Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Muse malade

Ma pauvre muse, hélas! qu'as-tu donc ce matin?
Tes yeux creux sont peuplés de visions nocturnes,
Et je vois tour à tour réfléchis sur ton teint
La folie et l'horreur, froides et taciturnes.

Le succube verdâtre et le rose lutin
T'ont-ils versé la peur et l'amour de leurs urnes?
Le cauchemar, d'un poing despotique et mutin
T'a-t-il noyée au fond d'un fabuleux Minturnes?

Je voudrais qu'exhalant l'odeur de la santé
Ton sein de pensers forts fût toujours fréquenté,
Et que ton sang chrétien coulât à flots rythmiques,

Comme les sons nombreux des syllabes antiques,
Où règnent tour à tour le père des chansons,
Phoebus, et le grand Pan, le seigneur des moissons.

Charles Baudelaire

The Sick Muse

My poor Muse, alas! what ails you today?
Your hollow eyes are full of nocturnal visions;
I see in turn reflected on your face
Horror and madness, cold and taciturn.

Have the green succubus, the rosy elf,
Poured out for you love and fear from their urns?
Has the hand of Nightmare, cruel and despotic,
Plunged you to the bottom of some weird Minturnae?

I would that your bosom, fragrant with health,
Were constantly the dwelling place of noble thoughts,
And that your Christian blood would flow in rhythmic waves

Like the measured sounds of ancient verse,
Over which reign in turn the father of all songs,
Phoebus, and the great Pan, lord of harvest.

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

The Sick Muse

Alas, poor Muse, what ails you so today?
Your hollow eyes with midnight visions burn,
And turn about, in your complexion play
Madness and horror, cold and taciturn.

Green succubus and rosy imp — have they
Poured you both fear and love into one glass?
Or with his tyrant fist the nightmare, say,
Submerged you in some fabulous morass?

I wish that, breathing health, your breast might nourish
Ever robuster thoughts therein to flourish:
And that your Christian blood, in rhythmic flow,

With those old polysyllables would chime,
Where, turn about, reigned Phoebus, sire of rhyme,
And Pan, the lord of harvests long ago.

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

The Sick Muse

What's the matter with you today, Muse?
Are you going to tell me about last night's visions,
Heads on spikes, natives dancing a frenzied juba,
And all kinds of other stuff?

Oh you pink-lipped succubus!
You just don't want me to shoot into you.
You say you drowned, at Actium or Lepanto.
Again? What a nightmare.

I only want you to heave health
Be thinking of strongly urged Christian Things
And you tied to a bed

So, count it out and
Moan your dirge —
I'm climbing on.

— Will Schmitz

The Sick Muse

Alas — my poor Muse — what aileth thee now?
Thine eyes are bedimmed with the visions of Night,
And silent and cold — I perceive on thy brow
In their turns — Despair and Madness alight.

A succubus green, or a hobgoblin red,
Has it poured o'er thee Horror and Love from its urn?
Or the Nightmare with masterful bearing hath led
Thee to drown in the depths of some magic Minturne?

I wish, as the health-giving fragrance I cull,
That thy breast with strong thoughts could for ever be full,
And that rhymthmic'ly flowing — thy Christian blood

Could resemble the olden-time metrical-flood,
Where each in his turn reigned the father of Rhymes
Phoebus — and Pan, lord of Harvest-times.

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

La Muse malade

poor Muse, alas! what ails thee now? for thy
great hollow eyes with sights nocturnal burn,
and in thy changing pallor I descry
madness and frozen horror, turn by turn.

did rosy sprites or pale green succubi
pour love or panic from their dream-filled urn?
did the mad fist of despot nightmare try
to drown thee where the fiends of hell sojourn?

I would that thou wert always filled with health
and manly thoughts undaunted; that a wealth
of Christian blood were thine, which always flowed

in calm broad rhythms like a Grecian ode,
now echoing forth Apollo's golden strain,
and now great Pan, the lord of ripening grain.

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

The Sick Muse

Poor Muse, alas, what ail's thee, then, to-day?
Thy hollow eyes with midnight visions burn,
Upon thy brow in alternation play,
Folly and Horror, cold and taciturn.

Have the green lemure and the goblin red,
Poured on thee love and terror from their urn?
Or with despotic hand the nightmare dread
Deep plunged thee in some fabulous Mintume?

Would that thy breast where so deep thoughts arise,
Breathed forth a healthful perfume with thy sighs;
Would that thy Christian blood ran wave by wave

In rhythmic sounds the antique numbers gave,
When Phœbus shared his alternating reign
With mighty Pan, lord of the ripening grain.

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


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.