Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Une nuit que j'étais près d'une affreuse Juive

Une nuit que j'étais près d'une affreuse Juive,
Comme au long d'un cadavre un cadavre étendu,
Je me pris à songer près de ce corps vendu
À la triste beauté dont mon désir se prive.

Je me représentai sa majesté native,
Son regard de vigueur et de grâces armé,
Ses cheveux qui lui font un casque parfumé,
Et dont le souvenir pour l'amour me ravive.

Car j'eusse avec ferveur baisé ton noble corps,
Et depuis tes pieds frais jusqu'à tes noires tresses
Déroulé le trésor des profondes caresses,

Si, quelque soir, d'un pleur obtenu sans effort
Tu pouvais seulement, ô reine des cruelles!
Obscurcir la splendeur de tes froides prunelles.

Charles Baudelaire

One Night I Lay with a Frightful Jewess

One night I lay with a frightful Jewess,
Like a cadaver stretched out beside a cadaver,
And I began to muse, by that peddled body,
About the sad beauty my desire forgoes.

I pictured to myself her native majesty,
Her gaze with power and with grace endowed,
The hair which forms for her a perfumed casque,
And whose souvenir awakens love's desire.

For I would fervently have kissed your fair body
And spread out the treasure of soulful caresses
From your cool feet up to your tresses black,

If, some night, with a tear evoked without effort
You could only, queen of cruel women!
Soften the brilliancy of your cold eyes.

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

One Night When, near a Fearful Jewess Lying

One night when, near a fearful Jewess lying,
As one corpse by another corpse, I sprawled —
Beside the venal body I was buying,
The beauty that was absent I recalled.

I pictured you in native majesty
With glances full of energy and grace,
Your hair, a perfumed casque, whose memory
Revives me for the amorous embrace,

For madly I'd have kissed your noble frame,
And from your cool feet to your great black tresses,
Unleashed the treasure of profound caresses,

If with a single tear that gently came
You could have quenched, O queen of all the cruel!
The blazing of your eyes, their icy fuel.

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

A Bed of Shame

One night I lay, a hideous Jewess at my side,
We were stretched out, corpse to like corpse, on my cold bed,
And all my thoughts, leaving this foul bought body, sped
To that sad beauty whom my own desire denied.
I pictured all her native majesty, her pride,
Her glance in all its force and grace and subtlety,
Her hair, a perfumed casque, and the mere memory
Rekindled my love's thirst, ever unsatisfied.

I would have kissed your queenly body fervently,
Spreading the treasures of my rapturous caresses
Upward from your cool feet to your warm onyx tresses,
If some night with a tear bestowed effortlessly
You could, O queen of cruel women, that I prize,
Obscure the glacial splendor of your scornful eyes.

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

Une Nuit Que J'étais Près d'une Affreuse Juive

A hideous Jewess lay with me for hire
One night: two corpses side by side we seemed
And stretched by that polluted thing I dreamed
Of the sad beauty of my vain desire.

I thought upon her brow clad round with fire
And matchless strength, her native majesty,
Her perfumed helm of hair whose memory
Makes me toward Love's heights to reaspire.

For fervently I would have rained, my Sweet,
Fond kisses over all thy form divine
Even from thy black tresses to thy feet,

If some soft evening, with a single tear,
O cruel queen, thou couldst have dimmed the clear
Cold splendour of those icy eyes of thine.

— 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.