"The Queens of Persia at the Feet of Alexander" by Charles Le Brun‘Humility’ and Other Poetry and Translation by Alexandra Guo The Society January 11, 2021 Beauty, Culture, High School Submissions, Humor, Poetry, Translation 12 Comments . Humility Lo, I have seen the Muses plain. What need Have I to go on living?—’Twas in Rome: I touched the flesh (it was a holy deed) That Michelangelo shaped out of stone. O what a great and glorious legacy The Ancients left us!—beautiful and rare. But look at me: a child. No prodigy, No virtuoso. How could I compare? No matter; I’ve a plan. I’ll spend my time In patient study, as a child befits, And dream: that someday I might craft a rhyme Or sculpt a work to match those ancient wits. And yet… I fear this is temerity; Such high ambition’s meant for worthier men than me. . . Satire: The Rake’s Argument My lady, what fool creed is this, That you would scarce allow a kiss And nothing there beyond? But sweet, surely you must not miss That most profane and perfect bliss— Such abstinence is fond! My lady, this is selfishness: Beauty is joy, wherefore largesse Must surely mean to share The matchless beauty you possess, And bring to me much happiness; Such is the stuff of prayer! But nay, you will not deign to grant A simple man his simple want. Your virtue is but vice! The virtuous offer what is scant (Like beauty), yea, and that you shan’t Is sin, as I surmise. Give up impious chastity! Let me a kiss, or two, or three, And let things flower thence: The deed alone is charity, So do it well, and feel with me The pleasures of the sense! Fear not some judgment from above! Our God has long been wearied of The fair and foul men durst. These are good works, yea, good enough: My heart aches for a woman’s love, And you can sate this thirst. . . Gratia Plena Blest is she the woman full of grace; Though other strengths a lady may possess, This highest virtue holds a singular place. Though this or that may mar a pretty face, Or blanch red cheeks, or spoil an ample breast, Still blest is she the woman full of grace. What use is snow-white skin or dainty waist? Such trifles fade with time, and evanesce; The highest virtue keeps its singular place. For beauty captures but a prince’s gaze; His true regard asks elegance, finesse: So blest is she the woman full of grace. No wealth nor riches ever could replace This rare delight worth purest gold, no less: This highest virtue holds a singular place. Beauty shall come and go—this always stays, And she who has it has a true noblesse. Thus blest is she the woman full of grace: This highest virtue holds a singular place. . . Hymn to Beauty by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Translated from French by Alexandra Guo Come you from the vast skies, or the abyss, O Beauty? your regard, base and divine, Confuses noble deeds and sins amiss: A mystic power akin to that of wine. Your eye contains the daybreak and the dusk; Your kiss is an elixir unforetold; You lace the air with perfumes, and the musk Makes heroes cowardly and children bold. Did you fall from the stars or rise from hell? Charmed Fate but follows meekly at your heel; Delight and discord both, you sow as well; You govern all, heeding no man’s appeal. You tread upon the dead in mockery; Horror is but a favour on your breast; Murder, the finest of your finery, Goes frolicking upon your prideful chest. The dazzled moth flies headlong to your flame, And as it burns, it utters, “Bless this blaze!” The lover lounging over his lover’s frame Seems as a sick man at his dying place. Are you from heaven or hell? it matters not, (O Beauty! O great beast, wild and unknown!) For that your eyes, your smiles to me have brought A universe I love, yet had not known. From God or Satan? why, it matters not. No matter (singular Queen!) where you were born, (O velvet-eyèd fae!) for you have wrought A world less sad, and moments less forlorn. . Original French Hymne à la Beauté Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l’abîme, Ô Beauté ? ton regard, infernal et divin, Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime, Et l’on peut pour cela te comparer au vin. Tu contiens dans ton œil le couchant et l’aurore ; Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux ; Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore Qui font le héros lâche et l’enfant courageux. Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres ? Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien ; Tu sèmes au hasard la joie et les désastres, Et tu gouvernes tout et ne réponds de rien. Tu marches sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques ; De tes bijoux l’Horreur n’est pas le moins charmant, Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chères breloques, Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement. L’éphémère ébloui vole vers toi, chandelle, Crépite, flambe et dit : Bénissons ce flambeau ! L’amoureux pantelant incliné sur sa belle A l’air d’un moribond caressant son tombeau. Que tu viennes du ciel ou de l’enfer, qu’importe, Ô Beauté ! monstre énorme, effrayant, ingénu ! Si ton œil, ton souris, ton pied, m’ouvrent la porte D’un Infini que j’aime et n’ai jamais connu ? De Satan ou de Dieu, qu’importe ? Ange ou Sirène, Qu’importe, si tu rends, — fée aux yeux de velours, Rythme, parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine ! — L’univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds ? . .Al Alexandra Guo is a 16-year-old student at the School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA). NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 12 Responses Joseph S. Salemi January 11, 2021 For someone so young, this is very good poetry! The speaker in “Humility” need not represent this young writer, who has nothing to be humble about. “The Rake’s Argument” and “Gratia Plena” are excellent companion pieces, the first being in the voice of an amoral seducer, while the second is a praise-poem of the higher feminine virtues (and also deliberately reminiscent of prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary). They show that Ms. Guo knows how to make use of different fictive voices in various poetic situations, rather than just expressing her personal feelings, or telling the reader about what she thinks. Some poets take years before they even learn that such an aesthetic approach is possible. Reply Alexandra Guo February 3, 2021 Thank you for your kind words! I did, in fact, choose to submit those two poems together on the basis of their thematic contrast. And I do very much enjoy writing in different voices; if their opinions differ from my own, that makes the process all the more engaging. Reply Terry L. Norton January 11, 2021 I enjoyed all of the poems. The casuistry in the second piece is well done and entertaining. Reply Alexandra Guo February 3, 2021 Thank you — the casuistry was entertaining for me to write as well! Reply Margaret Coats January 11, 2021 Alexandra, these are four sparkling examples of different kinds of lyric. The “Humility” sonnet has a daring last line where you show that the young speaker really is a child because he or she makes a grammar mistake–and I am sure from your skill with language that this is no mistake on your part! Correct grammar requires “worthier men than I,” but you boldly present the error in a line too long for the poem’s pattern. This second “mistake” has been used by many poets to end a sonnet by going beyond what the reader expects. You use it very well here to insist on the speaker’s youth. “The Rake’s Argument” not only showcases the flawed logic of the speaker, but makes excellent use of the form with its different line lengths. “Gratia Plena” is a lovely villanelle in which the imperfect rhymes work to perfection, and your focus on grace as opposed to beauty leads right into your Baudelaire translation. The translation keeps enough of the French poet’s thought to represent him well, while you are not afraid to use words and expressions of your own that suit your English poem better than literal translation. Lines 6 and 7 provide excellent examples: the two lines switch positions, and Baudelaire’s stormy evening and amphora vanish, rightly giving way to your musk and the “unforetold” quality of the elixir, which he does mention as a “philtre.” All very well done! Reply Alexandra Guo February 3, 2021 I must confess that the grammatical error in the last line of the sonnet wasn’t quite so well planned — I merely thought that the correct version, ‘worthier men than I’, was over-formal for a child, since I hardly ever hear it used in modern informal speech. As for the Baudelaire translation, I’m glad to hear that the liberties I took with my rendering have paid off. I was rather worried they wouldn’t. Thank you for these words of encouragement! Reply Cynthia Erlandson January 12, 2021 I agree with the comments above — I think this is an extremely impressive showing of poetic skill! My favorite is your sonnet on Humility. Lines 3 and 4, particularly, are exquisite. And the thought expressed is beautiful. I would say you have certainly found your gift (one of them, at least). I believe you should keep writing all your life, and I imagine you will. Reply Alexandra Guo February 3, 2021 Thank you! Reply Abigail K. February 1, 2021 Mama Mary! 😀 She’s so proud of you! 🙂 Reply Paul Freeman February 1, 2021 ‘Wow!’ – as the literary expression goes. Reply Yael February 1, 2021 These are all very nice poems and I sure enjoy reading them, thank you very much. I wish you well in your career and look forward to more beautiful works of yours, should you choose to publish and share them here. Reply Alexandra Guo February 3, 2021 Thank you for the kind words. Reply Leave a Reply to Alexandra Guo Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.