I have found a definition of the Beautiful, of my own conception of the Beautiful. It is something intense and sad, something a little vague, leaving scope for conjecture. I am ready, if you will, to apply my ideas to a sentient object, to that object, for example, which Society finds the most interesting of all, a woman’s face. A beautiful and seductive head, a woman’s head, I mean, makes one dream, but in a confused fashion, at once of pleasure and of sadness; conveys an idea of melancholy, of lassitude, even of satiety-a contradictory impression, of an ardor, that is to say, and a desire for life together with a bitterness which flows back upon them as if from a sense of deprivation and hopelessness. Mystery and regret are also characteristics of the Beautiful.
It is this admirable, this immortal sense of Beauty which makes us regard the Earth and its sights as a glimpse, a correspondence of Heaven. Our insatiable thirst for everything which is beyond and which is revealed by life is the most living proof of our immortality. It is at once by and through poetry, by and through music that the soul catches a glimpse of the splendors which lie on the other side of the grave; and when an exquisite poem brings tears to our eyes, these tears are not the proof of excessive enjoyment; they are much more the sign of an irritated melancholy, a nervous postulation, a nature exiled in an imperfect world which would like to take possession at once on this very earth of a revealed paradise. Thus the principle of poetry is strictly and simply human aspirations towards a higher beauty and this principle appears in an enthusiasm which is completely independent of passion, which is the intoxication of the heart, and of truth which is the field of reason. For passion is a natural thing, too natural, indeed, not to introduce a painful, discordant note into the realm of pure beauty; too familiar not to scandalize the pure Desires, the gracious Melancholy, the noble Despair which dwell in the supernatural regions of poetry.
How I love to look, dear indolent one, at your beautiful body and see, like a shot silk, the changing gleam of your skin!
On your deep hair, with its bitter perfumes, a scented and wandering sea of blue and brown waves,
Like a ship stirring with the wind of morning my dreamy soul sets sail for a distant sky.
Your eyes, in which nothing is revealed, sweet or bitter, are two cold jewels in which gold mingles with iron.
Seeing your rhythmic walk, beautiful in its abandon, one thinks of a serpent dancing at the end of a stick.
Under the weight of your laziness, your child’s head hangs with the soft looseness of a young elephant’s.
And your body sways and stretches like an elephant ship rolling from side to side and pitching its yards in the water.
Like a stream swollen by the melting of grinding glaciers, when the water of your mouth rises to the edge of your teeth,
I feel I am drinking a Bohemian wine, bitter and overpowering, a liquid sky which scatters my heart with stars.
But the real travelers are those who leave for leaving’s sake; their hearts are light as balloons, they never diverge from the path of their fate and, without knowing why, always say, ‘Let’s go.’
They are the ones whose desires have the shape of clouds, and who dream as a new recruit dreams of cannon fire, of limitless pleasures, ever-changing, unknown, which the human mind has never been able to name.
Under a bleak white light she runs, dances and writhes without reason – Life, shameless and shrill. And so, as soon as on the horizon
Voluptuous night rises, calming everything, even hunger, blotting out everything, even shame, the Poet says to himself, ‘At last!
‘My spirit, like my spine, ardently prays for rest; with a heart full of funeral dreams,
‘I shall lie down on my back and roll myself up in your curtains, o refreshing darkness!’
We shall have beds filled with light odours, couches deep as tombs, and, set out on shelves, rare flowers which bloomed for us under more beautiful skies.
Vying to use up their last heats, our hearts will be two great torches, which will reflect their double lights in our two spirits, those twin mirrors.
One evening made of mystic blue and rose, we shall exchange a single bolt of lightning, like a long sob, laden with farewells;
And later an Angel, gently opening the doors, will come, faithful and joyous, to revive the dulled mirrors and the dead flames.
It is Death which consoles men, alas, and keeps them alive. Death is the aim of life; it is the only hope which, like an elixir, raises our spirits and intoxicates us, and gives us the heart to march until evening;
Through the storm, and the snow, and the frost, it is the light pulsating on our black horizon; it is the famous inn promised in the book where we shall eat, and sleep, and sit down;
It is an Angel who holds in his magnetic fingers sleep and the gift of ecstatic dreams, who makes up the bed of the poor and naked;
It is the glory of the gods, the mystic granary, the poor man’s purse and his ancient fatherland, it is the portico open on to the unknown Heavens!
Do you know, as i do, how suffering can be savoured, and do you make people say of you, ‘what a strange man!’ I was going to die. my amorous soul felt desire mingled with horror, an illness peculiar to itself;
Anguish and lively hope, without any impulse to protest. the lower the fatal hourglass sank, the more savage and delicious was my torture; all my heart was tearing itself away from the familiar world.
I was like the child desperate to see the play, hating the curtain as one hates a barrier … at last the cold truth revealed itself:
I had died without surprise, and the terrible dawn was enfolding me. – ‘What! is that all?’ The curtain had risen and I was still waiting.