Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: Love at last sight

Poet Charles Baudelaire.
Poet Charles Baudelaire.

Ulick O'Connor

This year is the 150th anniversary of the death Charles Baudelaire. He is France's greatest poet, just as Shakespeare is England's and Yeats is in Ireland's top drawer.

Baudelaire believed in finding his inspiration in the Paris arcades and the life around him. It is not surprising that many consider his finest poem 'The Passerby'.

One day, he saw this beautiful girl whom he never forgot.

Their eyes made contact for a second and in that moment, the poet believed himself to have been in love, but he never saw the girl again - not so much love at first sight, but love at last sight!

Emmanuel Macron, the new French President is, I believe, a fan of Baudelaire.

What a great favour it would be if he were someday to recite 'The Passerby' and reveal its inherent beauty to a mass audience. Sounds unlikely, but you never know the French!

Here is a translation (mine) of this wonderful poem.


My ears deafened in the street's mayhem:

A woman in full mourning passes by

Majestic, sad, a languid hand held high,

Lifting and balancing the borders of her hem.

Noble, statuesque in limb, you sense her power;

My mind on fire I see behind her eye

Some tempest trembling in a livid sky,

Softnesses which bewitch, pleasures which devour.


A flash of lightning - night - beauty fled

In whose glance I have been suddenly reborn

Shall I see you in another world instead?

Elsewhere; perhaps never; condemned to mourn.

I know not where you fled - or you not where I go

You whom I could have loved - you who knew it so.

Charles Baudelaire 1821-1867


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