Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

De profundis clamavi

J'implore ta pitié, Toi, l'unique que j'aime,
Du fond du gouffre obscur où mon coeur est tombé.
C'est un univers morne à l'horizon plombé,
Où nagent dans la nuit l'horreur et le blasphème;

Un soleil sans chaleur plane au-dessus six mois,
Et les six autres mois la nuit couvre la terre;
C'est un pays plus nu que la terre polaire
— Ni bêtes, ni ruisseaux, ni verdure, ni bois!

Or il n'est pas d'horreur au monde qui surpasse
La froide cruauté de ce soleil de glace
Et cette immense nuit semblable au vieux Chaos;

Je jalouse le sort des plus vils animaux
Qui peuvent se plonger dans un sommeil stupide,
Tant l'écheveau du temps lentement se dévide!

Charles Baudelaire

Out of the Depths Have I Cried

I beg pity of Thee, the only one I love,
From the depths of the dark pit where my heart has fallen,
It's a gloomy world with a leaden horizon,
Where through the night swim horror and blasphemy;

A frigid sun floats overhead six months,
And the other six months darkness covers the land;
It's a land more bleak than the polar wastes
— Neither beasts, nor streams, nor verdure, nor woods!

But no horror in the world can surpass
The cold cruelty of that glacial sun
And this vast night which is like old Chaos;

I envy the lot of the lowest animals
Who are able to sink into a stupid sleep,
So slowly does the skein of time unwind!

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

De Profundis Clamavi

Have pity, my one love and sole delight!
Down to a dark abyss my heart has sounded,
A mournful world, by grey horizons bounded,
Where blasphemy and horror swim by night.

For half the year a heatless sun gives light,
The other half the night obscures the earth.
The arctic regions never knew such dearth.
No woods, nor streams, nor creatures meet the sight.

No horror in the world could match in dread
The cruelty of that dire sun of frost,
And that huge night like primal chaos spread.

I envy creatures of the vilest kind
That they in stupid slumber can be lost —
So slowly does the skein of time unwind!

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

De Profundis Clamavi

I do implore thy pity, Thou whom alone I love,
Deep in this mournful vale wherein my heart is fallen.
It is a world completely sad, where the low sullen
Skies seem about to rain pure horror from above.

A fireless sun swims over six months of every year;
Six months of every year the earth is lost in shadow.
It is a bleaker land than any Arctic meadow:
Nor streams, nor flowers, nor fruits, nor birds, nor forests here!

Surely there is no evil imaginable to compare
With the cruelty of that cold sun in the cold air
And that enormous night, like the first chaos of things;

I envy the very animals, to whom slumber brings
Over and over the gift of being thoughtless and blind,
So slowly does the thread of these dark years unwind.

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

De profundis clamavi

From the bottom of this forsaken pit,
under a dull, blank, dark-gray sky,
from my heart's damnation, swirling with blasphemy and fear–
I call to You for pity — only You,
only You, my Love and my God:
For six full months a cold white sun voyages between horizons;
and over those six months an enormous black night descends;
the sterile landscape ruder than the polar waste
where desolation aches–no beast, no meadow, no woodland, no flowing stream.
What bland atrocity could out-horror this,
the icy staleness of the white, leprotic sun,
along with night as unconfined as ancient Chaos?
Oh, I envy those existences,
those petty animals whose instinct leads them to a stupid drowse
while the skein of weeks and days slowly unreels.

— Edward Eriksson

Out of the Depths

Sole Being I love, Your mercy I implore
Out of the bitter pit of my heart's night,
With leaden skyscapes on a dismal shore,
Peopled only by blasphemy and fright;
For six months frigid suns float overhead,
For six months more darkness and solitude.
No polar wastes are bleaker and more dead,
With never beast nor stream nor plant nor wood.

No horror in this world but is outdone
By the cold razor of this glacial sun
And this chaotic night's immensities.
I envy the most humble beast that ease
Which brings dull slumber to his brutish soul
So slowly does my skein of time unroll.

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

De Profundis Clamavi

O my sole love, I pray thee pity me
From out this dark gulf where my poor heart lies
A barren world hemmed in by leaden skies
Where horror flies at night, and blasphemy.

For half the year the sickly sun is seen,
The other half thick night lies on the land,
A country bleaker than the polar strand;
No beasts, no brooks, nor any shred of green.

There never was a horror which surpassed
This icy sun's cold cruelty, and this vast
Night like primaeval Chaos; would I were

Like the dumb brutes, who in a secret lair
Lie wrapt in stupid slumber for a space...
The time creeps at so burdensome a pace.

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


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.