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Camille Saint Saens: Danse Macabre Opus 40
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The Dance of Death / Charles Baudelaire

Translation: William Aggeler

Proud as a living person of her noble stature,
With her big bouquet, her handkerchief and gloves,
She has the nonchalance and easy manner
Of a slender coquette with bizarre ways.

Did one ever see a slimmer waist at a ball?
Her ostentatious dress in its queenly fullness
Falls in ample folds over thin feet, tightly pressed
Into slippers with pompons pretty as flowers.

The swarm of bees that plays along her collar-bones
Like a lecherous brook that rubs against the rocks
Modestly protects from cat-calls and jeers
The funereal charms that she's anxious to hide.

Her deep eye-sockets are empty and dark,
And her skull, skillfully adorned with flowers,
Oscillates gently on her fragile vertebrae.
Charm of a non-existent thing, madly arrayed!

Some, lovers drunken with flesh, will call you
A caricature; they don't understand
The marvelous elegance of the human frame.
You satisfy my fondest taste, tall skeleton!

Do you come to trouble with your potent grimace
The festival of Life? Or does some old desire
Still goading your living carcass
Urge you on, credulous one, toward Pleasure's sabbath?

With the flames of candles, with songs of violins,
Do you hope to chase away your mocking nightmare,
And do you come to ask of the flood of orgies
To cool the hell set ablaze in your heart?

Inexhaustible well of folly and of sins!
Eternal alembic of ancient suffering!
Through the curved trellis of your ribs
I see, still wandering, the insatiable asp.

To tell the truth, I fear your coquetry
Will not find a reward worthy of its efforts;
Which of these mortal hearts understands raillery?
The charms of horror enrapture only the strong!

The abyss of your eyes, full of horrible thoughts,
Exhales vertigo, and discreet dancers
Cannot look without bitter nausea
At the eternal smile of your thirty-two teeth.

Yet who has not clasped a skeleton in his arms,
Who has not fed upon what belongs to the grave?
What matters the perfume, the costume or the dress?
He who shows disgust believes that he is handsome.

Noseless dancer, irresistible whore,
Tell those dancing couples who act so offended:
"Proud darlings, despite the art of make-up
You all smell of death! Skeletons perfumed with musk,

Withered Antinoi, dandies with smooth faces,
Varnished corpses, hoary-haired Lovclaces,
The universal swing of the danse macabre
Sweeps you along into places unknown!

From the Seine's cold quays to the Ganges' burning shores,
The human troupe skips and swoons with delight, sees not
In a hole in the ceiling the Angel's trumpet
Gaping ominously like a black blunderbuss.

In all climes, under every sun, Death admires you
At your antics, ridiculous Humanity,
And frequently, like you, scenting herself with myrrh,
Mingles her irony with your insanity!

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Jacopo Ligozzi 

Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre



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