ALFRED de MUSSET: To Julie

(translated from the French of Alfred de Musset)

People ask
Why I go gawping at the passing tarts
Dark glasses over red eyes, lolling
Smoking in the sun to see
Another woman. To what purpose
Life slips by
And what these idle years
These sleepless nights have done to me.

Kiss me, Julie!
Ah but these wild lucid nights
Have left you pale
Have dulled the coral lustre of your lips.
Moisten them
Scent them with your breath
Bite them, little African, then offer me
Raw lips of blood, beautiful and pure.

Presses poised
My publisher in impotent rage
Rants on, wanting production, the printed page,
The public will not wait, markets pass,
And I have nothing to produce.
Even the respectable
Are not above offering their opinion:
I am
No longer any use.

Some wine, Julie! Spanish wine!
Fetch me the little that we left
Yesterday
How ecstasy coursed through us, taking its toll.
Ah Julie, Julie! Your lips are burning!
Let’s dream up some new folly
To salt the flayed flesh, the raw soul.

My corruption is emptying me they say
Leaving me hollowed out
Horrible
Fit only to rot apart.
If I were worth it
They would ship me off to St Helena,
A cancer consuming my heart.

Wait! Wait, my pearl, my Julie.
You’ll see me burn
Like Hercules on his menhir.
Come.
Since at your hand I expire
Loosen those silks, Dejanire –
Slip them off.
I would mount my proper funeral pyre.

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