The Voyage – #2© – Black & White Painting – (Painting on the RIGHT)- Sold
Acrylic, Ink and Liquid Wax – Acrylic on paper 73cm x 107cm
The Voyage – Poem by Charles Baudelaire
To Maxime du Camp
For children crazed with postcards, prints, and stamps
All space can scarce suffice their appetite.
How vast the world seems by the light of lamps,
But in the eyes of memory how slight!
One morning we set sail, with brains on fire,
And hearts swelled up with rancorous emotion,
Balancing, to the rhythm of its lyre,
Our infinite upon the finite ocean.
Some wish to leave their venal native skies,
Some flee their birthplace, others change their ways,
Astrologers who’ve drowned in Beauty’s eyes,
Tyrannic Circe with the scent that slays.
Not to be changed to beasts, they have their fling
With space, and splendour, and the burning sky,
The suns that bronze them and the frosts that sting
Efface the mark of kisses by and by.
But the true travellers are those who go
Only to get away: hearts like balloons
Unballasted, with their own fate aglow,
Who know not why they fly with the monsoons:
Those whose desires are in the shape of clouds.
And dream, as raw recruits of shot and shell,
Of mighty raptures in strange, transient crowds
Of which no human soul the name can tell.
Horror! We imitate the top and bowl
In swerve and bias. Through our sleep it runs.
It’s Curiosity that makes us roll
As the fierce Angel whips the whirling suns.
Singular game! where the goal changes places;
The winning-post is nowhere, yet all round;
Where Man tires not of the mad hope he races
Thinking, some day, that respite will be found.
Our soul’s like a three-master, where one hears
A voice that from the bridge would warn all hands.
Another from the foretop madly cheers
“Love, joy, and glory” … Hell! we’re on the sands!
The watchmen think each isle that heaves in view
An Eldorado, shouting their belief.
Imagination riots in the crew
Who in the morning only find a reef.
The fool that dotes on far, chimeric lands —
Put him in irons, or feed him to the shark!
The drunken sailor’s visionary lands
Can only leave the bitter truth more stark.
So some old vagabond, in mud who grovels,
Dreams, nose in air, of Edens sweet to roam.
Wherever smoky wicks illumine hovels
He sees another Capua or Rome.
Amazing travellers, what noble stories
We read in the deep oceans of your gaze!
Show us your memory’s casket, and the glories
Streaming from gems made out of stars and rays!
We, too, would roam without a sail or steam,
And to combat the boredom of our jail,
Would stretch, like canvas on our souls, a dream,
Framed in horizons, of the seas you sail.
What have you seen?
“We have seen stars and waves.
We have seen sands and shores and oceans too,
In spite of shocks and unexpected graves,
We have been bored, at times, the same as you.
The solar glories on the violet ocean
And those of spires that in the sunset rise,
Lit, in our hearts, a yearning, fierce emotion
To plunge into those ever-luring skies.
The richest cities and the scenes most proud
In nature, have no magic to enamour
Like those which hazard traces in the cloud
While wistful longing magnifies their glamour.
Enjoyment adds more fuel for desire,
Old tree, to which all pleasure is manure;
As the bark hardens, so the boughs shoot higher,
And nearer to the sun would grow mature.
Tree, will you always flourish, more vivacious
Than cypress? — None the less, these views are yours:
We took some photographs for your voracious
Album, who only care for distant shores.
We have seen idols elephantine-snouted,
And thrones with living gems bestarred and pearled,
And palaces whose riches would have routed
The dreams of all the bankers in the world.
We have seen wonder-striking robes and dresses,
Women whose nails and teeth the betel stains
And jugglers whom the rearing snake caresses.”
What then? What then?
“O childish little brains,
Not to forget the greatest wonder there —
We’ve seen in every country, without searching,
From top to bottom of the fatal stair
Immortal sin ubiquitously lurching:
Woman, a vile slave, proud in her stupidity,
Self-worshipping, without the least disgust:
Man, greedy, lustful, ruthless in cupidity,
Slave to a slave, and sewer to her lust:
The torturer’s delight, the martyr’s sobs,
The feasts where blood perfumes the giddy rout:
Power sapping its own tyrants: servile mobs
In amorous obeisance to the knout:
Some similar religions to our own,
All climbing skywards: Sanctity who treasures,
As in his downy couch some dainty drone, i
In horsehair, nails, and whips, his dearest pleasures.
Prating Humanity, with genius raving,
As mad today as ever from the first,
Cries in fierce agony, its Maker braving,
‘O God, my Lord and likeness, be thou cursed!’
But those less dull, the lovers of Dementia,
Fleeing the herd which fate has safe impounded,
In opium seek for limitless adventure.
— That’s all the record of the globe we rounded.”
It’s bitter knowledge that one learns from travel.
The world so small and drab, from day to day,
The horror of our image will unravel,
A pool of dread in deserts of dismay.
Must we depart, or stay? Stay if you can.
Go if you must. One runs: another hides
To baffle Time, that fatal foe to man.
And there are runners, whom no rest betides,
Like the Apostles or the Wandering Jew,
Whom neither ship nor waggon can enable
To cheat the retiary. But not a few
Have killed him without stirring from their cradle.
But when he sets his foot upon our nape
We still can hope and cry “Leave all behind!”
As in old times to China we’ll escape
With eyes turned seawards, hair that fans the wind,
We’ll sail once more upon the sea of Shades
With heart like that of a young sailor beating.
I hear the rich, sad voices of the Trades
Who cry “This Way! all you who would be eating
The scented Lotus. Here it is they range
The piles of magic fruit. O hungry friend,
Come here and swoon away into the strange
Trance of an afternoon that has no end.”
In the familiar tones we sense the spectre.
Our Pylades stretch arms across the seas,
“To salve your heart, now swim to your Electra”
She cries, of whom we used to kiss the knees.
O Death, old Captain, it is time. Weigh anchor!
To sail beyond the doldrums of our days.
Though black as pitch the sea and sky, we hanker
For space; you know our hearts are full of rays.
Pour us your poison to revive our soul!
It cheers the burning quest that we pursue,
Careless if Hell or Heaven be our goal,
Beyond the known world to seek out the New!
— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)