Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Je te donne ces vers afin que si mon nom

Je te donne ces vers afin que si mon nom
Aborde heureusement aux époques lointaines,
Et fait rêver un soir les cervelles humaines,
Vaisseau favorisé par un grand aquilon,

Ta mémoire, pareille aux fables incertaines,
Fatigue le lecteur ainsi qu'un tympanon,
Et par un fraternel et mystique chaînon
Reste comme pendue à mes rimes hautaines;

Être maudit à qui, de l'abîme profond
Jusqu'au plus haut du ciel, rien, hors moi, ne répond!
— Ô toi qui, comme une ombre à la trace éphémère,

Foules d'un pied léger et d'un regard serein
Les stupides mortels qui t'ont jugée amère,
Statue aux yeux de jais, grand ange au front d'airain!

Charles Baudelaire

I Give You These Verses So That If My Name

I give you these verses so that if my name,
A vessel favored by a strong north wind,
Fortunately reaches the distant future's shore,
And some night sets the minds of men to dreaming,

Your memory, like fables shrouded in the past,
Will weary the reader like a dulcimer,
And by a mystical, brotherly bond
Remain suspended from my haughty verse;

Accurst being to whom, from the deep abysm
To the highest heaven, nothing responds, save me!
— O you who, like an ephemeral ghost,

Trample lightly and with a serene look
Upon the dull mortals who found you repugnant,
Jet eyed statue, tall angel with a brow of bronze!

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

For You This Poem: If My Name Should Reach

For you this poem: if my name should reach
Favoured by mighty gales, to far-off times,
Like a proud vessel sailing to the beach,
To stir the brains of humans with my rhymes —

Your memory, uncertain as a myth,
Will tire the reader like an endless gong,
And be a mystic, kindred chain wherewith
He'll hang suspended to my towering song:

Curs'd soul to whom (from the supernal sky
To hell's abysm) none responds but I!
O you, who like a fleeting shadow pass,

Spurn with light foot and with serenest gaze
The stupid mortals who have grudged you praise,
O jade-eyed statue, angel browed with brass!

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

"I Give You These Verses"

I give you these verses so that if my name
Happily lands in distant epochs,
And one evening makes the human spirit dream,
Vessel favored by a great northwind,

The memory of you, resembling obscure fables,
Will weary the reader like a dulcimer,
And through a brotherly and mystic link
Remain as if hanging from my lofty rhymes;

Accursed one to whom, from the deep abyss
To the highest sky, nothing gives answer, save me!
You who like a shade with tracks ephemeral,

Walk with light step and serene glance
Over the stupid mortals who have judged you badly,
Statue with eyes of jet, great angel with your brow of brass!

— Wallace Fowlie, Flowers of Evil (New York: Dover Publications, 1964)

Je te donne ces vers afin que si mon nom

these lines to thee, that if my name should come
to some far harbour, on a favouring main,
and ride the gale to Time's Elysium,
with all its freight of dreams to fret the brain,

that thy report, like legends vague and vain,
may tire my reader as a mighty drum,
and linked in mystic union, may become
a symbol married to my haughty strain;

— accursèd one, to whom, from deepest skies
down to the Pit, naught, save my heart, replies!
— o thou who like a ghost impalpable

tramplest upon, serenely as a bonze
the stupid mortals who denied thy spell
— cold jet-eyed statue, angel cast in bronze!

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


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.