Charles Baudelaire
from "Flowers of Evil"
translated by Keith Waldrop

LXXVIII – Spleen







French text

When the sky, low and heavy, weighs like a lid on the groaning
spirit, prey to long ennui; when from the full encircling horizon it
sheds on us a dark day, sadder than our nights;

    when earth is changed into a damp cell, where Hope, like a bat,
beats timid wings against the walls and bumps its head against a
rotten ceiling;

    when the rain's immense spouts imitate prison bars and a
mute population of vile spiders constructs webs at the base of our

    bells burst out suddenly in fury and hurl skyward a frightful
howl, like homeless wandering spirits raising a stubborn whine.

    —And long hearses, without drum, without music, file off
slowly within my soul. Hope, conquered, weeps, and atrocious
Anguish, despot, upon my bowed head plants his black flag.