Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Tout entière

Le Démon, dans ma chambre haute
Ce matin est venu me voir,
Et, tâchant à me prendre en faute
Me dit: «Je voudrais bien savoir

Parmi toutes les belles choses
Dont est fait son enchantement,
Parmi les objets noirs ou roses
Qui composent son corps charmant,

Quel est le plus doux.» — Ô mon âme!
Tu répondis à l'Abhorré:
«Puisqu'en Elle tout est dictame
Rien ne peut être préféré.

Lorsque tout me ravit, j'ignore
Si quelque chose me séduit.
Elle éblouit comme l'Aurore
Et console comme la Nuit;

Et l'harmonie est trop exquise,
Qui gouverne tout son beau corps,
Pour que l'impuissante analyse
En note les nombreux accords.

Ô métamorphose mystique
De tous mes sens fondus en un!
Son haleine fait la musique,
Comme sa voix fait le parfum!»

Charles Baudelaire

All of Her

The Devil into my high room
This morning came to pay a call,
And trying to find me in fault
Said: "I should like to know,

Among all the beautiful things
Which make her an enchantress,
Among the objects black or rose
That compose her charming body,

Which is the sweetest." — O my soul!
You answered the loathsome Creature:
"Since in Her all is dittany,
No single thing can be preferred.

When all delights me, I don't know
If some one thing entrances me.
She dazzles like the Dawn
And consoles like the Night;

And the harmony that governs
Her whole body is too lovely
For impotent analysis
To note its numerous accords.

O mystic metamorphosis
Of all my senses joined in one!
Her breath makes music,
And her voice makes perfume!"

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

All in One

The Demon called on me this morning,
In my high room. As is his way,
Thinking to catch me without warning,
He put this question: "Tell me, pray,

Of all the beauties that compose,
The strange enchantment of her ways,
Amongst the wonders black or rose,
Which object most excites your praise,

And is the climax in her litany?"
My soul, you answered the Abhorred,
"Since she is fashioned, all, of dittany,
No part is most to be adored.

Since I am ravished, I ignore a
Degree of difference in delight.
She dazzles me like the aurora
And she consoles me like the night.

The harmony's so exquisite
That governs her, it is in vain
Analysis would try to split
The unity of such a strain.

O mystic fusion that, enwreathing
My senses, fuses each in each,
To hear the music of her breathing
And breathe the perfume of her speech."

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

All, All

The Devil up my attic stair
Came tiptoeing a while ago
And, trying to catch me unaware,
Said laughing, "I should like to know,

"Of all her many charms, what springs
Most often to your mind? Of all
The rose-colored and shadowy things
Whereby her beauty may enthrall,

"Which is the sweetest?" — O my soul,
You answered the abhorrèd Guest:
"Her beauty is complete and whole.
No single part is loveliest.

"When she is near, I cannot say
What gives me such intense delight.
She dazzles like the break of day,
She comforts like the fall of night.

"My senses seem to merge in one;
The harmony that rules her being
Is all my knowledge — I have none
Of hearing, smelling, touching, seeing.

"No, no. I cannot make a choice
In this sublime bewilderment.
Perhaps the music of her scent!
Perhaps the perfume of her voice!"

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

All Entire

The Demon, in my lofty vault,
This morning came to visit me,
And striving me to find at fault,
He said, "Fain would I know of thee;

"Among the many beauteous things,
— All which her subtle grace proclaim —
Among the dark and rosy things,
Which go to make her charming frame,

"Which is the sweetest unto thee"?
My soul! to Him thou didst retort —
"Since all with her is destiny,
Of preference there can be nought.

When all transports me with delight,
If aught deludes I can not know,
She either lulls one like the Night,
Or dazzles like the Morning-glow.

That harmony is too divine,
Which governs all her body fair,
For powerless mortals to define
In notes the many concords there.

O mystic metamorphosis
Of all my senses blent in one!
Her voice a beauteous perfume is,
Her breath makes music, chaste and wan.

— Cyril Scott, Baudelaire: The Flowers of Evil (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909)

Tout entière

this morning, to my chamber bare
and high, the Devil came to call,
and fain to trap me in a snare,
inquired: "I would know, of all

— of all the beauties that compose
her spell profound, her subtle sway,
— of all the bits of black or rose
that form her lovely body, say

which is the sweetest?" — o my soul,
thou didst reply to the Abhorred:
naught can be taken from the whole
for every part is a perfect chord.

when all to me is ravishing,
I know not which gives most delight.
like dawn she is a dazzling thing,
yet she consoles me like the night;

too exquisite the harmonies
that all her lovely flesh affords,
for my poor mind to analyse
and note its many rhythmic chords.

o mystic interchange, whereby
my senses all are blent in one!
her breath is like a lullaby
and through her voice rich perfumes run!

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

Tout Entière

This morning in my attic high
The Demon came to visit me,
And seeking faults in my reply,
He said: "I would inquire of thee,

"Of all the beauties which compose
Her charming body's potent spell,
Of all the objects black and rose
Which make the thing you love so well,

"Which is the sweetest?" O my soul!
Thou didst rejoin: "How tell of parts,
When all I know is that the whole
Works magic in my heart of hearts?

"Where all is fair, how should I say
What single grace is my delight?
She shines on me like break of day
And she consoles me as the night.

"There flows through all her perfect frame
A harmony too exquisite
That weak analysis should name
The numberless accords of it.

"O mystic metamorphosis!
My separate senses all are blent;
Within her breath soft music is,
And in her voice a subtle scent!"

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

The Temptation

The Demon, in my chamber high,
This morning came to visit me,
And, thinking he would find some fault,
He whispered: "I would know of thee

Among the many lovely things
That make the magic of her face,
Among the beauties, black and rose,
That make her body's charm and grace,

Which is most fair?" Thou didst reply
To the Abhorred, O soul of mine:
"No single beauty is the best
When she is all one flower divine.

When all things charm me I ignore
Which one alone brings most delight;
She shines before me like the dawn,
And she consoles me like the night.

The harmony is far too great,
That governs all her body fair.
For impotence to analyse
And say which note is sweetest there.

O mystic metamorphosis!
My senses into one sense flow —
Her voice makes perfume when she speaks,
Her breath is music faint and low!"

— F.P. Sturm, from Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, edited by Thomas Robert Smith (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)


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.