From shadow to light, from light to shadow.
Twenty-nine unique pieces
This Opus is dedicated to the French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) on the occasion of the bicentenary of his birth. In introduction the poem To S. M., a Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works by Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), born in Senegal and sold as a slave at the age of 7. Phillis Wheatley was sent to the United States and purchased by John and Susannah Wheatley in 1761. She was the first African-American writer to publish a book of poetry in 1773 – Poems on Various Subjects.
To S. M., a Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works.
Poem by Phillis Wheatley (1773)
TO show the lab’ring bosom’s deep intent,
And thought in living characters to paint,
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live,
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight?
Still, wond’rous youth! each noble path pursue,
On deathless glories fix thine ardent view:
Still may the painter’s and the poet’s fire
To aid thy pencil, and thy verse conspire!
And may the charms of each seraphic theme
Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame!
High to the blissful wonders of the skies
Elate thy soul, and raise thy wishful eyes.
Thrice happy, when exalted to survey
That splendid city, crown’d with endless day,
Whose twice six gates on radiant hinges ring:
Celestial Salem blooms in endless spring.
Calm and serene thy moments glide along,
And may the muse inspire each future song!
Still, with the sweets of contemplation bless’d,
May peace with balmy wings your soul invest!
But when these shades of time are chas’d away,
And darkness ends in everlasting day,
On what seraphic pinions shall we move,
And view the landscapes in the realms above?
There shall thy tongue in heav’nly murmurs flow,
And there my muse with heav’nly transport glow:
No more to tell of Damon’s tender sighs,
Or rising radiance of Aurora’s eyes,
For nobler themes demand a nobler strain,
And purer language on th’ ethereal plain.
Cease, gentle muse! the solemn gloom of night
Now seals the fair creation from my sight.
XXXIX – Spleen et idéal – Les Fleurs du mal (1857)
Poem by Charles Baudelaire
For you this poem: if my name should reach
Favoured by mighty gales, to far-off times,
Like a proud vessel sailing to the beach,
To stir the brains of humans with my rhymes —
Your memory, uncertain as a myth,
Will tire the reader like an endless gong,
And be a mystic, kindred chain wherewith
He’ll hang suspended to my towering song:
Curs’d soul to whom (from the supernal sky
To hell’s abysm) none responds but I!
O you, who like a fleeting shadow pass,
Spurn with light foot and with serenest gaze
The stupid mortals who have grudged you praise,
O jade-eyed statue, angel browed with brass!
Translation — Roy Campbell (Pantheon Books, 1952)