The Redhead Mistress
by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly
I took for my master, one day, a rough Mistress,
More fawn than a jaguar, redder than a lion!
I loved her ardently – fiercely – without tenderness,
With possession more than adoration!
It was my rage! the last madness
Which seizes, – when, touched by age and misfortune,
One feels at the bottom of oneself the finished youth …
For the sun of days still rises in life,
That it goes down in the heart !
I loved her and never had enough of her!
I said to him: “Demon of the last loves,
Salamander of hell, with mortal drunkenness,
When hearts are so cold, always set me ablaze!”
Pour me in your fires the fires that I regret,
These beautiful fires that I used to light with a glance!
Rejuvenate the dreamer, warm the poet,
And, since it is necessary to die, let me die, O Little Girl!
Under your jaguar bites! »
So I took her, in her glass corset,
And on my burning lip, which she still ignited,
I loved to bend her, fiery and light cup,
This red-haired beauty, this poison in gold!
And they were kisses! … Never, never a vampire
Sucked a child’s charming and fresh neck
As I sucked, oh my red-haired hetaira,
The crystal lip where my delirium drank
And on which you burned!
And then I felt your lightning breath
Who passed through mine and, falling into my heart,
Redoubled life, effaced the pain,
And for a few moments revived its ardor!
So, Daughter of Fire, mistress without rival,
I loved to feel myself set on fire by you
And wanted to fall asleep, looking joyful, my forehead pale,
On a shining pyre, like Sardanapalus,
And the pyre was in me!
“Ah! At least that one knows how to remain faithful to us, –
I said to myself, – and the hand always finds it,
Always ready to whomever loves it and lives altered by it,
And wants in its love to lose all its loves ! ”
One day they leave, our dearest mistresses;
Through them we drink the poison from Oblivion,
While this Redhead, indomitable to caresses,
Can kill us too, – but by dint of drunkenness,
And not by betrayal!
And I preferred her, fierce, but sincere,
To these sweet beauties, with the deceptive smile,
Paying the loyal hearts with a love of forger …
I knew on what heart I was sleeping on her heart!
The gold she poured out for me and which gilded my life,
Shining in my cup, was a real treasure!
Also it was not for the time of an orgy,
But for eternity, that I had chosen her:
My companion until death!
And always stapled to me like a slave,
For the tyrant is bound to the irons he makes wear,
I carried it everywhere in its lava flask,
My fiery topaz, always on the verge of bursting!
I felt for her the love of a privateer,
A love of savage, unbridled, mad, ardent!
This love that Hegesippus had, in his misery,
Which takes the place of everything for us, when life is bitter,
And which made Sheridan die!
And it was an ever more implacable love,
Always more devouring, always more insane!
It was like thirst, the inexorable thirst
That once kindled Circe’s potion.
I recognized you, voluptuous torture!
When man seeks, alas! in its forgotten evils,
Of stupidity the monstrous delight …
And is not – Circe! – never enough, at its whim,
The Beast that licks your feet!
Poor love, – the last, – that the happy of the world,
In their haughty disgust, amuse themselves by withering,
But which must excuse any shallow soul
And that a kind God will not want to punish!
To fully appreciate its lying sweetness,
It would be necessary, when everything shines on the banquet ceiling,
To have hidden his eyes in the shadow of his glass
And cried in this shadow, – and to drink the bitter tear
That fell and melted there!
One evening I drank it, this tear, in silence …
And, plunging my lip back between your golden lips,
I had just resumed, oh my gloomy Madness!
Irony, and drunkenness, and courage again!
The Spirit – the avenging Eagle which hovers over life –
Returned to my lip, to its bloody perch …
I was going to start again my fits of madness
And laugh again at the laughter that defies …
When a woman, in black corset,
A woman … I thought it was a woman,
But since … Ah! I saw how much I was wrong,
And that it was an Angel, and that it was a Soul,
Of refreshment, of light and of peace!
In the midst of all of us, charming Solitaire,
Her eyes were full of all pity.
She took her white gloves and put them in my glass,
And said to me laughing, in her soft and clear voice
“I don’t want you to drink anymore!”
And that single word decided my life,
And it was God’s stroke that changed my destiny.
And when she said it, sure to be obeyed,
Her hand came chastely to rest on my hand.
And, since that time, I went to seek drunkenness
Elsewhere … than in the cup where your poison boiled,
Abandoned Witch, oh my Red-haired Mistress!
Beautiful example of more than God in his wisdom,
Put the Angel above the devil!