—translation of “Correspondances,”
Charles Baudelaire

Nature is a forest where the living limbs
Of trees drop clues like dying leaves
On anyone underneath them who believes
In such familiar passing whims,

Distant echoes of a dark and deep ravine
Where night and day are intertwined
And in whose mixing light we find
What the deeper spaces mean.

These combining scents would seem
To fuse us with a purer world,
Where amber dusk and incense dream

Of all the final riches swirled
Or stitched from childhood’s gleam,
But which in fact are just its seam.

This is my extrapolation of Baudelaire’s poem below.
Rather than taking the poem literally, I decided to look
at it more closely. Our words try in a confused way to
approach the dream of nature, blending our own patently
minuscule hopes for a vast unity with infinity, as the sinner
hopes for heaven, but it is the poem itself, or any kind of
art, which transports finite things like musk or prairies into
the music of the spheres. Through the tight structure of its
rhyme and meter, Baudelaire achieves freedom of thought.
It is fantasy alone which turns perfume into romance, or
poetry into catharsis. We are transported to a higher world
through mind, and through the sounds and beats of selfabnegating
technique, a seamless poem about the seams
themselves emerges.

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
—Et d’autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l’expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l’ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l’encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l’esprit et des sens.

—Charles Baudelaire