Thursday, July 9, 2009

The clock

The clock

The Chinese tell time in a cat’s eyes.
One day, walking in the outskirts of Nanking, a missionary realized he had forgotten his watch, and he asked a little boy what time it was.
At first the kid from the Celestial Empire hesitated; then, reconsidering, he answered, “I am going to tell you.” Not many moments later, he reappeared, holding a very fat cat in his arms, and looking at it, as they say, straight in the eye, he asserted without hesitation, “It is not yet quite noon.” Which was true.
As for me, if I turn toward beautiful Felina, so well named, who is at once the honor of her sex, my heart’s pride and my mind’s perfume, whether it be night, whether it be day, in full light or dark shadow, I always see the time clearly, in the depths of her adorable eyes, a vast, solemn time, always the same, huge as space, without divisions into minutes or seconds—an immobile time not marked on clocks, and yet light as a sigh, swift as a glance.
And if some meddler happened to interrupt me while settling my gaze upon that delectable dial, if some rude and intolerant Genie, some Demon of untimeliness happened to ask me, “what are you watching with such care? What are you looking for in that creature’s eyes? Do you see the time there, prodigal and lazy mortal?” I would directly answer, “Yes, I see the time; it is Eternity!”
Now is this not, Madam, a truly praiseworthy madrigal, and as exaggerated as yourself? In fact, I took such delight in elaborating this pretentious romance, that I will ask nothing of you in exchange.

--Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), from the Parsian Prowler (transl. Edward Kaplan, 1989)



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