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Le Léthé (Lethe)

Viens sur mon coeur, âme cruelle et sourde,
Tigre adoré, monstre aux airs indolents;
Je veux longtemps plonger mes doigts tremblants
Dans l'épaisseur de ta crinière lourde;

Dans tes jupons remplis de ton parfum
Ensevelir ma tête endolorie,
Et respirer, comme une fleur flétrie,
Le doux relent de mon amour défunt.

Je veux dormir! dormir plutôt que vivre!
Dans un sommeil aussi doux que la mort,
J'étalerai mes baisers sans remords
Sur ton beau corps poli comme le cuivre.

Pour engloutir mes sanglots apaisés
Rien ne me vaut l'abîme de ta couche;
L'oubli puissant habite sur ta bouche,
Et le Léthé coule dans tes baisers.

À mon destin, désormais mon délice,
J'obéirai comme un prédestiné;
Martyr docile, innocent condamné,
Dont la ferveur attise le supplice,

Je sucerai, pour noyer ma rancoeur,
Le népenthès et la bonne ciguë
Aux bouts charmants de cette gorge aiguë
Qui n'a jamais emprisonné de coeur.


Come, lie upon my breast, cruel, insensitive soul,
Adored tigress, monster with the indolent air;
I want to plunge trembling fingers for a long time
In the thickness of your heavy mane,

To bury my head, full of pain
In your skirts redolent of your perfume,
To inhale, as from a withered flower,
The moldy sweetness of my defunct love.

I wish to sleep! to sleep rather than live!
In a slumber doubtful as death,
I shall remorselessly cover with my kisses
Your lovely body polished like copper.

To bury my subdued sobbing
Nothing equals the abyss of your bed,
Potent oblivion dwells upon your lips
And Lethe flows in your kisses.

My fate, hereafter my delight,
I'll obey like one predestined;
Docile martyr, innocent man condemned,
Whose fervor aggravates the punishment.

I shall suck, to drown my rancor,
Nepenthe and the good hemlock
From the charming tips of those pointed breasts
That have never guarded a heart.

— Translated by William Aggeler


Rest on my heart, deaf, cruel soul, adored
Tigress, and monster with the lazy air.
I long, in the black jungles of your hair,
To force each finger thrilling like a sword:

Within wide skirts, filled with your scent, to hide
My bruised and battered forehead hour by hour,
And breathe, like dampness from a withered flower,
The pleasant mildew of a love that died.

Rather than live, I wish to sleep, alas!
Lulled in a slumber soft and dark as death,
In ruthless kisses lavishing my breath
Upon your body smooth as burnished brass.

To swallow up my sorrows in eclipse,
Nothing can match your couch's deep abysses;
The stream of Lethe issues from your kisses
And powerful oblivion from your lips.

Like a predestined victim I submit:
My doom, to me, henceforth, is my delight,
A willing martyr in my own despite
Whose fervour fans the faggots it has lit.

To drown my rancour and to heal its smart,
Nepenthe and sweet hemlock, peace and rest,
I'll drink from the twin summits of a breast
That never lodged the semblance of a heart.

— Translated by Roy Campbell


Come to my arms, cruel and sullen thing;
Indolent beast, come to my arms again,
For I would plunge my fingers in your mane
And be a long time unremembering —

And bury myself in you, and breathe your wild
Perfume remorselessly for one more hour:
And breathe again, as of a ruined flower,
The fragrance of the love you have defiled.

I long to sleep; I think that from a stark
Slumber like death I could awake the same
As I was once, and lavish without shame
Caresses upon your body, glowing and dark.

To drown my sorrow there is no abyss,
However deep, that can compare with your bed.
Forgetfulness has made its country your red
Mouth, and the flowing of Lethe is in your kiss.

My doom, henceforward, is my sole desire:
As martyrs, being demented in their zeal,
Shake with delightful spasms upon the wheel,
Implore the whip, or puff upon the fire,

So I implore you, fervently resigned!
Come; I would drink nepenthe and long rest
At the sweet points of this entrancing breast
Wherein no heart has ever been confined.

— Translated by George Dillon


Tigress adored, indolent fiend, lie there,
There on my heart now, merciless and strong,
I wish to run my trembling fingers long
Through the black tangles of your heavy hair,
To plunge my aching head amorous of
Your skirts as into secret, perfumed bowers,
To breathe your scent as from pale withered flowers
The after-flavor of my defunct love.

I wish to sleep rather than live, alas!
In slumber deep and sweet as death, O lover,
As my fierce and remorseless kisses cover
Your lovely body, bright as burnished brass,
To bury my stilled sobs in the abysses
Of your anodyne bed, to feast upon
Your lips that shed potent oblivion,
To drink the Lethe flowing in your kisses.

I shall delight in following my fate,
Obeying it gladly as a man contemned,
O docile martyr, innocent condemned
To tortures that his fervors aggravate.
With suckling lips to quell my spleen and rancor,
Nepenthe I shall drain, and hemlock's sweets,
Out of the magic tips of pointed teats
That never served a human heart for anchor.

— Translated by Jacques LeClercq

Le Léthé

come to my heart, cold viper-soul malign,
beloved tiger, hydra indolent;
long will I drag my hands incontinent
and quivering, through this vast loosed mane of thine;

long will I bury throbbing brow and head
among thy skirts all redolent of thee,
and breathe — a blighted flower of perfidy —
the fading odour of my passion dead.

I'll sleep, not live! I'll lose myself in sleep!
in slumber soft as Death's uncertain shore,
I'll sleep and sow my drowsy kisses o'er
thy polished coppery arms and bosom deep.

to drown my sobs and still my spirit — o!
no boon but thine abysmal bed avails;
poppied oblivion from thy mouth exhales
and through thy kisses floods of Lethe flow.

so to my doom, henceforward my desire,
I shall submit as one predestinate;
and like a martyr, calm, immaculate,
whose fervour prods again his flickering pyre,

I'll suck, to drown my hate's eternal smart,
Nepenthe, and good bitter hemlock brew,
from the sharp rose-buds of thy breast, anew,
thy breast that never did contain a heart.

— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks


Come on my heart, cruel and insensible soul,
My darling tiger, beast with indolent airs;
I want to plunge for hours my trembling fingers
In your thick and heavy mane;

In your petticoats filled with your perfume
To bury my aching head,
And breathe, like a faded flower,
The sweet taste of my dead love.

I want to sleep, to sleep and not to live,
In a sleep as soft as death,
I shall cover with remorseless kisses
Your body beautifully polished as copper.

To swallow my appeased sobbing
I need only the abyss of your bed;
A powerful oblivion lives on your lips,
And all Lethe flows in your kisses.

I shall obey, as though predestined,
My destiny, that is now my delight;
Submissive martyr, innocent damned one,
My ardor inflames my torture,

And I shall suck, to drown my bitterness
The nepenthe and the good hemlock,
On the lovely tips of those jutting breasts
Which have never imprisoned love.

— TRanslated by Geoffrey Wagner


Come to my heart, cruel, insensible one,
Adored tiger, monster with the indolent air;
I would for a long time plunge my trembling fingers
Into the heavy tresses of your hair;

And in your garments that exhale your perfume
I would bury my aching head,
And breathe, like a withered flower,
The sweet, stale reek of my love that is dead.

I want to sleep! sleep rather than live!
And in a slumber, dubious as the tomb's,
I would lavish my kisses without remorse
Upon the burnished copper of your limbs.

To swallow my abated sobs
Nothing equals your bed's abyss;
Forgetfulness dwells in your mouth,
And Lethe flows from your kiss.

My destiny, henceforth my pleasure,
I shall obey, predestined instrument,
Docile martyr, condemned innocent,
Whose fervour but augments his torment.

I shall suck, to drown my rancour,
Nepenthe, hemlock, an opiate,
At the charming tips of this pointed breast
That has never imprisoned a heart.

Translated by Anonymous

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