This little poem by Charles Baudelaire, is number sixty-seven of The Flowers of Evil, in its second edition in 1861. And it tells us about owls, the nocturnal animal par excellence; making our poet, in the end, a personification in his last stanza.



Sous les ifs noirs qui les abritent,
Les hiboux seiennent rangés,
Ainsi que des dieux étrangers,
Dardant leur œil rouge. Ils méditent.

Sans remuer ils se tendront
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.


Under the black yews that house them,
owls stand in line,
just like mysterious gods,
they look out with their red eyes. They meditate.

Without moving they will remain
until the melancholic hour
in which, pushed by the oblique sun,
darkness will settle.

His wise attitude teaches
what is necessary in this world to fear
the tumult and the movement;

the drunk man of a passing shadow,
always carries the punishment
of having wanted to change places.