To the Reader

Sin, stinting, senseless acts and sophistries
Pester the flesh and prey upon the mind;
We keep our stainless consciences maintained
Like indigents who fatten up their fleas.

Headstrong in sin, half-hearted in remorse,
We want to make damn sure confession pays,
That easy tears will rinse away disgrace-
The better to resume our intercourse.

Great Satan lullabies our spellbound hearts
And rocks us in his cunning cradle, till
The pliant precious metal of our will
Is vaporized by his hermetic arts.

The Devil jerks the strings that make us dance!
We learn to love the smell of excrement;
Each day brings one more step in our descent
Through stinking shades that would have gagged us once.

Lechers with nothing left, whose pleasure is
To squeeze some aged whore's exhausted breast,
We grab for every passing thrill with zest
And suck them hard, like dried-up oranges.

Like serried knots of seething parasites,
Demonic forces riot in our brains;
With every rasping breath, Death's river drains
Down to our flooded lungs and out of sight.

Were petty criminals, with petty fates,
And if we haven't broken all the laws
Of God and man and nature, it's because
We haven't got the stomach for it, yet.

In our grotesque menagerie of vice,
Amid the hisses, grunts and snarls and shrieks
Of restless jackals, vultures, apes and snakes,
There's one thing even wilder, even worse.

Nastier, far more vicious than the rest!
Although the beast lies silent and withdrawn,
He'd swallow all creation with a yawn
And willingly reduce the earth to dust:

Ennui! daydreaming of the guillotine,
Grows misty-eyed, a hookah in his fist.
Reader, you know this armchair terrorist-
Yes, you - you hypocrite - my next of kin!

- Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)