Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Soleil

Le long du vieux faubourg, où pendent aux masures
Les persiennes, abri des secrètes luxures,
Quand le soleil cruel frappe à traits redoublés
Sur la ville et les champs, sur les toits et les blés,
Je vais m'exercer seul à ma fantasque escrime,
Flairant dans tous les coins les hasards de la rime,
Trébuchant sur les mots comme sur les pavés
Heurtant parfois des vers depuis longtemps rêvés.

Ce père nourricier, ennemi des chloroses,
Eveille dans les champs les vers comme les roses;
II fait s'évaporer les soucis vers le ciel,
Et remplit les cerveaux et les ruches de miel.
C'est lui qui rajeunit les porteurs de béquilles
Et les rend gais et doux comme des jeunes filles,
Et commande aux moissons de croître et de mûrir
Dans le coeur immortel qui toujours veut fleurir!

Quand, ainsi qu'un poète, il descend dans les villes,
II ennoblit le sort des choses les plus viles,
Et s'introduit en roi, sans bruit et sans valets,
Dans tous les hôpitaux et dans tous les palais.

Charles Baudelaire

The Sun

Along the old street on whose cottages are hung
The slatted shutters which hide secret lecheries,
When the cruel sun strikes with increased blows
The city, the country, the roofs, and the wheat fields,
I go alone to try my fanciful fencing,
Scenting in every corner the chance of a rhyme,
Stumbling over words as over paving stones,
Colliding at times with lines dreamed of long ago.

This foster-father, enemy of chlorosis,
Makes verses bloom in the fields like roses;
He makes cares evaporate toward heaven,
And fills with honey hives and brains alike.
He rejuvenates those who go on crutches
And gives them the sweetness and gaiety of girls,
And commands crops to flourish and ripen
In those immortal hearts which ever wish to bloom!

When, like a poet, he goes down into cities,
He ennobles the fate of the lowliest things
And enters like a king, without servants or noise,
All the hospitals and all the castles.

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

The Sun

Along the outskirts where, close-sheltering
Hid lusts, dilapidated shutters swing,
When the sun strikes, redoubling waves of heat
On town, and field, and roof, and dusty street —
I prowl to air my prowess and kill time,
Stalking, in likely nooks, the odds of rhyme,
Tripping on words like cobbles as I go
And bumping into lines dreamed long ago.

This all-providing Sire, foe to chloroses,
Wakes verses in the fields as well as roses
Evaporates one's cares into the breeze,
Filling with honey brains and hives of bees,
Rejuvenating those who go on crutches
And bringing youthful joy to all he touches,
Life to those precious harvests he imparts
That grow and ripen in our deathless hearts.

Poet-like, through the town he seems to smile
Ennobling fate for all that is most vile;
And king-like, without servants or display,
Through hospitals and mansions makes his way.

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

The Sun

In this old district, where the shabby houses hide
Behind drawn shutters many a furtive lust inside,
In the fierce rays of noon, which mercilessly beat
On town and country, on the roofs and on the wheat,
I walk alone, absorbed in my fantastic play, —
Fencing with rhymes, which, parrying nimbly, back away;
Tripping on words, as on rough paving in the street,
Or bumping into verses I long had dreamed to meet.

The sun, our nourishing father, anemia's deadly foe,
Makes poems, as if poems were roses, bud and grow;
Burns through the anxious mists of every mind alive,
And fills with honey the celled brain as the celled hive.
'Tis he who makes the man on crutches stump along
As gay as a young girl, humming as sweet a song;
Calls to the human spirit to climb and ripen still —
Which would bloom on for ever, could it have its will.

He goes into the city, where, like the poet, his light
Ennobles and gives purpose to the least thing in sight;
Or, quietly, unattended, like a king, he calls
At every palace, and visits all the hospitals.

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

The Sun

Along old terraces where blinds tent the masonry
Each one a separate shelter for private luxury,
When the cruel sun redoubles its sharp stroke
On street and hedgerow, on rooftop and brake,
I walk alone, absorbed in my curious exercise,
Duelling with words that dodge in corners and byways;
Stumbling on rhymes as on crooked setts, colliding
With a sudden clear line which dreams were past finding.

The all-satisfying sun, anaemia's enemy,
Gives life to the worm and the rose impartially;
Evaporating care and sending it skywards
He brings honey to the hive, and to the mute mind words.
It is he who makes the ancient cripples young again
With the gaiety and gentleness of young children;
He orders the harvest to increase and flourish
In that old heart where life is the perpetual wish.

When he comes down into the city like a poet
Transfiguring the values of things the most abject,
He enters like royalty, unaccompanied by officials,
All the palatial hotels and all the hospitals.

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


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.