Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Bénédiction

Lorsque, par un décret des puissances suprêmes,
Le Poète apparaît en ce monde ennuyé,
Sa mère épouvantée et pleine de blasphèmes
Crispe ses poings vers Dieu, qui la prend en pitié:

— «Ah! que n'ai-je mis bas tout un noeud de vipères,
Plutôt que de nourrir cette dérision!
Maudite soit la nuit aux plaisirs éphémères
Où mon ventre a conçu mon expiation!

Puisque tu m'as choisie entre toutes les femmes
Pour être le dégoût de mon triste mari,
Et que je ne puis pas rejeter dans les flammes,
Comme un billet d'amour, ce monstre rabougri,

Je ferai rejaillir ta haine qui m'accable
Sur l'instrument maudit de tes méchancetés,
Et je tordrai si bien cet arbre misérable,
Qu'il ne pourra pousser ses boutons empestés!»

Elle ravale ainsi l'écume de sa haine,
Et, ne comprenant pas les desseins éternels,
Elle-même prépare au fond de la Géhenne
Les bûchers consacrés aux crimes maternels.

Pourtant, sous la tutelle invisible d'un Ange,
L'Enfant déshérité s'enivre de soleil
Et dans tout ce qu'il boit et dans tout ce qu'il mange
Retrouve l'ambroisie et le nectar vermeil.

II joue avec le vent, cause avec le nuage,
Et s'enivre en chantant du chemin de la croix;
Et l'Esprit qui le suit dans son pèlerinage
Pleure de le voir gai comme un oiseau des bois.

Tous ceux qu'il veut aimer l'observent avec crainte,
Ou bien, s'enhardissant de sa tranquillité,
Cherchent à qui saura lui tirer une plainte,
Et font sur lui l'essai de leur férocité.

Dans le pain et le vin destinés à sa bouche
Ils mêlent de la cendre avec d'impurs crachats;
Avec hypocrisie ils jettent ce qu'il touche,
Et s'accusent d'avoir mis leurs pieds dans ses pas.

Sa femme va criant sur les places publiques:
«Puisqu'il me trouve assez belle pour m'adorer,
Je ferai le métier des idoles antiques,
Et comme elles je veux me faire redorer;

Et je me soûlerai de nard, d'encens, de myrrhe,
De génuflexions, de viandes et de vins,
Pour savoir si je puis dans un coeur qui m'admire
Usurper en riant les hommages divins!

Et, quand je m'ennuierai de ces farces impies,
Je poserai sur lui ma frêle et forte main;
Et mes ongles, pareils aux ongles des harpies,
Sauront jusqu'à son coeur se frayer un chemin.

Comme un tout jeune oiseau qui tremble et qui palpite,
J'arracherai ce coeur tout rouge de son sein,
Et, pour rassasier ma bête favorite
Je le lui jetterai par terre avec dédain!»

Vers le Ciel, où son oeil voit un trône splendide,
Le Poète serein lève ses bras pieux
Et les vastes éclairs de son esprit lucide
Lui dérobent l'aspect des peuples furieux:

— «Soyez béni, mon Dieu, qui donnez la souffrance
Comme un divin remède à nos impuretés
Et comme la meilleure et la plus pure essence
Qui prépare les forts aux saintes voluptés!

Je sais que vous gardez une place au Poète
Dans les rangs bienheureux des saintes Légions,
Et que vous l'invitez à l'éternelle fête
Des Trônes, des Vertus, des Dominations.

Je sais que la douleur est la noblesse unique
Où ne mordront jamais la terre et les enfers,
Et qu'il faut pour tresser ma couronne mystique
Imposer tous les temps et tous les univers.

Mais les bijoux perdus de l'antique Palmyre,
Les métaux inconnus, les perles de la mer,
Par votre main montés, ne pourraient pas suffire
A ce beau diadème éblouissant et clair;

Car il ne sera fait que de pure lumière,
Puisée au foyer saint des rayons primitifs,
Et dont les yeux mortels, dans leur splendeur entière,
Ne sont que des miroirs obscurcis et plaintifs!»

Charles Baudelaire


Benediction

When, after a decree of the supreme powers,
The Poet is brought forth in this wearisome world,
His mother terrified and full of blasphemies
Raises her clenched fist to God, who pities her:

— "Ah! would that I had spawned a whole knot of vipers
Rather than to have fed this derisive object!
Accursed be the night of ephemeral joy
When my belly conceived this, my expiation!

Since of all women You have chosen me
To be repugnant to my sorry spouse,
And since I cannot cast this misshapen monster
Into the flames, like an old love letter,

I shall spew the hatred with which you crush me down
On the cursed instrument of your malevolence,
And twist so hard this wretched tree
That it cannot put forth its pestilential buds!"

Thus she gulps down the froth of her hatred,
And not understanding the eternal designs,
Herself prepares deep down in Gehenna
The pyre reserved for a mother's crimes.

However, protected by an unseen Angel,
The outcast child is enrapt by the sun,
And in all that he eats, in everything he drinks,
He finds sweet ambrosia and rubiate nectar.

He cavorts with the wind, converses with the clouds,
And singing, transported, goes the way of the cross;
And the Angel who follows him on pilgrimage
Weeps to see him as carefree as a bird.

All those whom he would love watch him with fear,
Or, emboldened by his tranquility,
Emulously attempt to wring a groan from him
And test on him their inhumanity.

With the bread and the wine intended for his mouth
They mix ashes and foul spittle,
And, hypocrites, cast away what he touches
And feel guilty if they have trod in his footprints.

His wife goes about the market-places
Crying: "Since he finds me fair enough to adore,
I shall imitate the idols of old,
And like them I want to be regilded;

I shall get drunk with spikenard, incense, myrrh,
And with genuflections, viands and wine,
To see if laughingly I can usurp
In an admiring heart the homage due to God!

And when I tire of these impious jokes,
I shall lay upon him my strong, my dainty hand;
And my nails, like harpies' talons,
Will cut a path straight to his heart.

That heart which flutters like a fledgling bird
I'll tear, all bloody, from his breast,
And scornfully I'll throw it in the dust
To sate the hunger of my favorite hound!"

To Heav'n, where his eye sees a radiant throne,
Piously, the Poet, serene, raises his arms,
And the dazzling brightness of his illumined mind
Hides from his sight the raging mob:

— "Praise be to You, O God, who send us suffering
As a divine remedy for our impurities
And as the best and the purest essence
To prepare the strong for holy ecstasies!

I know that you reserve a place for the Poet
Within the blessed ranks of the holy Legions,
And that you invite him to the eternal feast
Of the Thrones, the Virtues, and the Dominations.

I know that suffering is the sole nobility
Which earth and hell shall never mar,
And that to weave my mystic crown,
You must tax every age and every universe.

But the lost jewels of ancient Palmyra,
The unfound metals, the pearls of the sea,
Set by Your own hand, would not be adequate
For that diadem of dazzling splendor,

For that crown will be made of nothing but pure light
Drawn from the holy source of primal rays,
Whereof our mortal eyes, in their fullest brightness,
Are no more than tarnished, mournful mirrors!"

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)


Benediction

When by an edict of the powers supreme
A poet's born into this world's drab space,
His mother starts, in horror, to blaspheme
Clenching her fists at God, who grants her grace.

"Would that a nest of vipers I'd aborted
Rather than this absurd abomination.
Cursed be the night of pleasures vainly sported
On which my womb conceived my expiation.

Since of all women I am picked by You
To be my Mate's aversion and his shame:
And since I cannot, like a billet-doux,
Consign this stunted monster to the flame,

I'll turn the hatred, which You load on me,
On the curst tool through which You work your spite,
And twist and stunt this miserable tree
Until it cannot burgeon for the blight."

She swallows down the white froth of her ire
And, knowing naught of schemes that are sublime,
Deep in Gehenna, starts to lay the pyre
That's consecrated to maternal crime.

Yet with an unseen Angel for protector
The outcast waif grows drunken with the sun,
And finds ambrosia, too, and rosy nectar
In all he eats or drinks, suspecting none.

He sings upon his Via Crucis, plays
With winds, and with the clouds exchanges words:
The Spirit following his pilgrim-ways
Weeps to behold him gayer than the birds.

Those he would love avoid him as in fear,
Or, growing bold to see one so resigned,
Compete to draw from him a cry or tear,
And test on him the fierceness of their kind.

In food or drink that's destined for his taste
They mix saliva foul with cinders black,
Drop what he's touched with hypocrite distaste,
And blame themselves for walking in his track.

His wife goes crying in the public way
— "Since fair enough he finds me to adore,
The part of ancient idols I will play
And gild myself with coats of molten ore.

I will get drunk on incense, myrrh, and nard,
On genuflexions, meat, and beady wine,
Out of his crazed and wondering regard,
I'll laugh to steal prerogatives divine.

When by such impious farces bored at length,
I'll place my frail strong hand on him, and start,
With nails like those of harpies in their strength,
To plough myself a pathway to his heart.

Like a young bird that trembles palpitating,
I'll wrench his heart, all crimson, from his chest,
And to my favourite beast, his hunger sating,
Will fling it in the gutter with a jest."

Skyward, to where he sees a Throne blaze splendid,
The pious Poet lifts his arms on high,
And the vast lightnings of his soul extended
Blot out the crowds and tumults from his eye.

"Blessèd be You, O God, who give us pain,
As cure for our impurity and wrong —
Essence that primes the stalwart to sustain
Seraphic raptures that were else too strong.

I know that for the Poet You've a post,
Where the blest Legions take their ranks and stations,
Invited to the revels with the host
Of Virtues, Powers, and Thrones, and Dominations

That grief's the sole nobility, I know it,
Where neither Earth nor Hell can make attacks,
And that, to deck my mystic crown of poet,
All times and universes paid their tax.

But all the gems from old Palmyra lost,
The ores unmixed, the pearls of the abyss,
Set by Your hand, could not suffice the cost
Of such a blazing diadem as this.

Because it will be only made of light,
Drawn from the hearth of the essential rays,
To which our mortal eyes, when burning bright,
Are but the tarnished mirrors that they glaze."

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)


The Blessing

When, by a decree of the sovereign powers,
The Poet comes into this bored world,
His mother, terrified and full of blasphemy,
Clenches her fists toward God, who has pity on her:

"Ah, why didn't I litter a nest of vipers,
Rather than give birth to this mockery?
A curse on that night with its fleeting pleasures
When my womb conceived my expiation!

Since you chose me from among all women
To be the disgust of my disappointed husband,
And since I cannot throw back into the fire
This weak monster, like a love letter,

I will make your hate which stifles me gush forth
On the accursed instrument of your plottings,
And I will twist this wretched tree so far
That its blighted buds will not grow!"

Thus she swallows the foam of her hate,
And, without understanding the eternal designs,
She prepares in the pit of Hell
The pyres consecrated to the crimes of a mother.

Meanwhile, under the invisible care of an Angel,
The disinherited Child is intoxicated with sunlight,
And in all he drinks and in all he eats
Discovers ambrosia and vermillion nectar.

He plays with the wind, talks with the cloud,
And singing revels in the way of the cross;
And the Spirit following him in his pilgrimage
Weeps at seeing him happy as a bird in the forest.

All those he would love look at him with fear,
Or, emboldened by his calm manner,
Vie with one another in drawing from him a complaint
And practice on him the experiments of their cruelty.

In the bread and wine destined for his mouth
They mingle ashes with filthy spittings;
Hypocritically they throw away what he touches,
And blame themselves for stepping where he stepped.

His wife cries in the public places:
"Since he finds me beautiful enough to worship,
I will take on the profession of ancient idols,
And like them I will cover my body with gold;

And I will get drunk on nard, incense, myrrh,
Genuflections, meats and wines,
To learn if I can from an admiring heart
Laughingly usurp the homage of the gods!

And, when I am bored with these impious farces,
I will lay on him my frail and strong hand;
And my nails, like the nails of harpies,
Will dig a path to his heart.

Like a very young bird trembling and palpitating
I will pull that red heart out from his breast,
And, in order to satiate my favorite beast,
Scornfully I will throw it to him on the ground!"

Toward Heaven, where his eyes see a shining throne,
The serene Poet raises his reverent arms,
And the vast visions of his lucid mind
Shut off from him the sight of cruel races:

"Be blessed, my Lord, who give suffering
As a divine remedy for our impurities
And as the best and the purest essence
Which prepares the strong for holy ecstasies!

I know that you keep a place for the Poet
In the blessed ranks of the holy legions,
And that you invite him to the eternal feast
Of Thrones, Virtues and Dominations.

I know that suffering is the one nobility
Where the earth and hell will have no effect,
And that in order to weave my mystic crown
All times and all worlds must be used.

But the lost jewels of ancient Palmyra,
The unknown metals, the pearls of the sea,
Mounted by your hand, could not suffice
For this handsome diadem shining and clear;

For it will be made only of pure light,
Drawn from the holy hearth of primal rays,
And to which mortal eyes, in their full splendor,
Are but tarnished and sad mirrors!"

— Wallace Fowlie, Flowers of Evil (New York: Dover Publications, 1964)


Benediction

When by decree of the almighty powers,
The Poet walks the world's wearisome sod,
His mother, blasphemous and fearful, cowers,
Clenching her fist against a pitying God:

— "Ah, would whole knots of vipers were my spawn
Rather than this woeful abomination!
Cursed be the sweet swift night and evil dawn
Wherein my womb conceived my expiation!

Since of all women Thou hast chosen me
To be my sorry husband's shame of shames,
Since I may not toss this monstrosity
Like an old billet-doux into the flames,

Thy heavy hatred I shall vomit back
On the damned tool of your malevolence,
Twisting this wretched tree until it crack,
Never to sprout in buds of pestilence!"

Thus she gulps down the froth of her despair,
Nor knowing the eternal paradigms,
Sinks deep into Gehenna to prepare,
Herself, the pyre set for a mother's crimes.

Yet guarded by an unseen Angel's favors,
The outcast child is fired by radiant suns,
In all he eats and all he drinks he savors
Ambrosial gifts and nectared benisons,

He sports with winds, he talks with clouds, he keeps
Singing along the road to Calvary,
While the bright Angel in his traces weeps,
Beholding him as free as birds are free.

All those whom he would love watch him with fear,
Or else, made bold by his serenity,
Wring groans from him that float sweet on the ear
Making him touchstone of their cruelty.

With his due bread and wine, hypocrites, they,
Mix ashes and fat gobs of spittle; grim,
What he has touched, these humbugs cast away,
Deeming it guilty but to follow him.

His wife cries in the market place: "Behold
Since he adores me, I am fair, and fain,
As idols did, and images of old,
To be regilded and adored again.

I shall be drunk with spikenard, incense, myrrh,
With genuflections, viands and wine to see
If, as a glad usurper, I may stir
His heart to pay God's homages to me!

Tired of these impious japes and of their butt,
My strong lithe hand's caress with subtle art
And my sharp nails like harpy claws shall cut
A mortal path straight to his quivering heart.

That heart which flutters like a fledgling bird,
I shall tear, bleeding, from his breast, to pitch
It blandly in the dust without a word
To slake the hunger of my favorite bitch."

To Heaven where he spies a splendent throne,
Serene, the Poet lifts rapt arms; and bright
Luminous thoughts that shine through him alone
Conceal the furious rabble from his sight:

— "Blessèd, O God, who send woe for a cure,
A balm divine for our impurities,
Of essences the noblest and most pure
To school the strong for holy ecstasies!

I know the Poet has his place above
Amid God's saintly hosts and congregations,
Guest at the everlasting banquet of
The Thrones, the Virtues and the Dominations.

Sorrow alone is noble and august,
A force nor earth nor hell shall ever mar,
To weave my mystic crown I know you must
Tax every age and universe that are.

Old Tadmor's vanished gems beyond all price,
Metals unknown, pearls from the richest sea,
Set by Thy holy hand, cannot suffice
To match this dazzling chapter's splendency;

This diadem shall be of sheerest light,
Drawn from the sacred source of primal rays,
Whereof our mortal eyes, however bright,
Serve but as piteous mirrors dull with glaze."

— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)


Benediction

When, on a certain day, into this harassed world
The Poet, by decree of the high powers, was born,
His mother, overwhelmed by shame and fury, hurled
These blasphemies at God, clenching her fists in scorn:

"Would I had whelped a knot of vipers — at the worst
'Twere better than this runt that whines and snivels there!
Oh, cursèd be that night of pleasure, thrice accurst
My womb, that has conceived and nourished my despair!

"Since, of all mortal women, it would seem my fate
To be my saddened husband's horror and disgust;
And since I may not toss this monster in the grate —
Like any crumpled letter, reeking of stale lust —

"Upon his helpless form, whereby Thou humblest me,
I shall divert Thy hatred in one raging flood;
And I shall twist so well this miserable tree
That it shall not put forth one pestilential bud!"

Thus did she foam with anger, railing, swallowing froth;
And, unaware of what the mighty powers had willed,
She set about to draw Gehenna on them both,
Eyeing the fire, considering how he might be killed.

Meantime, above the child an unseen angel beats
His wings, and the poor waif runs laughing in the sun;
And everything he drinks and everything he eats
Are nectar and ambrosia to this hapless one.

Companioned by the wind, conversing with the cloud,
Along the highway to the Cross his song is heard;
And the bright Spirit, following him, weeps aloud
To see him hop so gaily, like a little bird.

Those whom he longs to love observe him with constraint
And fear, as he grows up; or, seeing how calm he is,
Grow bold, and seek to draw from him some sharp complaint,
Wreaking on him all day their dull ferocities.

Cinders are in his bread, are gritty in his teeth;
Spittle is in his wine. Where his footprints are seen
They hesitate to set their shoes, mincing beneath
Hypocrisy; all things he touched, they call unclean.

His wife in public places cries, "Since after all
He loves me so, that he's the laughingstock of men,
I'll make a business of it, be an idol, call
For gold, to have myself regilded now and then!

"And some day, when I'm drunk with frankincense, rich food,
Flattery, genuflexions, spikenard, beady wine,
I'll get from him (while laughing in his face, I could!)
That homage he has kept, so far, for things divine.

"And, when my pleasure in these impious farces fails,
My dainty, terrible hands shall tear his breast apart,
And these long nails of mine, so like to harpies' nails,
Shall dig till they have dug a tunnel to his heart.

"Then, like a young bird, caught and fluttering to be freed,
('Twill make a tasty morsel for my favorite hound)
I'll wrench his heart out, warm and bleeding — let it bleed! —
And drop it, with contempt and loathing, to the ground."

Meanwhile toward Heaven, the goal of his mature desire,
The Poet, oblivious, lifts up his arms in prayer;
His lucid essence flames with lightnings — veiled by fire
Is all the furious world, all the lewd conflict there.

"Be praised, Almighty God, that givest to faulty me
This suffering, to purge my spirit of its sin,
To fortify my puny strength, to bid me see
Pure Faith, and what voluptuous blisses dwell therein.

"I know that in those ranks on ranks of happy blest
The Poet shall have some place among Thy Seraphim;
And that Thou wilt at length to the eternal feast
Of Virtues, Thrones and Dominations, summon him.

"I know, Pain is the one nobility we have
Which not the hungry ground nor hell shall ever gnaw;
I know that space and time, beyond the temporal grave,
Weave me a mystic crown, free from all earthly flaw.

"Not emeralds, not all the pearls of the deep sea,
All the rare metals, every lost and buried gem
Antique Palmyra hides, could ever seem to me
So beautiful as that clear glittering diadem.

"Of Light, of Light alone, it will be fashioned, Light
Drawn from the holy fount, rays primitive and pure,
Whereof the eyes of mortal men, so starry bright,
Are but the mirrors, mirrors cloudy and obscure."

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)


The Blessing

When, by a decree of the sovereign power,
The poet makes his appearance in a bored world,
With fists clenched at the horror, his outraged mother
Calls on a pitying God, at whom these curses are hurled:

"Why was I not made to litter a brood of vipers
Rather than conceive this human mockery?
My curses on that night whose ephemeral pleasures
Filled my womb with this avenging treachery!

Since I must be chosen among all women that are
To bear the lifetime's grudge of a sullen husband,
And since I cannot get rid of this caricature,
— Fling it away like old letters to be burned,

On what you have devised for my punishment
I will let all your hate of me rebound,
I will torture this stunted growth until its bent
Branches let fall every blighted bud to the ground!"

And so she prepares for herself in Hell's pit
A place on the pyre made for a mother's crimes,
Blind, in the fury of her foaming hatred,
To the meaning and purpose of the eternal designs.

Meanwhile, under the care of an unseen angel,
The disinherited Child revels in the sun's
Bright force; all that he eats and drinks can fill
Him with memories of the food that was heaven's.

The wind his plaything, any cloud a friend,
The Spirit watching can only weep to see
How in childhood his way of the cross is lightened
With the wild bird-song of his innocent gaiety.

Those he would love look at him with suspicion
Or else, emboldened by his calm, experiment
With various possible methods of exciting derision
By trying out their cruelty on his complaint.

They mix ashes or unspeakable filth with the bread
And the wine of his daily communion, drop
Whatever he may have touched with affected dread,
And studiously avoid wherever he may step.

His mistress, parading her contempt in the street,
Cries: "Since he finds my beauty a thing to worship,
I will be one of the ancient idols he talks about,
And make myself with gold out of the same workshop!

I will never have enough of his kneelings and offerings
Until I am sure that the choice foods, the wines,
The nard, the incense, the myrrh that he brings
He brings as other men would to the Virgin's shrines.

And when I am sick to death of trying not to laugh
At the farce of my black masses, I'll try the force
Of the hand he calls 'frail,' my nails will dig a path
Like harpies', to the heart that beats for me, of course!

Like a nestling trembling and palpitating
I will pull that red heart out of his breast
And throw it down for my favourite dog's eating
— Let him do whatever he likes with the rest!"

A serene piety, lifting the poet's gaze,
Reveals heaven opening on a shining throne,
And the lower vision of the world's ravening rage
Is shut off by the sheet lightnings of his brain.

"Be blessed, oh my God, who givest suffering
As the only divine remedy for our folly,
As the highest and purest essence preparing
The strong in spirit for ecstasies most holy.

I know that among the uplifted legions
Of saints, a place awaits the Poet's arrival,
And that among the Powers, Virtues, Dominations
He too is summoned to Heaven's festival.

I know that sorrow is the one human strength
On which neither earth nor hell can impose,
And that all the universe and all time's length
Must be wound into the mystic crown for my brows.

But all the treasury of buried Palmyra,
The earth's unknown metals, the sea's pearls,
Mounted by Thy hand, would be deemed an inferior
Glitter, to his diadem that shines without jewels.

For Thou knowest it will be made of purest light
Drawn from the holy hearth of every primal ray,
To which all human eyes, if they were one bright
Eye, are only a tarnished mirror's fading day!"

— David Paul, Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1955)


Benediction

When, by the sovran will of Powers Eternal,
The poet passed into this weary world,
His mother, filled with fears and doubts infernal,
Clenching her hands towards Heaven these curses hurled.

— "Why rather did I not within me treasure
"A knot of serpents than this thing of scorn?
"Accursed be the night of fleeting pleasure
"Whence in my womb this chastisement was borne!

"Since thou hast chosen me to be the woman
"Whose loathsome fruitfulness her husband shames,
"Who may not cast aside this birth inhuman,
"As one that flings love-tokens to the flames,

"The hatred that on me thy vengeance launches
"On this thwart creature I will pour in flood:
"So twist the sapling that its withered branches
"Shall never once put forth a cankered bud!"

Regorging thus the venom of her malice,
And misconceiving thy decrees sublime,
In deep Gehenna's gulf she fills the chalice
Of torments destined to maternal crime.

Yet, safely sheltered by his viewless angel,
The Childe forsaken revels in the Sun;
And all his food and drink is an evangel
Of nectared sweets, sent by the Heavenly One.

He communes with the clouds, knows the wind's voices,
And on his pilgrimage enchanted sings;
Seeing how like the wild bird he rejoices
The hovering Spirit weeps and folds his wings.

All those he fain would love shrink back in terror,
Or, boldened by his fearlessness elate,
Seek to seduce him into sin and error,
And flesh on him the fierceness of their hate.

In bread and wine, wherewith his soul is nourished,
They mix their ashes and foul spume impure;
Lying they cast aside the things he cherished,
And curse the chance that made his steps their lure.

His spouse goes crying in the public places:
"Since he doth choose my beauty to adore,
"Aping those ancient idols Time defaces
"I would regild my glory as of yore.

"Nard, balm and myrrh shall tempt till he desires me
"With blandishments, with dainties and with wine,
"Laughing if in a heart that so admires me
"I may usurp the sovranty divine!

"Until aweary of love's impious orgies,
"Fastening on him my fingers firm and frail,
"These claws, keen as the harpy's when she gorges,
"Shall in the secret of his heart prevail.

"Then, thrilled and trembling like a young bird captured,
"The bleeding heart shall from his breast be torn;
"To glut his maw my wanton hound, enraptured,
"Shall see me fling it to the earth in scorn."

Heavenward, where he beholds a throne resplendent,
The poet lifts his hands, devout and proud,
And the vast lightnings of a soul transcendent
Veil from his gaze awhile the furious crowd: —

"Blessed be thou, my God, that givest sorrow,
"Sole remedy divine for things unclean,
"Whence souls robust a healing virtue borrow,
"That tempers them for sacred joys serene!

"I know thou hast ordained in blissful regions
"A place, a welcome in the festal bowers,
"To call the poet with thy holy Legions,
"Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers.

"I know that Sorrow is the strength of Heaven,
"'Gainst which in vain strive ravenous Earth and Hell,
"And that his crown must be of mysteries woven
"Whereof all worlds and ages hold the spell.

"But not antique Palmyra's buried treasure,
"Pearls of the sea, rare metal, precious gem,
"Though set by thine own hand could fill the measure
"Of beauty for his radiant diadem;

"For this thy light alone, intense and tender,
"Flows from the primal source of effluence pure,
"Whereof all mortal eyes, though bright their splendour,
"Are but the broken glass and glimpse obscure."

— W. J. Robertson, from Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, edited by Thomas Robert Smith (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)


Benediction

When by the changeless Power of a Supreme Decree
The poet issues forth upon this sorry sphere,
His mother, horrified, and full of blasphemy,
Uplifts her voice to God, who takes compassion on her.

"Ah, why did I not bear a serpent's nest entire,
Instead of bringing forth this hideous Child of Doom!
Oh cursèd be that transient night of vain desire
When I conceived my expiation in my womb!"

"Yet since among all women thou hast chosen me
To be the degradation of my jaded mate,
And since I cannot like a love-leaf wantonly
Consign this stunted monster to the glowing grate,"

"I'll cause thine overwhelming hatred to rebound
Upon the cursed tool of thy most wicked spite.
Forsooth, the branches of this wretched tree I'll wound
And rob its pestilential blossoms of their might!"

So thus, she giveth vent unto her foaming ire,
And knowing not the changeless statutes of all times,
Herself, amid the flames of hell, prepares the pyre;
The consecrated penance of maternal crimes.

Yet 'neath th' invisible shelter of an Angel's wing
This sunlight-loving infant disinherited,
Exhales from all he eats and drinks, and everything
The ever sweet ambrosia and the nectar red.

He trifles with the winds and with the clouds that glide,
About the way unto the Cross, he loves to sing,
The spirit on his pilgrimage; that faithful guide,
Oft weeps to see him joyful like a bird of Spring.

All those that he would cherish shrink from him with fear,
And some that waxen bold by his tranquility,
Endeavour hard some grievance from his heart to tear,
And make on him the trial of their ferocity.

Within the bread and wine outspread for his repast
To mingle dust and dirty spittle they essay,
And everything he touches, forth they slyly cast,
Or scourge themselves, if e'er their feet betrod his way.

His wife goes round proclaiming in the crowded quads —
"Since he can find my body beauteous to behold,
Why not perform the office of those ancient gods
And like unto them, redeck myself with shining gold?"

"I'll bathe myself with incense, spikenard and myrrh,
With genuflexions, delicate viandes and wine,
To see, in jest, if from a heart, that loves me dear,
I cannot filch away the hommages divine."

"And when of these impious jokes at length I tire,
My frail but mighty hands, around his breast entwined,
With nails, like harpies' nails, shall cunningly conspire
The hidden path unto his feeble heart to find."

"And like a youngling bird that trembles in its nest,
I'll pluck his heart right out; within its own blood drowned,
And finally to satiate my favourite beast,
I'll throw it with intense disdain upon the ground!"

Towards the Heavens where he sees the sacred grail
The poet calmly stretches forth his pious arms,
Whereon the lightenings from his lucid spirit veil
The sight of the infuriated mob that swarms.

"Oh blest be thou, Almighty who bestowest pain,
Like some divine redress for our infirmities,
And like the most refreshing and the purest rain,
To sanctify the strong, for saintly ecstasies."

"I know that for the poet thou wilt grant a chair,
Among the Sainted Legion and the Blissful ones,
That of the endless feast thou wilt accord his share
To him, of Virtues, Dominations and of Thrones."

"I know, that Sorrow is that nobleness alone,
Which never may corrupted be by hell nor curse,
I know, in order to enwreathe my mystic crown
I must inspire the ages and the universe."

"And yet the buried jewels of Palmyra old,
The undiscovered metals and the pearly sea
Of gems, that unto me you show could never hold
Beside this diadem of blinding brilliancy."

"For it shall be engendered from the purest fire
Of rays primeval, from the holy hearth amassed,
Of which the eyes of Mortals, in their sheen entire,
Are but the tarnished mirrors, sad and overcast!"

— Cyril Scott, Baudelaire: The Flowers of Evil (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909)

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Two editions of Fleurs du mal were published in Baudelaire's lifetime — one in 1857 and an expanded edition in 1861. "Scraps" and censored poems were collected in Les Épaves in 1866. After Baudelaire died the following year, a "definitive" edition appeared in 1868.