Excerpt from Charles Baudelaire’s 1842 commentary on Eugene Delacroix’s 1839 painting, “La Tasse dans la maison des fous” (version originale followed by translation)

Version originale:

Le poète au cachot, débraillé, maladif,
Roulant un manuscrit sous son pied convulsif,
Measure d’un regard que la terreur enflamme
L’escalier de vertige où s’abîme son âme.

Les rires enivrants dont s’emplit la prison
Vers l’etrange et l’absurde invitent sa raison;
Le Doute l’environne, et la Peur ridicule
Hideuse et multiforme, autour de lui circule.

Ce génie enfermé dans ce taudis malsain,
Ces grimaces, ces cris, ces spectres dont l’essaime
Tourbillonne, ameuté derrière son oreille,

Ce rêveur que l’horreur de son logis réveille,
Voilà bien ton emblème, Ame aux songes obscurs
Que le Réel étouffe entre ses quatres murs !

Translation by Paul Ben-Itzak:

The poet in solitary confinement, slovenly, darkly pensive
Rolling a manuscript under his foot so convulsive
Realizing with a regard that the terror like fire to coal
is consuming the vertiginous stairwell roughing up his soul.

The drunken laughs which fill up the prison
Towards the strange and the absurd compel his reason;
Doubt surrounds him, and a ridiculous fear,
hideous and multiform, lords over him with its leer.

This genius locked up in this wretched hovel
These frowns, these cries, these ghosts which in frenzied masses
rioting behind his ear whirl.

This dreamer awoken by the horror of his living biere
Voila your emblem, Soul of thoughts obscure
That the real suffocates between its walls secure.

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