I prize the memory of naked ages when
Apollo relished gilding marble limbs
whose agile-fleshed originals achieved
their ecstasy with neither fraud nor fear
and, nursed by that companionable sky,
enjoyed the health of a sublime machine.
Cybele then, abundant in her yield,
did not regard her sons as burdensome
but, tenderhearted she-wolf, graciously
suckled the universe at her brown dugs.
Lithe and powerful, a man deserved
his pride in beauties who called him their king-
flawless fruit engendered without shame,
whose ripened flesh asked only to be tried!
Today the poet eager to recall
such human splendor, visiting the sites
where men and women show their nakedness,
must feel a cold revulsion in his soul
at the display of flesh he contemplates.
How these deformities cry out for clothes!
—wretched bodies, regular grotesques,
runty, paunchy, flabby, scrawny, lame,
brats whom Utility, a pitiless god,
has swaddled in his brazen diapers!
Look at the women—pale as tallow, gnawed
and nourished by debauch—the girls who bear
the burden of their mothers’ vice or wear
the hideous stigmas of fecundity!
True, in our corruption we possess
beauties unrevealed to ancient times:
countenances cankered by the heart
and, so to speak, the charm of listlessness;
but subtle though they are, such artifacts
of a belated muse will never keep
our sickly race from offering to youth
its truest homage; youth we worship still,
its frank expression, its untroubled brow,
its eyes as bright as water; sacred youth
that shares—unconscious as a singing bird,
a flower, or the blue sky’s radiance—
its song, its scent, its irresistible warmth!