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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Little Poems in Prose’
By Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867)
Every One his Own Chimera

UNDER a great gray sky, in a great powdery plain without roads, without grass, without a thistle, without a nettle, I met several men who were walking with heads bowed down.  1
  Each one bore upon his back an enormous Chimera, as heavy as a bag of flour or coal, or the accoutrements of a Roman soldier.  2
  But the monstrous beast was not an inert weight; on the contrary, it enveloped and oppressed the man with its elastic and mighty muscles; it fastened with its two vast claws to the breast of the bearer, and its fabulous head surmounted the brow of the man, like one of those horrible helmets by which the ancient warriors hoped to increase the terror of the enemy.  3
  I questioned one of these men, and I asked him whither they were bound thus. He answered that he knew not, neither he nor the others; but that evidently they were bound somewhere, since they were impelled by an irresistible desire to go forward.  4
  It is curious to note that not one of these travelers looked irritated at the ferocious beast suspended from his neck and glued against his back; it seemed as though he considered it as making part of himself. None of these weary and serious faces bore witness to any despair; under the sullen cupola of the sky, their feet plunging into the dust of a soil as desolate as that sky, they went their way with the resigned countenances of those who have condemned themselves to hope forever.  5
  The procession passed by me and sank into the horizon’s atmosphere, where the rounded surface of the planet slips from the curiosity of human sight, and for a few moments I obstinately persisted in wishing to fathom the mystery; but soon an irresistible indifference fell upon me, and I felt more heavily oppressed by it than even they were by their crushing Chimeras.  6

  AT the feet of a colossal Venus, one of those artificial fools, those voluntary buffoons whose duty was to make kings laugh when Remorse or Ennui possessed their souls, muffled in a glaring ridiculous costume, crowned with horns and bells, and crouched against the pedestal, raised his eyes full of tears toward the immortal goddess. And his eyes said:—“I am the least and the most solitary of human beings, deprived of love and of friendship, and therefore far below the most imperfect of the animals. Nevertheless, I am made, even I, to feel and comprehend the immortal Beauty! Ah, goddess! have pity on my sorrow and my despair!” But the implacable Venus gazed into the distance, at I know not what, with her marble eyes.

  HE who looks from without through an open window never sees as many things as he who looks at a closed window. There is no object more profound, more mysterious, more rich, more shadowy, more dazzling than a window lighted by a candle. What one can see in the sunlight is always less interesting than what takes place behind a blind. In that dark or luminous hole life lives, dreams, suffers.
  Over the sea of roofs I see a woman, mature, already wrinkled, always bent over something, never going out. From her clothes, her movement, from almost nothing, I have reconstructed the history of this woman, or rather her legend, and sometimes I tell it over to myself in tears.  9
  If it had been a poor old man I could have reconstructed his story as easily.  10
  And I go to bed, proud of having lived and suffered in lives not my own.  11
  Perhaps you may say, “Are you sure that this story is the true one?” What difference does it make what is the reality outside of me, if it has helped me to live, to know who I am and what I am?  12

  ONE should be always drunk. That is all, the whole question. In order not to feel the horrible burden of Time, which is breaking your shoulders and bearing you to earth, you must be drunk without cease.
  But drunk on what? On wine, poetry, or virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.  14
  And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a moat, in the dull solitude of your chamber, you awake with your intoxication already lessened or gone, ask of the wind, the wave, the star, the clock, of everything that flies, sobs, rolls, sings, talks, what is the hour? and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock will answer, “It is the hour to get drunk!” Not to be the martyred slave of Time, get drunk; get drunk unceasingly. Wine, poetry, or virtue, as you choose.  15

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