ave, dea; moriturus te salutat

to Judith Gautier

Death and beauty are two deep things
which hold so much shade and light,
that one might say they were two sisters equally terrible and fertile,
holding the same enigma and the same secret.

O women, voices, looks, black hair, blonde plaits,
shine, I am dying! Hold brightness, love, fascination,
O pearls that the sea mingles with its great waves,
O shining birds of the dark forest!

Judith, our two fates are nearer one another
than one would think, to see my face and yours:
the whole divine abyss appears in your eyes,
An I feel the starry gulf in my soul;
we are both neighbors of heaven, Madame,
since you are beautiful and I am old.

Victor Hugo


ballade of the women of Paris

Though women skill in speech unfold
’Neath Tuscan or Venetian sky,
Yea, even when they’re waxen old
On confidential errands fly;
Let Roman dames or Lombards try,
Or Genoese, support to draw,
Bring Piedmontese, Savoyards nigh,
There’s none to match a Paris jaw!

The Naples dames, like doctors, hold
Discourses, and are never shy;
The Germans cackle, we are told,
The Prussian women shrilly cry;
But search all Greece or Hungary,
Or Gypsies of no land or law,
Castile, or Spain, and squeeze them dry,
There’s none to match a Paris jaw!

All tongues of Swiss or Breton mould
Or from Toulouse or Gascony,
Two wives of Petit-Pont would scold
Them dumb, and all Lorraine defy
With England, Calais hold thereby,
(Behold this list of names with awe!)
Valenciennes too and Picardy,
There’s none to match a Paris jaw!

Prince, Paris ladies claim the high
Reward of speech without a flaw;
Italian lips in vain may vie
There’s none to match a Paris jaw

François Villon