Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Géante

Du temps que la Nature en sa verve puissante
Concevait chaque jour des enfants monstrueux,
J'eusse aimé vivre auprès d'une jeune géante,
Comme aux pieds d'une reine un chat voluptueux.

J'eusse aimé voir son corps fleurir avec son âme
Et grandir librement dans ses terribles jeux;
Deviner si son coeur couve une sombre flamme
Aux humides brouillards qui nagent dans ses yeux;

Parcourir à loisir ses magnifiques formes;
Ramper sur le versant de ses genoux énormes,
Et parfois en été, quand les soleils malsains,

Lasse, la font s'étendre à travers la campagne,
Dormir nonchalamment à l'ombre de ses seins,
Comme un hameau paisible au pied d'une montagne.

Charles Baudelaire

The Giantess

At the time when Nature with a lusty spirit
Was conceiving monstrous children each day,
I should have liked to live near a young giantess,
Like a voluptuous cat at the feet of a queen.

I should have liked to see her soul and body thrive
And grow without restraint in her terrible games;
To divine by the mist swimming within her eyes
If her heart harbored a smoldering flame;

To explore leisurely her magnificent form;
To crawl upon the slopes of her enormous knees,
And sometimes in summer, when the unhealthy sun

Makes her stretch out, weary, across the countryside,
To sleep nonchalantly in the shade of her breasts,
Like a peaceful hamlet below a mountainside.

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

The Giantess

Of old when Nature, in her verve defiant,
Conceived each day some birth of monstrous mien,
I would have lived near some young female giant
Like a voluptuous cat beside a queen;

To see her body flowering with her soul
Freely develop in her mighty games,
And in the mists that through her gaze would roll
Guess that her heart was hatching sombre flames;

To roam her mighty contours as I please,
Ramp on the cliff of her tremendous knees,
And in the solstice, when the suns that kill

Make her stretch out across the land and rest,
To sleep beneath the shadow of her breast
Like a hushed village underneath a hill.

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

The Giantess

In times of old when Nature in her glad excess
Brought forth such living marvels as no more are seen,
I should have loved to dwell with a young giantess,
Like a voluptuous cat about the feet of a queen;

To run and laugh beside her in her terrible games,
And see her grow each day to a more fearful size,
And see the flowering of her soul, and the first flames
Of passionate longing in the misty depths of her eyes;

To scale the slopes of her huge knees, explore at will
The hollows and the heights of her — and when, oppressed
By the long afternoons of summer, cloudless and still,

She would stretch out across the countryside to rest,
I should have loved to sleep in the shadow of her breast,
Quietly as a village nestling under a hill.

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

The Giantess

In times when Nature, lusty to excess,
Bred monstrous children, would that I had been
Living beside a youthful giantess,
Like a voluptuous cat beside a queen;
To see her soul and body gain full size
Blossoming freely in her fearsome games,
And by the damp mists swimming in her eyes
To watch her heart nursing what somber flames!

To roam her mighty form at my sweet ease,
To crawl along the slopes of her vast knees,
And, summers, when the sun's unhealthy heats
Made her sprawl, tired, across the countryside
To sleep at leisure, shaded by her teats,
Like a calm hamlet by the mountainside.

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

The Giantess

I should have loved — erewhile when Heaven conceived
Each day, some child abnormal and obscene,
Beside a maiden giantess to have lived,
Like a luxurious cat at the feet of a queen;

To see her body flowering with her soul,
And grow, unchained, in awe-inspiring art,
Within the mists across her eyes that stole
To divine the fires entombed within her heart.

And oft to scramble o'er her mighty limbs,
And climb the slopes of her enormous knees,
Or in summer when the scorching sunlight streams

Across the country, to recline at ease,
And slumber in the shadow of her breast
Like an hamlet 'neath the mountain-crest.

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


When Nature once in lustful hot undress
Conceived gargantuan offspring, then would I
Have loved to live near a young giantess,
Like a voluptuous cat at a queen's feet.

To see her body flower with her desire
And freely spread out in its dreadful play,
Guess if her heart concealed some heavy fire
Whose humid smokes would swim upon her eye.

To feel at leisure her stupendous shapes,
Crawl on the cliffs of her enormous knees,
And, when in summer the unhealthy suns

Have stretched her out across the plains, fatigued,
Sleep in the shadows of her breasts at ease
Like a small hamlet at a mountain's base.

— Karl Shapiro, Person, Place and Thing (NY: Random House, 1942)

The Giantess

When Nature in her lavish lustiness
Bred day by day new, strange monstrosities,
Would I had lived with a young giantess
Like a warm cat who at a queen's feet lies.

'Twere sweet to watch her soul and body blossom
While she disported her in terrible wise;
To guess if a fierce flame burnt in her bosom
By the wet mists that swam within her eyes.

Ah! freely o'er her mighty limbs to run,
To crawl upon the bend of her vast knees,
And when in summer, tired of the pestilent sun,

Across the plain she stretches calm and still,
Within her breasts' cool shade to sleep at ease
Like some small hamlet sheltered by a hill.

— Jack Collings Squire, Poems and Baudelaire Flowers (London: The New Age Press, Ltd, 1909)

La Géante

From the time when Nature in her furious fancy
Conceived each day monstrosities obscene,
I had loved to live near a young Giantess of Necromancy,
Like a voluptuous cat before the knees of a Queen.

I had loved to see her body mix with her Soul's shame
And greaten in these terrible games of Vice,
And to divine if in her heart brooded a somber flame,
Before the moist sea-mists which swarm in her great eyes;

To wander over her huge forms — nature deforms us —
And to crawl over the slopes of her knees enormous,
And in summer when the unwholesome suns from the West's

Winds, weary, made her slumber hard by a fountain,
To sleep listlessly in the shadow of her superb breasts,
Like an hamlet that slumbers at the foot of a mountain.

— Arthur Symons, Baudelaire: Prose and Poetry (NY: Albert and Charles Boni, 1926)

The Giantess

In those days when Nature's overwhelming Lust
Engendered infant-monsters day by day
I'd love to have lived with a young giantess.
Like a lazy cat at the foot of my queen I'd lay.

I'd watch her grow into her gruesome games,
As I observed her body blossom with her soul.
And in the misty pools of her great eyes I'd try
To spy some secret flame, ominous and cold.

Her magnificent forms, I'd cuddle lazily,
Climbing the slopes of her gigantic knees.
And when she tired of the sick mid-summer suns
And stretched across the land to take her rest,
Like a peaceful hamlet at the foot of the hills,
I'd sleep serenely there in the shadow of her breast.

— James W. Underhill

The Giantess

In those times when Nature in powerful zest
Conceived each day monstrous children,
I would have loved to live near a young giantess,
A voluptuous cat at the feet of a queen.

I would have loved to see her body flower with her soul,
To grow up freely in her prodigious play;
To find if her heart bred some dark flame
Amongst the humid mists swimming in her eyes;

To run leisurely over her marvelous lines;
To creep along the slopes of her enormous knees,
And sometimes in summer, when impure suns

Made her wearily stretch out across the countryside,
To sleep carelessly in the shadow of her breasts,
Like a peaceful village at the foot of a mountain.

— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)


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.