Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Je t'adore à l'égal de la voûte nocturne

Je t'adore à l'égal de la voûte nocturne,
Ô vase de tristesse, ô grande taciturne,
Et t'aime d'autant plus, belle, que tu me fuis,
Et que tu me parais, ornement de mes nuits,
Plus ironiquement accumuler les lieues
Qui séparent mes bras des immensités bleues.

Je m'avance à l'attaque, et je grimpe aux assauts,
Comme après un cadavre un choeur de vermisseaux,
Et je chéris, ô bête implacable et cruelle!
Jusqu'à cette froideur par où tu m'es plus belle!

Charles Baudelaire

I Adore You as Much as the Nocturnal Vault...

I adore you as much as the nocturnal vault,
O vase of sadness, most taciturn one,
I love you all the more because you flee from me,
And because you appear, ornament of my nights,
More ironically to multiply the leagues
That separate my arms from the blue infinite.

I advance to attack, and I climb to assault,
Like a swarm of maggots after a cadaver,
And I cherish, implacable and cruel beast,
Even that coldness which makes you more beautiful.

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

More Than Night's Vault, It's You That I Adore

More than night's vault, it's you that I adore,
Vessel of sorrow, silent one, the more
Because you flee from me, and seem to place,
Ornament of my nights! more leagues of space
Ironically between me and you
Than part me from these vastitudes of blue.

I charge, attack, and mount to the assault
As worms attack a corpse within a vault.
And cherish even the coldness that you boast,
By which, harsh beast, you subjugate me most.

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

I Worship You

I worship you, O proud and taciturn,
As I do night's high vault; O sorrow's urn,
I love you all the more because you flee
And seem, gem of my nights, ironically
To multiply the weary leagues that sunder
My arms from all infinity's blue wonder.

I skirmish and I climb to the attack,
I, a worms' chorus on a corpse's back,
O fierce cruel beast, I cherish to the full
The very chill that makes you beautiful.

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


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.