through the ribs
of this retarius throwing out his net;
others can kill and never leave their cribs.

And even when Time’s heel is on our throat
we can still hope, still cry, “On, on, let’s go!”
Just as we once took passage on the boat
for China, shivering as we felt the blow,

so we now set our sails for the Dead Sea,
light-hearted as the youngest voyager.
If you look seaward, Traveler, you will see
a specter rise and hear it sing, “Stop, here,

and eat my lotus flowers, here’s where they’re sold.
Here are the fabulous fruits; look, my boughs bend;
eat yourself sick on knowledge. Here we hold
time in our hands, it never has to end.”

W.H. Auden

“A Voyage,”


Where does this journey look which the watcher upon the quay,
Standing under his evil star, so bitterly envies,
As the mountains swim away with slow calm strokes
And the gulls abandon their vow? Does it promise a juster life?

Alone with his heart at last, does the fortunate traveler find
In the vague touch of a breeze, the fickle flash of a wave,
Proofs that somewhere exists, really, the Good Place,
Convincing as those that children find in stones and holes?

No, he discovers nothing: he does not want to arrive.
His journey is false, his unreal excitement really an illness
On a false island where the heart cannot act and will not suffer:
He condones his fever; he is weaker than he thought; his weakness is real.

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