Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Sed non satiata

Bizarre déité, brune comme les nuits,
Au parfum mélangé de musc et de havane,
Oeuvre de quelque obi, le Faust de la savane,
Sorcière au flanc d'ébène, enfant des noirs minuits,

Je préfère au constance, à l'opium, au nuits,
L'élixir de ta bouche où l'amour se pavane;
Quand vers toi mes désirs partent en caravane,
Tes yeux sont la citerne où boivent mes ennuis.

Par ces deux grands yeux noirs, soupiraux de ton âme,
Ô démon sans pitié! verse-moi moins de flamme;
Je ne suis pas le Styx pour t'embrasser neuf fois,

Hélas! et je ne puis, Mégère libertine,
Pour briser ton courage et te mettre aux abois,
Dans l'enfer de ton lit devenir Proserpine!

Charles Baudelaire

Unslakeable Lust

Singular deity, brown as the nights,
Scented with the perfume of Havana and musk,
Work of some obeah, Faust of the savanna,
Witch with ebony flanks, child of the black midnight,

I prefer to constance, to opium, to nuits,
The nectar of your mouth upon which love parades;
When toward you my desires set out in caravan,
Your eyes are the cistern that gives drink to my cares.

Through those two great black eyes, the outlets of your soul,
O pitiless demon! pour upon me less flame;
I'm not the River Styx to embrace you nine times,

Alas! and I cannot, licentious Megaera,
To break your spirit and bring you to bay
In the hell of your bed turn into Proserpine!

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

Sed non Satiata

Strange goddess, brown as evening to the sight,
Whose scent is half of musk, half of havanah,
Work of some obi, Faust of the Savanah,
Ebony witch, and daughter of the night.

By far preferred to troth, or drugs, or sleep,
Love vaunts the red elixir of your mouth.
My caravan of longings seeks in drouth
Your eyes, the wells at which my cares drink deep.

Through those black eyes, by which your soul respires,
Pitiless demon! pour less scorching fires.
I am no Styx nine times with flame to wed.

Nor can I turn myself to Proserpine
To break your spell, Megera libertine!
Within the dark inferno of your bed.

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

Sed Non Satiata

Dusky as tropic nights, O bizarre deity,
Redolent of havana, musk and cordovan,
What obeah man or Faust of the Caribbean,
Wrought you, child-witch of night, with flanks of ebony?
Better than opium or Constanta Wine or Nuits,
Your nectar mouth where Love swoons in a slow pavane,
When my desires set forth, a serried caravan,
Your eyes are the twin wells where I can slake ennui.

From out these wide black eyes which are your spirit's vent,
Heap fires less fierce upon me. O impenitent,
I am no tireless Styx to gird you nine times nine,
I am no lustful Fury to exhaust your lust,
To break your vigor or to make you bite the dust
Or in your bed's hell turn into a Proserpine.

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

Sed Non Satiata

Strange deity, brown as nights,
Whose perfume is mixed with musk and Havanah,
Magical creation, Faust of the savanna,
Sorceress with the ebony thighs, child of black midnights,

I prefer to African wines, to opium, to burgundy,
The elixir of your mouth where love parades itself;
When my desires leave in caravan for you,
Your eyes are the reservoir where my cares drink.

From those two great black eyes, chimneys of our spirit,
O pitiless demon, throw out less flame at me;
I am no Styx to clasp you nine times,

Nor can I, alas, dissolute shrew,
To break your courage, bring you to bay,
Become any Proserpine in the hell of your bed!

— 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.