Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Parfum exotique

Quand, les deux yeux fermés, en un soir chaud d'automne,
Je respire l'odeur de ton sein chaleureux,
Je vois se dérouler des rivages heureux
Qu'éblouissent les feux d'un soleil monotone;

Une île paresseuse où la nature donne
Des arbres singuliers et des fruits savoureux;
Des hommes dont le corps est mince et vigoureux,
Et des femmes dont l'oeil par sa franchise étonne.

Guidé par ton odeur vers de charmants climats,
Je vois un port rempli de voiles et de mâts
Encor tout fatigués par la vague marine,

Pendant que le parfum des verts tamariniers,
Qui circule dans l'air et m'enfle la narine,
Se mêle dans mon âme au chant des mariniers.

Charles Baudelaire

Exotic Perfume

When, with both my eyes closed, on a hot autumn night,
I inhale the fragrance of your warm breast
I see happy shores spread out before me,
On which shines a dazzling and monotonous sun;

A lazy isle to which nature has given
Singular trees, savory fruits,
Men with bodies vigorous and slender,
And women in whose eyes shines a startling candor.

Guided by your fragrance to these charming countries,
I see a port filled with sails and rigging
Still utterly wearied by the waves of the sea,

While the perfume of the green tamarinds,
That permeates the air, and elates my nostrils,
Is mingled in my soul with the sailors' chanteys.

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

Exotic Perfume

When I, with eyes shut, on warm autumn eves,
The fragrance of your warmer breast respire,
I see a country bathed in solar fire
Whose happy shores its lustre never leaves;

An isle of indolence, where nature raises
Singular trees and fruits both sweet and tender,
Where men have bodies vigorous and slender
And women's eyes a candour that amazes.

Led by your scent to fairer climes at last,
I see a port of sails, where every mast
Seems weary of the labours of its cruise;

While scents of tamarind, blown here and there,
Swelling my nostrils as they rinse the air,
Are mingled with the chanties of the crews.

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

Exotic Perfume

On autumn nights, eyes closed, when, sensuous,
I breathe the scent of your warm breasts, my sight
Is peopled by far shores, happy and bright,
Under a sun, warm and monotonous.
A lazy isle which nature, generous,
Stocks with weird trees and fruits of strange delight,
Men with lithe bodies, powerful but slight,
Women whose candid eyes flash luminous.

Urged by your scent to such charmed lands at last,
I see a port with many a sail and mast
Still weary from the ocean's frenzied roll,
While the green tamarinds exhale their savor
To please my nostrils with a dulcet flavor,
Mingled with sailor chanteys in my soul.

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

Exotic Fragrance

When, with closed eyes in the warm autumn night,
I breathe the fragrance of thy bosom bare,
My dream unfurls a clime of loveliest air,
Drenched in the fiery sun's unclouded light.

An indolent island dowered with heaven's delight,
Trees singular and fruits of savour rare,
Men having sinewy frames robust and spare,
And women whose clear eyes are wondrous bright.

Led by thy fragrance to those shores I hail
A charmed harbour thronged with mast and sail,
Still wearied with the quivering sea's unrest;

What time the scent of the green tamarinds
That thrills the air and fills my swelling breast
Blends with the mariners' song and the sea-winds.

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

Exotic Perfume

When, with closed eyes, on a hot afternoon,
The scent of thine ardent breast I inhale,
Celestial vistas my spirit assail;
Caressed by the flames of an endless sun.

A langorous island, where Nature abounds
With exotic trees and luscious fruit;
And with men whose bodies are slim and astute,
And with women whose frankness delights and astounds.

By thy perfume enticed to this region remote,
A port I see, laden with mast and with boat,
Still wearied and torn by the distant brine;

While the tamarisk-odours that dreamily throng
The air, round my slumberous senses intwine,
And mix, in my soul, with the mariners' song.

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

Parfum exotique

when with closed eyes I drink the halcyon
warm autumn evening, on thy burning breast,
I see unfurl the atolls of the blest,
blazing in flame from an unchanging sun;

an isle of rest, where Nature's benison
breeds trees unique and fruits of savoury zest;
tall men who stride in vigour manifest;
women whose eyes of candour startle one.

I drift, thy fragrance bearing me afar,
into a port where every sail and spar
sway, wearied by the sea's beleaguering,

— where tamarinds bloom and draughts of perfume winging
through widening nostrils, blend in me to bring
the wind-blown chanteys mariners are singing.

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

The Exotic Perfume

When, with both eyes shut, on a close autumn evening,
I breathe the perfume of your heated breast,
I see happy shores unfold themselves
Dazzling in the flames of a monotonous sun;

A lay island where Nature bestows
Peculiar trees and savory fruit;
Men with bodies slim and virile,
Women with eyes of astonishing candor.

Led by your odor to climates of charm,
I see a harbor full of sails and masts
Still tired by the waves of the sea,

Whilst the perfume of green tamarind-trees
Circles the air and fills my nostrils,
Meets in my soul with the song of the seamen.

— 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.