Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Les Phares

Rubens, fleuve d'oubli, jardin de la paresse,
Oreiller de chair fraîche où l'on ne peut aimer,
Mais où la vie afflue et s'agite sans cesse,
Comme l'air dans le ciel et la mer dans la mer;

Léonard de Vinci, miroir profond et sombre,
Où des anges charmants, avec un doux souris
Tout chargé de mystère, apparaissent à l'ombre
Des glaciers et des pins qui ferment leur pays;

Rembrandt, triste hôpital tout rempli de murmures,
Et d'un grand crucifix décoré seulement,
Où la prière en pleurs s'exhale des ordures,
Et d'un rayon d'hiver traversé brusquement;

Michel-Ange, lieu vague où l'on voit des Hercules
Se mêler à des Christs, et se lever tout droits
Des fantômes puissants qui dans les crépuscules
Déchirent leur suaire en étirant leurs doigts;

Colères de boxeur, impudences de faune,
Toi qui sus ramasser la beauté des goujats,
Grand coeur gonflé d'orgueil, homme débile et jaune,
Puget, mélancolique empereur des forçats;

Watteau, ce carnaval où bien des coeurs illustres,
Comme des papillons, errent en flamboyant,
Décors frais et légers éclairés par des lustres
Qui versent la folie à ce bal tournoyant;

Goya, cauchemar plein de choses inconnues,
De foetus qu'on fait cuire au milieu des sabbats,
De vieilles au miroir et d'enfants toutes nues,
Pour tenter les démons ajustant bien leurs bas;

Delacroix, lac de sang hanté des mauvais anges,
Ombragé par un bois de sapins toujours vert,
Où, sous un ciel chagrin, des fanfares étranges
Passent, comme un soupir étouffé de Weber;

Ces malédictions, ces blasphèmes, ces plaintes,
Ces extases, ces cris, ces pleurs, ces Te Deum,
Sont un écho redit par mille labyrinthes;
C'est pour les coeurs mortels un divin opium!

C'est un cri répété par mille sentinelles,
Un ordre renvoyé par mille porte-voix;
C'est un phare allumé sur mille citadelles,
Un appel de chasseurs perdus dans les grands bois!

Car c'est vraiment, Seigneur, le meilleur témoignage
Que nous puissions donner de notre dignité
Que cet ardent sanglot qui roule d'âge en âge
Et vient mourir au bord de votre éternité!

Charles Baudelaire


The Beacons

Rubens, river of oblivion, garden of indolence,
Pillow of cool flesh where one cannot love,
But where life moves and whirls incessantly
Like the air in the sky and the tide in the sea;

Leonardo, dark, unfathomable mirror,
In which charming angels, with sweet smiles
Full of mystery, appear in the shadow
Of the glaciers and pines that enclose their country;

Rembrandt, gloomy hospital filled with murmuring,
Ornamented only with a large crucifix,
Lit for a moment by a wintry sun,
Where from rot and ordure rise tearful prayers;

Angelo, shadowy place where Hercules' are seen
Mingling with Christs, and rising straight up,
Powerful phantoms, which in the twilights
Rend their winding-sheets with outstretched fingers;

Boxer's wrath, shamelessness of Fauns, you whose genius
Showed to us the beauty in a villain,
Great heart filled with pride, sickly, yellow man,
Puget, melancholy emperor of galley slaves;

Watteau, carnival where the loves of many famous hearts
Flutter capriciously like butterflies with gaudy wings;
Cool, airy settings where the candelabras' light
Touches with madness the couples whirling in the dance

Goya, nightmare full of unknown things,
Of fetuses roasted in the midst of witches' sabbaths,
Of old women at the mirror and of nude children,
Tightening their hose to tempt the demons;

Delacroix, lake of blood haunted by bad angels,
Shaded by a wood of fir-trees, ever green,
Where, under a gloomy sky, strange fanfares
Pass, like a stifled sigh from Weber;

These curses, these blasphemies, these lamentations,
These Te Deums, these ecstasies, these cries, these tears,
Are an echo repeated by a thousand labyrinths;
They are for mortal hearts a divine opium.

They are a cry passed on by a thousand sentinels,
An order re-echoed through a thousand megaphones;
They are a beacon lighted on a thousand citadels,
A call from hunters lost deep in the woods!

For truly, Lord, the clearest proofs
That we can give of our nobility,
Are these impassioned sobs that through the ages roll,
And die away upon the shore of your Eternity.

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


The Beacons

Rubens, the grove of case, Nepenthe's river
Couch of cool flesh, where Love may never be,
But where life ever flows and seems to quiver
As air in heaven, or, in the sea, the sea.

Da Vinci, dusky mirror and profound,
Where angels, smiling mystery, appear,
Shaded by pines and glaciers, that surround
And seem to shut their country in the rear.

Rembrandt, sad hospital of murmurs, where
Adorned alone by one great crucifix,
From offal-heaps exhales the weeping prayer
That winter shoots a sunbeam to transfix.

Vague region, Michelangelo, where Titans
Are mixed with Christs: and strong ghosts rise, in crowds
To stand bolt upright in the gloom that lightens,
With gristly talons tearing through their shrouds.

Rage of the boxer, mischief of the faun,
Extracting beauty out of blackguards' looks —
The heart how proud, the man how pinched and drawn —
Puget the mournful emperor of crooks!

Watteau, the carnival, where famous hearts
Go flitting by like butterflies that burn,
While through gay scenes each chandelier imparts
A madness to the dancers as they turn.

Goya's a nightmare full of things unguessed,
Of foeti stewed on nights of witches' revels.
Crones ogle mirrors; children scarcely dressed,
Adjust their hose to tantalise the devils.

A lake of gore where fallen angels dwell
Is Delacroix, by firwoods ever fair,
Where under fretful skies strange fanfares swell
Like Weber's sighs and heartbeats in the air.

These curses, blasphemies, and lamentations,
These ecstasies, tears, cries and soaring psalms —
Through endless mazes, their reverberations
Bring, to our mortal hearts, divinest balms.

A thousand sentinels repeat the cry.
A thousand trumpets echo. Beacon-tossed
A thousand summits flare it through the sky,
A call of hunters in the jungle lost.

And certainly this is the most sublime
Proof of our worth and value, Oh Divinity,
That this great sob rolls on through ageless time
To die upon the shores of your infinity.

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


Beacons

Rubens, river of forgetfulness, garden of idleness,
Pillow of cool flesh where one cannot love,
But where life abounds and writhes ceaselessly,
Like air in the sky and the sea in the sea;

Leonardo da Vinci, deep and dark mirror,
Where charming angels, with a sweet smile
Charged with mystery, appear under the shadow
Of glaciers and pines which shut in their country;

Rembrandt, sad hospital filled with murmurings,
And decorated only with a large crucifix,
Where tearful prayers are exhaled from excrement
And abruptly crossed by a winter ray;

Michelangelo, vague place where are seen Hercules
Mingling with Christs, and rising upright
Powerful phantoms which at twilight
Rip open their shrouds when they stretch their fingers;

Anger of the wrestler, impudence of the faun,
You who collected the beauty of soldiers,
Noble heart swollen with pride, weak jaundiced man,
Puget, melancholy emperor of convicts;

Watteau, that carnival where many illustrious hearts,
Like moths, wander as flames catch them,
Fresh, light decors illuminated by chandeliers
Which pour madness over the turning dance;

Goya, nightmare filled with unknown things,
With foetuses which are cooked in the midst of a witch’s feast,
Of old women at a mirror and naked girls
Adjusting their stockings to tempt the demons;

Delacroix, lake of blood haunted by evil angels,
Under the shadow of a green forest of firs,
Where, under a gloomy sky, strange fanfares
Pass, like a muffled sigh of Weber;

These curses, blasphemies, complaints,
These ecstasies, cries, tears, these Te Deums,
Are an echo repeated by a thousand labyrinths;
They are for the hearts of men a divine opium!

It is a cry repeated by a thousand sentinels,
An order returned by a thousand loud-speakers;
It is a beacon lighted on a thousand citadels,
A call of hunters lost in the deep woods!

For it is in truth, O Lord, the best testimonial
We can give of our dignity —
This ardent sobbing which rolls from age to age
And comes to die at the edge of your eternity!

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


Beacons

Rubens, garden of idleness watered by oblivion,
Where quick flesh pillows the impotence of dreams,
Where life's affluence writhes in eddying abandon
Like air in the air, or water in streams.

Leonardo da Vinci, deep mirror of darkness,
Where angels appear, their smiles charged with mystery
And tenderness, within the shadowy enclosures
Of pines and glaciers that shut in their country.

Rembrandt, tragic hospital re-echoing round a sigh;
A tall crucifix for only ornament
Traversed obliquely by a single wintry ray
Through which prayers rise, exhaling from excrement.

Michelangelo, no man's land where Hercules and Christ
Are at one; where powerful phantoms in crowds
Erect themselves deliberately in darkening twilights,
With pressed, rigid fingers ripping open their shrouds.

Rage of the wrestler, impudence of the faun;
Puget, the convicts' melancholy emperor,
Caging the lion's pride in a weak, jaundiced man,
Deducing beauty from crime, vice and terror.

Watteau, carnival where many a distinguished soul
Flutters like a moth, lost in the brilliance
Of chandeliers shedding frivolity on the cool,
Clear decors enclosing the changes of the dance.

Goya, nightmare compact of things incredible:
Foetuses being fried for a witch's sabbath feast;
An old woman at a mirror, a little naked girl
Lowering an artful stocking to tempt a devil's lust.

Delacroix, blood lake haunted by evil angels
In the permanent green darkness of a forest of firs,
Where under a stricken sky a muffled sigh fills
The air like a faintly echoed fanfare of Weber's.

Such, O Lord, are the maledictions, the tears,
The ecstasies, the blasphemies, the cries of Te Deum
Re-echoing along labyrinthine corridors:
A dream for mortal hearts distilled from divine opium,

The watchword reiterated by sentinels
A thousand times, the message whispered from post to post,
A beacon burning on a thousand citadels,
A call of all the hunters lost in the great forest.

For is this not indeed, O Lord, the best witness
That our dignity can render to Your pity,
This tide of tears which age after age gathers
To fail and fall on the shore of Your eternity?

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


Les Phares

Rubens, great river of oblivion,
garden of ease, cool flesh no lovers crave,
but where the floods of life unceasing run,
like wind on wind or wave on ocean wave;

Da Vinci — deep and sombre looking-glass
enchanting angels haunt, with subtle smile
all mystery-charged, while shadows dark amass
and pines and ice-cliffs bound their prison-isle;

Rembrandt — a piteous murmuring hospital
where ordure streams in tears and orisons,
stripped to the crucifix on one bare wall
illumed by one chill dart from wintry suns;

vast desert void, — o Michael Angelo!
— where TItans mix with Christs, and twilight clouds
where mighty spectres rise up stark and slow
— whose opening fingers rend their mouldered shrouds;

the rage of boxers and the satyrs' lust
— thou who hast found a grace in toiling knaves,
great heart, in a poor bilious body thrust
— Puget, the gloomy king of galley-slaves;

Watteau — bright carnival, where courtly pairs,
like butterflies in satin, flit about;
flaming in misty groves 'neath resin-flares
which pour their madness on the whirling rout;

Goya, who in a nightmare-horde unfurls
hags boiling foetuses in witches' milk,
beldames before the glass and naked girls
for demon-lovers tightening hose of silk;

and Delacroix — dark lake of blood forlorn
'mid fadeless firs, where evil angels fare,
a sullen sky wherefrom a faery horn
floats, faint as Oberon's horn through muffling air;

these curses, blasphemies and these laments,
these ecstasies, cries, tears, hossanas from
a thousand caverns, form one echo, whence
— death-doomed, we draw a heavenly opium!

theirs is a blast a thousand sentinels
pass on with their trumpets in a thousand moods;
a torch upon a thousand citadels,
a hail from hunters lost in pathless woods!

for truly, 'tis the mightiest voice our souls
command, o Lord, to prove their worth to Thee:
this ardent sob which down the ages rolls
and dies against Thy verge, Eternity!

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


The Beacons

RUBENS, oblivious garden of indolence,
Pillow of cool flesh where no man dreams of love,
Where life flows forth in troubled opulence,
As airs in heaven and seas in ocean move.

LEONARD DA VINCI, sombre and fathomless glass,
Where lovely angels with calm lips that smile,
Heavy with mystery, in the shadow pass,
Among the ice and pines that guard some isle.

REMBRANDT, sad hospital that a murmuring fills,
Where one tall crucifix hangs on the walls,
Where every tear-drowned prayer some woe distils,
And one cold, wintry ray obliquely falls.

Strong MICHELANGELO, a vague far place
Where mingle Christs with pagan Hercules;
Thin phantoms of the great through twilight pace,
And tear their Shroud with clenched hands void of ease.

The fighter's anger, the faun's impudence,
Thou makest of all these a lovely thing;
Proud heart, sick body, mind's magnificence:
PUGET, the convict's melancholy king.

WATTEAU, the carnival of illustrious hearts,
Fluttering like moths upon the wings of chance;
Bright lustres light the silk that flames and darts,
And pour down folly on the whirling dance.

GOYA, a nightmare full of things unknown;
The fœtus witches broil on Sabbath night;
Old women at the mirror; children lone
Who tempt old demons with their limbs delight.

DELACROIX, lake of blood ill angels haunt,
Where ever-green, o'ershadowing woods arise;
Under the surly heaven strange fanfares chaunt
And pass, like one of Weber's strangled sighs.

And malediction, blasphemy and groan,
Ecstasies, cries, Te Deums, and tears of brine,
Are echoes through a thousand labyrinths flown;
For mortal hearts an opiate divine;

A shout cried by a thousand sentinels,
An order from a thousand bugles tossed,
A beacon o'er a thousand citadels,
A call to huntsmen in deep woodlands lost.

It is the mightiest witness that could rise
To prove our dignity, O Lord, to Thee;
This sob that rolls from age to age, and dies
Upon the verge of Thy Eternity!

— F.P. Sturm, from Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, edited by Thomas Robert Smith (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)


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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.