Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées,
Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers,
Par delà le soleil, par delà les éthers,
Par delà les confins des sphères étoilées,

Mon esprit, tu te meus avec agilité,
Et, comme un bon nageur qui se pâme dans l'onde,
Tu sillonnes gaiement l'immensité profonde
Avec une indicible et mâle volupté.

Envole-toi bien loin de ces miasmes morbides;
Va te purifier dans l'air supérieur,
Et bois, comme une pure et divine liqueur,
Le feu clair qui remplit les espaces limpides.

Derrière les ennuis et les vastes chagrins
Qui chargent de leur poids l'existence brumeuse,
Heureux celui qui peut d'une aile vigoureuse
S'élancer vers les champs lumineux et sereins;

Celui dont les pensers, comme des alouettes,
Vers les cieux le matin prennent un libre essor,
— Qui plane sur la vie, et comprend sans effort
Le langage des fleurs et des choses muettes!

Charles Baudelaire


Above the lakes, above the vales,
The mountains and the woods, the clouds, the seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the ether,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

My soul, you move with ease,
And like a strong swimmer in rapture in the wave
You wing your way blithely through boundless space
With virile joy unspeakable.

Fly far, far away from this baneful miasma
And purify yourself in the celestial air,
Drink the ethereal fire of those limpid regions
As you would the purest of heavenly nectars.

Beyond the vast sorrows and all the vexations
That weigh upon our lives and obscure our vision,
Happy is he who can with his vigorous wing
Soar up towards those fields luminous and serene,

He whose thoughts, like skylarks,
Toward the morning sky take flight
— Who hovers over life and understands with ease
The language of flowers and silent things!

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


Above the valleys and the lakes: beyond
The woods, seas, clouds and mountain-ranges: far
Above the sun, the aethers silver-swanned
With nebulae, and the remotest star,

My spirit! with agility you move
Like a strong swimmer with the seas to fight,
Through the blue vastness furrowing your groove
With an ineffable and male delight.

Far from these foetid marshes, be made pure
In the pure air of the superior sky,
And drink, like some most exquisite liqueur,
The fire that fills the lucid realms on high.

Beyond where cares or boredom hold dominion,
Which charge our fogged existence with their spleen,
Happy is he who with a stalwart pinion
Can seek those fields so shining and serene:

Whose thoughts, like larks, rise on the freshening breeze
Who fans the morning with his tameless wings,
Skims over life, and understands with ease
The speech of flowers and other voiceless things.

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


Above the valleys, above the mountains, above the sea,
Above the mists that rise at morning from river and pond —
Beyond the sun, beyond the fringe of the ether, beyond
The boundaries of the fields of stars and nebulae,

With what deep bliss, with what insatiable delight,
My soul, like a good swimmer reveling in the wave,
You plunge into immensity! With what a grave
Mute joy you saturate yourself in the clear height!

Fly! Oh, indeed, fly far from this unwholesome place!
Go and be purged in radiance, wheeling higher and higher:
Be drunken, be washed through with the transparent fire,
Be lost in the serene bright solitudes of space!

From these low vapors hanging in the windless air,
From these miasmas fraught with ancient woe and ill,
Most blest, most fortunate is he who can at will
Take flight into a region luminous and fair —

He whose unwearied thoughts on effortless light wings
Go up like larks at morning, and circle without fear
Above the wakening land — aloof and free — and hear
The voices of the flowers and of all voiceless things!

— George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)


Above ponds, above valleys,
Mountains, woods, clouds, seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the ether,
Beyond the limits of the starry spheres,

My spirit, you move with agility,
And, like a good swimmer who collapses in the water,
You gaily furrow the deep expanse
With an unspeakable male delight.

Fly far away from these fetid marshes;
Purify yourself in the upper air,
And drink, like some pure divine liqueur,
The clear fire that fills the limpid spaces.

Behind the boredom and endless cares
Which burden our fogged existence with their weight,
Happy is the man who can with vigorous wing
Mount to those luminous serene fields!

The man whose thoughts, like larks,
Take liberated flight toward the morning skies
— Who hovers over life and understands without effort
The language of flowers and voiceless things!

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


Above the ponds, above the valleys,
Mountains, woods, clouds, and seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the heavens,
Beyond the confines of starry spheres,

My spirit, you roam with agility,
And, like a good swimmer bracing the waves,
You soar happily into profound immensity
With exquisite male delight.

Fly, far away from these noxious surroundings;
And cleanse yourself in the pure air above,
And drink, the clear fire that fills lucid spaces,
As you would a pure and divine liqueur.

Behind the nuisances, and the vast chagrins
Amassing with their weight our bewildered existence,
Happy is he who can with a vigorous wing
Propel towards the luminous and serene realms;

He whose thoughts, like larks,
Free, in the morning take flight,
— Hover over life, and understand with ease
The language of flowers and silent things!

— Said Leghlid (poet and writer)


above the valleys and above the meres,
above the mountains, woods, the clouds, the sea,
beyond the sun, beyond the canopy
of aether, and beyond the starry spheres,

o Mind, thou soarest easily and well,
and like a swimmer tranced in lifting seas,
thou cleavest all those deep immensities,
thrilled by a manly joy ineffable.

fly far beyond this fog of pestilence; fly!
go purge thy squalor in the loftier air;
go quaff the pure Olympian ichor where
clear fires fill the whole pellucid sky.

behind the cares, the dark anxieties
that on our sunless hours drag and drift,
happy is he whom sturdy pinions lift
in spirit, toward those fields of light and peace;

o happy he whose thoughts, unfurling wings,
leap skyward like the lark at morning's call,
— who soars above this life, resolving all
the speech of flowers and of voiceless things!

— Lewis Piaget Shanks, Flowers of Evil (New York: Ives Washburn, 1931)


Above the valleys and above the meres,
The mountains and the woods, the clouds, the seas,
Beyond the sun and ether distances,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

Swiftly, my spirit, thou dost hold thy flight,
And, as one swoons with joy on the sea's breast,
Those calm eternal deeps thou furrowest
With an ineffable and strong delight.

Leave far beneath thy feet these pestilent places
To bathe in upper air, and quench desire
With unpolluted draughts of that clear fire
Which fills the luminous and limpid spaces.

O happy who can cast aside his chains,
The heavy load of grief and weariness.
And, winging from this misty wilderness,
Can set his eyes on those far-shining plains!

Whose lark-like thoughts, with bright, untrammelled wings,
Spring upward when the morning skies are clear;
Who soars o'er life, and effortless can hear
The secret speech of flowers and dumb things!

— Jack Collings Squire, Poems and Baudelaire Flowers (London: The New Age Press, Ltd, 1909)


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.