The Owls by Charles Baudelaire

Translated from the French

by Thomas Banks (July 2021)

Two Owls, Gustave Doré



The Owls

Like strange and sculptured gods
In dark-eyed thoughtfulness
The owls upon the yews
In ranks stand motionless.

They silently await,
File on stirless file,
Till darkness sends the sun
Into the night’s exile.

Their very silence speaks
Instruction to the wise:
To view the stayless world
With still, suspicious eyes,

As, stumbling, it pursues,
Upon its mad course bent,
The eternal lust for change
That is its chastisement.

Les Hiboux

Sous les ifs noirs qui les abritent
Les hiboux se tiennent rangés
Ainsi que des dieux étrangers
Dardant leur oeil rouge. Ils méditent.

Sans remuer ils se tiendront
Jusqu’à l’heure mélancolique
Où, poussant le soleil oblique,
Les ténèbres s’établiront.

Leur attitude au sage enseigne
Qu’il faut en ce monde qu’il craigne
Le tumulte et le mouvement;

L’homme ivre d’une ombre qui passe
Porte toujours le châtiment
D’avoir voulu changer de place.

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Thomas Banks has taught literature and Latin for many years in Idaho, Montana, and North Carolina, where he currently lives. Other writings of his have appeared in First Things and the St. Austin Review.

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