Original by Charles Baudelaire
Translated, from the French, by Will Cordeiro
Often, just for kicks, bored sailors reach
for that vast bird, the albatross, which glides
above them on lethargic winds as each
old ketch is drifting the abyss of tides.
Soon as they toss this monarch on the deck,
he stoops and gawks with awkward, drooping wings,
which, mortified, trail lifeless and dejected,
like useless oars through landlocked zones wherein
this skyborne voyager’s made comic—weak,
a stupid bumbler who was once all grace!
One sailor sticks a pipestem in his beak;
another mocks the cripple’s dull malaise.
The poet, too, is like this prince of clouds
who chases storms and laughs at arrows slinging;
but cast from heaven to a jeering crowd,
now hobbles, earthbound, with crass, heavy wings.
Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.
À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l’azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d’eux.
Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu’il est comique et laid!
L’un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L’autre mime, en boitant, l’infirme qui volait!
Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.
Charles Baudelaire was a 19th-century French poet, translator, art critic, essayist, dandy, and flâneur. He is perhaps most famous for his poetry collection, The Flowers of Evil, and his book of prose poems, Paris Spleen. A self-styled poète maudit, Baudelaire’s work often celebrates decadent and anti-social tendencies—drinking, crime, violence, sexuality, insanity, and the life of outcasts in a way that is, at once, both ironic and biographically authentic.
Will Cordeiro has work appearing or forthcoming in Agni, The Cincinnati Review, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. Cordeiro’s collection, Trap Street, won the 2019 Able Muse Book Award. He received his MFA and PhD from Cornell University. Cordeiro co-edits the small press Eggtooth Editions and is grateful for a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. He teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University. As an undergraduate, Cordeiro co-founded Plume, a literary journal of translation at Franklin & Marshall College, which is still going strong today. He currently lives in Guadalajara, Mexico.