Charles Baudelaire
from "Paris Spleen: Little Poems in Prose"
translated by Keith Waldrop

XLVIII Anywhere Out of the World!1








French text

This life is a hospital, where each patient is possessed by the desire to
change beds. That one prefers to suffer nearer the stove and this one
believes he would get well next to the window.

To me it seems always it would be well for me to be somewhere I
am not, and the question of moving is one that my soul and I discuss

"Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, how about going to live in
Lisbon? It must be warm there and you could bask like a lizard. The
city is on the water; they claim it is built out of marble and that the
people so hate vegetation that they've uprooted all trees. There's a
landscape to your taste, a landscape made of light and minerals, with
liquid to reflect them."

My soul makes no reply

."Since you love repose so much, along with the spectacle of movement,
would you like to come live in Holland, that beatific land? You
might find diversion in this country whose images in museums you
have often admired. What would you think of Rotterdam, since you
love forests of masts, and boats moored at the doors of houses?"

My soul remains mute.

"Maybe Batavia2 would please you more? We would, moreover,
find there the spirit of Europe in the embrace of tropical beauty."

Not a word. — Could my soul be dead?

"Have you gotten to the point of numbness, where nothing pleases
you but your displeasure? If that's the case, let us flee to those countries
like unto Death. — I'm the one in charge, poor soul. We will
pack our trunks for Tomeo. Let's go farther, to the far end of the Baltic;
still farther from life, if possible: we 'II go live at the pole. There
the sun skims earth obliquely and the slow alternations of light and
night suppress variety and increase monotony, that half measure of
nothing. There we could take long shadow-baths, except when, to
divert us, the northern lights send us from time to time their rosy
showers, like reflections of Hell's fireworks."

Finally, my soul erupts, and in wisdom cries out, "Anywhere! anywhere!
out of this world!"


1 The title (in English) is a quote from Thomas Hood's "The Bridge of Sighs."
2 Batavia: The Indonesian port now called Djakarta.