My youth has been nothing but a tenebrous storm,
Pierced now and then by rays of brilliant sunshine;
Thunder and rain have wrought so much havoc
That very few ripe fruits remain in my garden.
I have already reached the autumn of the mind,
And I must set to work with the spade and the rake
To gather back the inundated soil
In which the rain digs holes as big as graves.
And who knows whether the new flowers I dream of
Will find in this earth washed bare like the strand,
The mystic aliment that would give them vigor?
Alas! Alas! Time eats away our lives,
And the hidden Enemy who gnaws at our hearts
Grows by drawing strength from the blood we lose!
Charles Baudelaire L’Ennemi translated by William Aggeler.
At the very beginning of the Ode on a Grecian Urn Keats draws a line between art and man. Man has the gift of creating something that may outlive him, something immortal:ART. That’s why the urn is “foster child” of “slow time“ that is eternity and a “bride” that will never be violated by the mortal touch of life. On the contrary, men’s destiny is to be “wasted” by “clock time” generation after generation, while the urn/art is the cold indifferent witness of our “woes”. Hamlet regarded the passing of time like a whip that leaves on our skin and flesh scars that can’t be wiped out and “scorns” us when we become old, weak and useless. We can feel the pain in these words which is both physical and psychological, while in that “wasted” there is all the nonsense of the disrespectful action of time on man, who can’t find any consolation in art. In Baudelaire ‘s L’Ennemi time takes the semblance of a vampire which “eats away our lives” “gnaws our hearts” and sucking our blood finds its strenght. It is the cruel twilight of our dreams of a youth that very soon will become autumn.