By Charles Baudelaire – Translated by Aleister Crowley
Whoso looks from without into an open window
never sees so much as he looks at a closed window.
There is nothing more profound, more mysterious,
more fertile, more darksome, more dazzling, than
a window lighted by a candle.
Beyond the waves of roof I see a woman, middle
aged, already wrinkled, poor, always bending. She
never goes out. With her face, her clothing, her
gesture - almost nothing - I have reconstructed
the story of this woman - or rather her legend, and
sometimes I tell it to myself, and weep.
If it had been a poor old man, I could have recon-
structed his history just as easily.
And I lie down to sleep, proud of having lived and
suffered in others.
Perhaps you will say to me “Are you sure that your
fairy tale is true?”
What does outside reality matter to me, if my
imagination has helped me to live, to feel what
This translation was originally published in the
December 1915 edition of Vanity Fair.
From the Poetry Foundation:
Charles Baudelaire is one of the most compelling poets of the nineteenth century. While Baudelaire's contemporary Victor Hugo is generally—and sometimes regretfully—acknowledged as the greatest of nineteenth-century French poets, Baudelaire excels in his unprecedented expression of a complex sensibility and of modern themes within structures of classical rigor and technical artistry. Baudelaire is distinctive in French literature also in that his skills as a prose writer virtually equal his ability as a poet.