The Owls

A poem by Charles Baudelaire:

Les Hiboux

Sous les ifs noirs qui les abritent
Les hiboux se tiennent rangés
Ainsi que des dieux étrangers
Dardant leur oeil rouge. Ils méditent.

Sans remuer ils se tiendront
Jusqu’à l’heure mélancolique
Où, poussant le soleil oblique,
Les ténèbres s’établiront.

Leur attitude au sage enseigne
Qu’il faut en ce monde qu’il craigne
Le tumulte et le mouvement;

L’homme ivre d’une ombre qui passe
Porte toujours le châtiment
D’avoir voulu changer de place.

 

Owls

Under the dark yews which shade them,
The owls are perched in rows,
Like so many strange gods,
Darting their red eyes. They meditate.

Without budging they will remain
Till that melancholy hour
When, pushing back the slanting sun,
Darkness will take up its abode.

Their attitude teaches the wise
That in this world one must fear
Movement and commotion;

Man, enraptured by a passing shadow,
Forever bears the punishment
Of having tried to change his place.

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Here’s an awesome “micro-history” of the poet: “Students of comparative literature will find in Baudelaire the remarkable example of a major French poet who devoted the most consistently vigorous efforts of his literary career to the furtherance of the reputation of Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer he never met but who seemed to him a spiritual brother in literary idea and execution.”

Here are my thoughts on once being startled by an owl sitting by the fence near the garden.

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