Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Les Bijoux

La très chère était nue, et, connaissant mon coeur,
Elle n'avait gardé que ses bijoux sonores,
Dont le riche attirail lui donnait l'air vainqueur
Qu'ont dans leurs jours heureux les esclaves des Mores.

Quand il jette en dansant son bruit vif et moqueur,
Ce monde rayonnant de métal et de pierre
Me ravit en extase, et j'aime à la fureur
Les choses où le son se mêle à la lumière.

Elle était donc couchée et se laissait aimer,
Et du haut du divan elle souriait d'aise
À mon amour profond et doux comme la mer,
Qui vers elle montait comme vers sa falaise.

Les yeux fixés sur moi, comme un tigre dompté,
D'un air vague et rêveur elle essayait des poses,
Et la candeur unie à la lubricité
Donnait un charme neuf à ses métamorphoses;

Et son bras et sa jambe, et sa cuisse et ses reins,
Polis comme de l'huile, onduleux comme un cygne,
Passaient devant mes yeux clairvoyants et sereins;
Et son ventre et ses seins, ces grappes de ma vigne,

S'avançaient, plus câlins que les Anges du mal,
Pour troubler le repos où mon âme était mise,
Et pour la déranger du rocher de cristal
Où, calme et solitaire, elle s'était assise.

Je croyais voir unis par un nouveau dessin
Les hanches de l'Antiope au buste d'un imberbe,
Tant sa taille faisait ressortir son bassin.
Sur ce teint fauve et brun, le fard était superbe!

— Et la lampe s'étant résignée à mourir,
Comme le foyer seul illuminait la chambre
Chaque fois qu'il poussait un flamboyant soupir,
Il inondait de sang cette peau couleur d'ambre!

Charles Baudelaire

The Jewels

My darling was naked, and knowing my heart well,
She was wearing only her sonorous jewels,
Whose opulent display made her look triumphant
Like Moorish concubines on their fortunate days.

When it dances and flings its lively, mocking sound,
This radiant world of metal and of gems
Transports me with delight; I passionately love
All things in which sound is mingled with light.

She had lain down; and let herself be loved
From the top of the couch she smiled contentedly
Upon my love, deep and gentle as the sea,
Which rose toward her as toward a cliff.

Her eyes fixed upon me, like a tamed tigress,
With a vague, dreamy air she was trying poses,
And by blending candor with lechery,
Her metamorphoses took on a novel charm;

And her arm and her leg, and her thigh and her loins,
Shiny as oil, sinuous as a swan,
Passed in front of my eyes, clear-sighted and serene;
And her belly, her breasts, grapes of my vine,

Advanced, more cajoling than angels of evil,
To trouble the quiet that had possessed my soul,
To dislodge her from the crag of crystal,
Where calm and alone she had taken her seat.

I thought I saw blended in a novel design
Antiope's haunches and the breast of a boy,
Her waist set off so well the fullness of her hips.
On that tawny brown skin the rouge stood out superb!

— And when at last the lamp allowed itself to die,
Since the fire alone lighted the room,
Each time that it uttered a flaming sigh,
It drenched with blood that amber colored skin!

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

The Jewels

My well-beloved was stripped. Knowing my whim,
She wore her tinkling gems, but naught besides:
And showed such pride as, while her luck betides,
A sultan's favoured slave may show to him.

When it lets off its lively, crackling sound,
This blazing blend of metal crossed with stone,
Gives me an ecstasy I've only known
Where league of sound and lustre can be found.

She let herself be loved: then, drowsy-eyed,
Smiled down from her high couch in languid ease.
My love was deep and gentle as the seas
And rose to her as to a cliff the tide.

My own approval of each dreamy pose,
Like a tarned tiger, cunningly she sighted:
And candour, with lubricity united,
Gave piquancy to every one she chose,

Her limbs and hips, burnished with changing lustres,
Before my eyes clairvoyant and serene,
Swarmed themselves, undulating in their sheen;
Her breasts and belly, of my vine the clusters,

Like evil angels rose, my fancy twitting,
To kill the peace which over me she'd thrown,
And to disturb her from the crystal throne
Where, calm and solitary, she was sitting.

So swerved her pelvis that, in one design,
Antiope's white rump it seemed to graft
To a boy's torso, merging fore and aft.
The talc on her brown tan seemed half-divine.

The lamp resigned its dying flame. Within,
The hearth alone lit up the darkened air,
And every time it sighed a crimson flare
It drowned in blood that amber-coloured skin.

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

The Jewels

The lovely one was naked and, knowing well my prayer,
She wore her loud bright armory of jewels. They
Evoked in her the savage and victorious air
Of Moorish concubines upon a holiday.

When it gives forth, being shaken, its gay mocking noise,
This world of metal and of stone, aflare in the night,
Excites me monstrously, for chiefest of my joys
Is the luxurious commingling of sound and light.

Relaxed among the pillows, she looked down at me
And let herself be gazed upon at leisure — as if
Lulled by my wordless adoration, like the sea
Washing perpetually about the foot of a cliff.

Slowly, regarding me like a trained leopardess,
She slouched into successive poses. A certain ease,
A certain candor coupled with lasciviousness,
Lent a new charm to the old metamorphoses.

The whole lithe harmony of loins, hips, buttocks, thighs,
Tawny and sleek, and undulant as the neck of a swan,
Began to move hypnotically before my eyes:
And her large breasts, those fruits I have grown lean upon,

I saw float toward me, tempting as the angels of hell,
To win my soul in thralldom to their dark caprice
Once more, and lure it down from the high citadel
Where, calm and solitary, it thought to have found peace.

She stretched and reared, and made herself all belly. In truth,
It was as if some playful artist had joined the stout
Hips of Antiope to the torso of a youth!...
The room grew dark, the lamp having flickered and gone out,

And now the whispering fire that had begun to die,
Falling in lucent embers, was all the light therein —
And when it heaved at moments a flamboyant sigh
It inundated as with blood her amber skin.

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

The Jewels

Naked was my dark love, and, knowing my heart,
Adorned in but her most sonorous gems,
Their high pomp decked her with the conquering art
Of Moorish slave girls crowned with diadems.

Dancing for me with lively, mocking sound,
This world of stone and metal, brittle and bright,
Fills me with rapture who have always found
Excess of joy where hue and tone unite.

Naked she lay, suffered love pleasurably
To mould her, smiled on my desire as if,
Profound and gentle as the rising sea,
It rode the tide toward its appointed cliff.

A tiger, tamed, her eyes on mine, intent
On lust, she sought all strange ways to please:
Her air, half-candid, half-lascivious, lent
A new charm to her metamorphoses.

In turn, her arms and limbs, her veins, her thighs,
Polished as nard, undulant as a swan,
Passed under my serene clairvoyant eyes
As belly and breasts, grapes of my vine, moved on.

Skilled in more spells than evil angels muster
To break the solace which possessed my heart,
Smashing the crystal rock upon whose luster
My quietude sat on its own, apart,

Her waist, awrithe, her belly enormously
Out-thrust, formed strange designs unknown to us,
As if the haunches of Antiope
Flowed from a body not yet Ephebus.

Slowly the lamplight sank, resigned to die.
Firelight pierced darkness, stud on glowing stud,
Each time it heaved a sharply flaming sigh
It steeped her amber flesh in pools of blood.

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


The darling one was naked and, knowing my wish,
Had kept only the regalia of her jewelry
Whose resonant charms can lure and vanquish
Like a Moorish, slave-girl's in her moment of glory.

A world of dazzling stones and of precious metals
Flinging, in its quick rhythm, glints of mockery
Ravishes me into ecstasy, I love to madness
The mingling of sounds and lights in one intricacy.

Naked, then, she was to all of my worship,
Smiling in triumph from the heights of her couch
At my desire advancing, as gentle and deep
As the sea sending its waves to the warm beach.

Her eyes fixed as a tiger's in the tamer's trance,
Absent, unthinking, she varied her poses
With an audacity and wild innocence
That gave a strange pang to each metamorphosis.

Her long legs, her hips, shining smooth as oil,
Her arms and her thighs, undulant as a swan,
Lured my serene, clairvoyant gaze to travel
To her belly and breasts, the grapes of my vine.

With a charm as powerful as an evil angel
To trouble the calm where my soul had retreated,
They advanced slowly to dislodge it from its crystal
Rock, where its loneliness meditated.

With the hips of Antiope, the torso of a boy,
So deeply was the one form sprung into the other
It seemed as if desire had fashioned a new toy.
Her farded, fawn-brown skin was perfection to either!

— And the lamp having at last resigned itself to death,
There was nothing now but firelight in the room,
And every time a flame uttered a gasp for breath
It flushed her amber skin with the blood of its bloom.

— David Paul, Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1955)


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.