L’horloge for Charles Baudelaire

1924

By Rex Whistler

Indian Ink and watercolour on paper
This drawing is from the '1924' sketchbook. It is inspired by Charles Baudelaire's poem L'horloge (The Clock) and includes many references to the passing of time which are refered to in the poem.
Clock! sinister god, frightening, impassive,
whose hand threatens us and says, “Remember!
Soon throbbing aches will be planted
in your fearful heart as if in a target.
Mist-like Pleasure will fly off toward the horizon
like a sylph at the back of the stage;
each instant eats away a bite of the delight
each man is given for his whole season.
Three thousand six hundred times an hour, the second
whispers “Remember!” With its insect voice,
NOW says quickly, “I am in the past,
and I have pumped away your life with my dreadful siphon!”
Souviens-toi! Remember! Prodigal! Esto memor!
(My metal throat speaks all languages.)
Minutes, foolish mortal, are the base mineral
that you must not let go of without extracting their gold!
Remember that Time is a greedy gambler
who wins without cheating, always! It’s the law,
day declines; night grows; remember!
The abyss is always hungry; the water-clock runs dry.
Soon the hour will sound when divine Chance
or august Virtue, your still-virgin spouse,
where Repentance itself (oh! the last refuge!),
where everything will tell you: "Die, old coward! It’s too late!”
First published in the 1861 edition of the Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil)
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Of particular significance in the collection are the relics of the ancient guilds of Salisbury.

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