Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Guignon

Pour soulever un poids si lourd,
Sisyphe, il faudrait ton courage!
Bien qu'on ait du coeur à l'ouvrage,
L'Art est long et le Temps est court.

Loin des sépultures célèbres,
Vers un cimetière isolé,
Mon coeur, comme un tambour voilé,
Va battant des marches funèbres.

— Maint joyau dort enseveli
Dans les ténèbres et l'oubli,
Bien loin des pioches et des sondes;

Mainte fleur épanche à regret
Son parfum doux comme un secret
Dans les solitudes profondes.

Charles Baudelaire

Evil Fate

To lift a weight so heavy,
Would take your courage, Sisyphus!
Although one's heart is in the work,
Art is long and Time is short.

Far from famous sepulchers
Toward a lonely cemetery
My heart, like muffled drums,
Goes beating funeral marches.

Many a jewel lies buried
In darkness and oblivion,
Far, far away from picks and drills;

Many a flower regretfully
Exhales perfume soft as secrets
In a profound solitude.

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

III Luck

So huge a burden to support
Your courage, Sisyphus, would ask;
Well though my heart attacks its task,
Yet Art is long and Time is short.

Far from the famed memorial arch
Towards a lonely grave I come.
My heart in its funereal march
Goes beating like a muffled drum.

— Yet many a gem lies hidden still
Of whom no pick-axe, spade, or drill
The lonely secrecy invades;

And many a flower, to heal regret,
Pours forth its fragrant secret yet
Amidst the solitary shades.

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


A man would needs be brave and strong
As Sisyphus, for such a task!
It is not greater zeal I ask —
But life is brief, and art is long.

To a forsaken mound of clay
Where no admirers ever come,
My heart, like an invisible drum,
Goes beating a dead march all day.

Many a jewel of untold worth
Lies slumbering at the core of earth,
In darkness and oblivion drowned;

Many a flower has bloomed and spent
The secret of its passionate scent
Upon the wilderness profound.

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

Ill Luck

To raise a weight so heavy,
Sisyphus, we would need your courage!
Although we have a strong heart for the work,
Art is long and Time is short.

Far from famous graves,
Toward a lonely cemetery,
My heart, like a muffled drum,
Comes beating a funeral march.

— Many a gem lies buried
In darkness and oblivion,
Far from pickaxes and drills;

Many a flower pours forth regretfully
Its perfume sweet as a secret
In solitary shades.

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

Ill Luck

To bear so vast a load of grief
Thy courage, Sisyphus, I crave!
My heart against the task is brave,
But Art is long and Time is brief.

For from Fame's proud sepulchral arches,
Towards a graveyard lone and dumb,
My sad heart, like a muffled drum,
Goes beating slow funereal marches.

— Full many a shrouded jewel sleeps
In dark oblivion, lost in deeps
Unknown to pick or plummet's sound:

Full many a weeping blossom flings
Her perfume, sweet as secret things,
In silent solitudes profound.

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


O Sisyphus, thy strength were meet
A load so heavy to sustain;
The soul for work is very fain,
But Art is long, and Time is fleet.

Towards a lonely cemetery
From all famed sepulchres apart.
Like to a muffled drum my heart
Beats funeral marches ceaselessly.

Jewels many and many a one
Lie hid in dark oblivion
Far, far from pick or plummet's ken;

Many sweet flowers' scented breath
Is lavished till they fade in death
In solitudes untrod by men.

— 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.