Charles Baudelaire

“The Voyage,”

 1859

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,”

 1938

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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