by Charles Baudelaire
Here is a woman, richly clad and fair,
Who in her wine dips her long, heavy hair;
Love’s claws, and that sharp poison which is sin,
Are dulled against the granite of her skin.
Death she defies, Debauch she smiles upon,
For their sharp scythe-like talons every one
Pass by her in their all-destructive play;
Leaving her beauty till a later day.
Goddess she walks; sultana in her leisure;
She has Mohammed’s faith that heaven is pleasure,
And bids all men forget the world’s alarms
Upon her breast, between her open arms.
She knows, and she believes, this sterile maid,
Without whom the world’s onward dream would fade,
That bodily beauty is the supreme gift
Which may from every sin the terror lift.
Hell she ignores, and Purgatory defies;
And when black Night shall roll before her eyes,
She will look straight in Death’s grim face forlorn,
Without remorse or hate—as one new born.