To A Courtesan

Through the prosperous streets
of Leptis Magna,
Roman town of Africa,
under the eagles
of Septimius Severus
that fly
in the street of temples,
I hurry
to the pleasure quarter,
your quarter,
where, beneath blue colonnades,
young women
with earrings
like the moons of Saturn,
with bracelets
of tortoiseshell,
with necklaces
of Tunisian coral,
with ankle bracelets
of gold and sapphire,
give themselves up
to that most phantasmagorical
of trades
ruled by the ancient Goddess
of Carthage
and inspired
by the Egyptian Goddess
of beauty,

adorns the hair
of these imperial
filles de joie!

Roman blood
runs in their veins,
mixed in with local blood
or Phoenician blood
that bubbles up
in this alchemists' furnace
of flesh and bone!
And their bodily charms
are the charms
of lotus eaters,
those Libyan women
with hair like diamonds
hair they dishevel
when pain
but decorate
with scarlet roses
when happiness
has its day!

You too are a courtesan,
the daughter of a Roman citizen,
yet your origins
are mixed in with the blue skies
of Tripolitania,
and you practise your noble trade
and risk losing your youth,
for the salvation of your heart!

But don't worry,
sublime princess of joy!

Your buttocks
will grow firmer
more transparently luxurious
if they are caressed
by the fine hands
of your casual lovers!

Your dazzling skin,
a mirror for poets
who bow down
their untidy heads before it,
will grow more dazzling from being
the aim
of every human desire!

The fountain of tenderness
will gush
from your almond eyes,
while your glances
will learn the caress,
that intimate human secret
which conquers the confident souls
of Sages!

Your bosom
will glisten with sovereign pleasure
like a washtub in the yard
shines from the hard work
of hundreds of African
or like a precious stone
glistens from lovers' kisses!

And it will serve as a model,
through its form
and the cloths
you dress it in,
for the building of theatres
hung with a curtain of rubies
to protect
against the torrid Sun
against the terrible noons
curtains which summon the memory
of your proud red bustier!

The movements of your lion's rump
will bring you the admiration
of the bravest athletes
and will inspire
in the greatest poets
a thousand hymns to your glory
a glory venerated
by all the warriors of the Sun!

Go on, lucky girl,
mistress of ingenious
go on abandoning yourself
to this activity
which, at every step,
will make you the inventor of
Roman Love!

O my voice of cashew,
O my little anacardia,
forget dying
inch by inch,
teach the Arts of Love!

And at the foot of the staircase
of the Government palace
the assembled
armies of Rome
will acclaim you,
O my little Moorish jasmin,
O my Numidian swallow,
O my Carthaginian nave,
my empress of sensual Delight!