Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


La Beauté

Je suis belle, ô mortels! comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s'est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière.

Je trône dans l'azur comme un sphinx incompris;
J'unis un coeur de neige à la blancheur des cygnes;
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes,
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.

Les poètes, devant mes grandes attitudes,
Que j'ai l'air d'emprunter aux plus fiers monuments,
Consumeront leurs jours en d'austères études;

Car j'ai, pour fasciner ces dociles amants,
De purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles:
Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartés éternelles!

Charles Baudelaire


Beauty

I am fair, O mortals! like a dream carved in stone,
And my breast where each one in turn has bruised himself
Is made to inspire in the poet a love
As eternal and silent as matter.

On a throne in the sky, a mysterious sphinx,
I join a heart of snow to the whiteness of swans;
I hate movement for it displaces lines,
And never do I weep and never do I laugh.

Poets, before my grandiose poses,
Which I seem to assume from the proudest statues,
Will consume their lives in austere study;

For I have, to enchant those submissive lovers,
Pure mirrors that make all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my large, wide eyes of eternal brightness!

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


Beauty

I'm fair, O mortals, as a dream of stone;
My breasts whereon, in turn, your wrecks you shatter,
Were made to wake in poets' hearts alone
A love as indestructible as matter.

A sky-throned sphinx, unknown yet, I combine
The cygnet's whiteness with a heart of snow.
I loathe all movement that displaces line,
And neither tears nor laughter do I know.

Poets before my postures, which I seem
To learn from masterpieces, love to dream
And there in austere thought consume their days.

I have, these docile lovers to subject,
Mirrors that glorify all they reflect —
These eyes, great eyes, eternal in their blaze!

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


Beauty

I am as beautiful, O mortals! as a dream of stone,
And my breast, on which each man is wounded in turn,
Is made to inspire in the poet a love
As eternal and mute as matter.

I preside in the heavens like a misunderstood sphinx;
I unite a heart of snow with the whiteness of swans;
I hate all movement which displaces lines,
And I never weep and I never laugh.

The poets before my great poses,
Which I seem to borrow from the proudest monuments,
Will consume their days in austere studies;

For I have, in order to fascinate these docile lovers,
Pure mirrors which make all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my large eyes with their eternal light!

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


Beauty

My face is a marmoreal dream, O mortals!
And on my breast all men are bruised in turn,
So moulded that the poet's love may burn
Mute and eternal as the earth's cold portals.

Throned like a Sphinx unveiled in the blue deep,
A heart of snow my swan-white beauty muffles;
I hate the line that undulates and ruffles:
And never do I laugh and never weep.

The poets, prone beneath my presence towering
With stately port of proudest obelisks,
Worship with rites austere, their days devouring;

For I have charms to keep their love, pure disks
That make all things more beautiful and tender:
My large eyes, radiant with eternal splendour!

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


Beauty

I arn lovely, O mortals, like a dream of stone,
And my bosom, where each one gets bruised in turn,
To inspire the love of a poet is prone,
Like matter eternally silent and stern.

As an unfathomed sphinx, enthroned by the Nile,
My heart a swan's whiteness with granite combines,
And I hate every movement, displacing the lines,
And never I weep and never I smile.

The poets in front of mine attitudes fine
(Which the proudest of monuments seem to implant),
To studies profound all their moments assign,

For I have all these docile swains to enchant —
Two mirrors, which Beauty in all things ignite:
Mine eyes, my large eyes, of eternal Light!

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


La Beauté

fair as a dream in stone I loom afar
— mortals! — with dazzling breast where, bruised in turn
all poets fall in silence, doomed to burn
with love eternal as the atoms are.

white as a swan I throne with heart of snow
in azure space, a sphynx that none divine,
no hateful motion mars my lovely line,
nor tears nor laughter shall I ever know.

and poets, lured by this magnificence
— this grandeur proud as Parian monuments —
toil all their days like martyrs in a spell;

lovers bewitched are they, for I possess
pure mirrors harbouring worlds of loveliness:
my wide, wide eyes where fires eternal dwell!

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


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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.