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Un cheval de race

by Charles Baudelaire

translated from the French by Allen Hagar

She is quite ugly.  She is delightful, nevertheless!  Time and Love have thus marked with their claws and have cruelly taught her what each minute and each embrace take from both innocence and youth.

She is indeed ugly.  She is, for me, an ant, a spider, if you like a skeleton even; she is also refreshing, bewitching, quintessential!  In short, she is exquisite.

Time could not break the sparkling harmony of her gait, nor the indestructible elegance of her frame.  Love spoilt none of the sweetness of her breath, and Time combed nothing from her mane where arose in tawny fragrances all the frenzied vitality of the south of ancient France: Nîmes, Aix, Arles, Avignon, Toulouse, cities blessed by the sun, lovely and charming!

Time and Love have vainly bit her with beautiful teeth; they have diminished none of the vague yet eternal charm of her boyish breast.

Worn-out perhaps, but not tired, and always the heroine, she reminds us of those thoroughbred horses that the eye of a true lover recognizes, even when hitched to a hired coach or to a heavy wagon. 

And then she is so sweet and so fervent!  She loves as one loves in the fall.  One might say that the approach of winter lights in her heart a fire anew, and the servility of her tenderness is never reason to falter.


The French writer Charles Baudelaire was arguably the world’s first modern poet.  A lover of the modern in society, he appreciated all that is “new.” Baudelaire’s masterwork, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) was published in 1857.  During the years of the American Civil War, he wrote lyrical prose poems that were collected posthumously in the book Petits poèmes en prose (Little Poems in Prose)—these include “Un cheval de race.” He was also an admirer and translator of Edgar Allen Poe.

Allen Hagar is an architectural draftsperson and student of poetry attending classes at the Harvard University Extension School. This is his first published work. (8/2008)

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