12 December 2012

Anywhere Out of the World

Charles Baudelaire, "Anywhere Out of the World," translated by Arthur Symons, Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919), pp. 51-53:
Life is a hospital, in which every patient is possessed by the desire of changing his bed. One would prefer to suffer near the fire, and another is certain that he would get well if he were by the window. It seems to me that I should always be happy if I were somewhere else, and this question of moving house is one that I am continually talking over with my soul.
"Tell me, my soul, poor chilly soul, what do you say to living in Lisbon? It must be very warm there, and you would bask merrily, like a lizard. It is by the sea; they say that it is built of marble, and that the people have such a horror of vegetation that they tear up all the trees. There is a country after your own soul; a country made up of light and mineral, and with liquid to reflect them."
My soul makes no answer.
"Since you love rest, and to see moving things, will you come and live in that heavenly land, Holland? Perhaps you would be happy in a country which you have so often admired in pictures. What do you say to Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships anchored at the doors of houses?"
My soul remains silent.
"Or perhaps Java seems to you more attractive? Well, there we shall find the mind of Europe married to tropical beauty."
Not a word. Can my soul be dead?
"Have you sunk then into so deep a stupor that only your own pain gives you pleasure? If that be so, let us go to the lands that are made in the likeness of Death. I know exactly the place for us, poor soul! We will book our passage to Torneo. We will go still further, to the last limits of the Baltic; and, if it be possible, further still from life; we will make our abode at the Pole. There the sun only grazes the earth, and the slow alternations of light and night put out variety and bring in the half of nothingness, monotony. There we can take great baths of darkness, while, from time to time, for our pleasure, the Aurora Borealis shall scatter its rosy sheaves before us, like reflections of fireworks in hell!" 
At last my soul bursts into speech, and wisely she cries to me: "Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world!"