Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Ce ne seront jamais ces beautés de vignettes,
Produits avariés, nés d'un siècle vaurien,
Ces pieds à brodequins, ces doigts à castagnettes,
Qui sauront satisfaire un coeur comme le mien.

Je laisse à Gavarni, poète des chloroses,
Son troupeau gazouillant de beautés d'hôpital,
Car je ne puis trouver parmi ces pâles roses
Une fleur qui ressemble à mon rouge idéal.

Ce qu'il faut à ce coeur profond comme un abîme,
C'est vous, Lady Macbeth, âme puissante au crime,
Rêve d'Eschyle éclos au climat des autans;

Ou bien toi, grande Nuit, fille de Michel-Ange,
Qui tors paisiblement dans une pose étrange
Tes appas façonnés aux bouches des Titans!

Charles Baudelaire

The Ideal

It will never be the beauties that vignettes show,
Those damaged products of a good-for-nothing age,
Their feet shod with high shoes, hands holding castanets,
Who can ever satisfy any heart like mine.

I leave to Gavarni, poet of chlorosis,
His prattling troop of consumptive beauties,
For I cannot find among those pale roses
A flower that is like my red ideal.

The real need of my heart, profound as an abyss,
Is you, Lady Macbeth, soul so potent in crime,
The dream of Aeschylus, born in the land of storms;

Or you, great Night, daughter of Michelangelo,
Who calmly contort, reclining in a strange pose
Your charms molded by the mouths of Titans!

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

The Ideal

It's not with smirking beauties of vignettes,
The shopsoiled products of a worthless age,
With buskined feet and hands for castanets —
A heart like mine its longing could assuage.

I leave Gavarni, poet of chloroses,
His twittering flock, anaemic and unreal.
I could not find among such bloodless roses,
A flower to match my crimson-hued ideal.

To this heart deeper than the deepest canyon,
Lady Macbeth would be a fit companion,
Crime-puissant dream of Aeschylus; or you,

Daughter of Buonarroti, stately Night!
Whose charms to suit a Titan's appetite,
You twist, so strange, yet peaceful, to the view.

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

The Ideal

No beauties such as figure in vignettes,
Monsters of a vain era's lame design,
With feet for buskins, hands for castanets,
Can ever satisfy a heart like mine.
I leave to Gavarni's chlorotic Muse
These sickly prattling nymphs, however real;
Not one of these pale roses would I choose
To match the flowers of my red ideal.

What my heart, deep as an abyss, demands,
Lady Macbeth, is your brave bloody hands,
And, Aeschylus, your dreams of rage and fright,
Or you, vast Night, daughter of Angelo's,
Who peacefully twist into a strange pose
Charms fashioned for a Titan's mouth to bite.

— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)

Ideal Love

No, never can these frail ephemeral creatures,
The withered offspring of a worthless age,
These buskined limbs, these false and painted features,
The hunger of a heart like mine assuage.

Leave to the laureate of sickly posies
Gavami's hospital sylphs, a simpering choir!
Vainly I seek among those pallid roses
One blossom that allures my red desire.

Thou with my soul's abysmal dreams be blended,
Lady Macbeth, in crime superb and splendid,
A dream of Æschylus flowered in cold eclipse

Of Northern suns! Thou, Night, inspire my passion,
Calm child of Angelo, coiling in strange fashion
Thy large limbs moulded for a Titan's lips!

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

The Ideal

It could ne'er be those beauties of ivory vignettes;
The varied display of a worthless age,
Nor puppet-like figures with castonets,
That ever an heart like mine could engage.

I leave to Gavarni, that poet of chlorosis,
His hospital-beauties in troups that whirl,
For I cannot discover amid his pale roses
A flower to resemble my scarlet ideal.

Since, what for this fathomless heart I require
Is — Lady Macbeth you! in crime so dire;
— An Aeschylus dream transposed from the South —

Or thee, oh great "Night"of Michael-Angelo born,
Who so calmly thy limbs in strange posture hath drawn,
Whose allurements are framed for a Titan's mouth.

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


'twill be no lovely girls of our vignettes
— spoiled fruits our worthless epoch deems divine —
slim slippered feet, hands made for castagnettes,
that shall content this questing heart of mine.

I leave to great Gavarni, bard of blight,
his prattling beauties with their frail appeal.
I cannot find among his roses white
the flaming flower of my red ideal.

I crave, to fill my heart's abyss of death,
thy passion, fair and merciless Macbeth,
whom Aeschylus might not have dreamed in boreal snows;

or thine, great Night, in Bunarroti's South,
tranquilly turning in a monstrous pose
thy bosom fashioned by a Titan's mouth!

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


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.