Poetry – Ulick O’Connor: Love at Last Sight

This year is the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Baudelaire. He is France’s greatest poet, just as Shakespeare is England’s and Yeats is Ireland’s greatest poet.

Audelaire believed that he found his inspiration in the Parisian arcades and the life that surrounded him. It is not surprising that many consider his finest poem ‘Le Passant’.

One day he saw this beautiful girl he never forgot.

Their eyes met for a second and at that moment the poet thought he was in love, but he never saw the girl again – not so much love at first sight, but love at first sight!

Emmanuel Macron, the new French president is, I believe, a fan of Baudelaire.

What a great favor it would be if he were to one day recite “Le Passant” and reveal his inherent beauty to a mass audience. It seems unlikely, but you never know the French!

Here is a translation (mine) of this wonderful poem.


My ears are deafened in the chaos of the street:

A grieving woman passes

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Majestic, sad, a languid hand held high,

Lift and balance the edges of her hem.

Noble, statuesque in her limbs, you feel her power;

My mind on fire I see behind her eyes

Some storm trembling in a livid sky,

Sweets that captivate, pleasures that devour.

A flash – the night – beauty flees

In whose gaze I was suddenly reborn

Should I see you in another world instead?

Somewhere else; maybe never; condemned to mourning.

I don’t know where you fled – or you don’t know where I’m going

You whom I could have loved – you who knew it so.

Charles Baudelaire 1821-1867

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