Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Que diras-tu ce soir, pauvre âme solitaire

Que diras-tu ce soir, pauvre âme solitaire,
Que diras-tu, mon coeur, coeur autrefois flétri,
À la très belle, à la très bonne, à la très chère,
Dont le regard divin t'a soudain refleuri?

— Nous mettrons notre orgueil à chanter ses louanges:
Rien ne vaut la douceur de son autorité;
Sa chair spirituelle a le parfum des Anges
Et son oeil nous revêt d'un habit de clarté.

Que ce soit dans la nuit et dans la solitude,
Que ce soit dans la rue et dans la multitude,
Son fantôme dans l'air danse comme un flambeau.

Parfois il parle et dit: «Je suis belle, et j'ordonne
Que pour l'amour de moi vous n'aimiez que le Beau;
Je suis l'Ange gardien, la Muse et la Madone.»

Charles Baudelaire

What Will You Say Tonight, Poor Solitary Soul

What will you say tonight, poor solitary soul,
What will you say, my heart, heart once so withered,
To the kindest, dearest, the fairest of women,
Whose divine glance suddenly revived you?

— We shall try our pride in singing her praises:
There is nothing sweeter than to do her bidding;
Her spiritual flesh has the fragrance of Angels,
And when she looks upon us we are clothed with light.

Be it in the darkness of night, in solitude,
Or in the city street among the multitude,
Her image in the air dances like a torch flame.

Sometimes it speaks and says: "I am fair, I command
That for your love of me you love only Beauty;
I am your guardian Angel, your Muse and Madonna."

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

What Can You Say, Poor Lonely Soul of Mine

What can you say, poor lonely soul of mine,
Or you, poor heart, so long ago turned sour,
To the best, dearest, loveliest, whose divine
Regard has made you open like a flower?

We'll set our pride to sing her highest praise
Naught to her sweet authority compares:
Her psychic flesh is formed of fragrant airs.
Her glances clothe us in a suit of rays.

Be it in solitude at dead of night,
Or in the crowded streets of glaring light,
Her phantom like a torch before me streams.

It speaks: "I'm beautiful. These orders take.
Love naught but Beauty, always, for my sake,
Madonna, guardian Angel, Muse of dreams."

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

"What Will You Say?"

What will you say this evening, poor solitary soul,
What will you say, my heart, heart once disgraced,
To that beauty who is kind and dear,
And whose divine glance has suddenly given you new life?

— We will place our pride in singing her praises:
Nothing is worth the sweetness of her authority;
The flesh of her spirit has the perfume of Angels,
And her eyes clothe us with a cloak of light.

Whether it be at night and in solitude,
Whether it be in the street and within a multitude,
Her phantom dances in the air like a torch.

Sometimes it speaks and says: "I am beautiful, and I command
That for my love you love only what is Beauty;
I am the guardian Angel, the Muse and the Madonna!"

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

What Shall You Say Tonight?

What shall you say tonight, poor soul so full of care,
What shall you say, my heart, heart hitherto so sad,
To the most kind, to the most dear, to the most fair,
Whose pure serene regard has made you proud and glad?

— We shall set all our pride to sing her holy praise!
What sweetness to be hers! To live beneath her sight!
Half spirit is her flesh, angelic all her ways;
Her glance alone invests us in a robe of light!

Whether in solitude and deep obscurity,
Whether by day among the moving crowd it be,
Her phantom like a torch in air will dance and run;

It speaks: "Beauty is mine; Authority is mine;
Love only, for my sake, the noble and the fine:
I am thine Angel, Muse, Madonna, all in one."

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

Sonnet XLIII

What sayest thou, to-night, poor soul so drear,
What sayest — heart erewhile engulfed in gloom,
To the very lovely, very chaste, and very dear,
Whose god-like look hath made thee to re-bloom?

To her, with pride we chant an echoing Hymn,
For nought can touch the sweetness of her sway;
Her flesh ethereal as the seraphim,
Her eyes with robe of light our souls array.

And be it in the night, or solitude,
Among the streets or 'mid the multitude,
Her shadow, torch-like, dances in the air,

And murmurs, "I, the Beautiful proclaim
That for my sake, alone ye love the Fair;
I am the Guardian Angel, Muse and Dame!"

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


What wilt thou say, poor lonely soul, to-night?
What wilt thou say, erst withered heart of mine,
To the most kind, most beautiful, most bright,
Who hath renewed thee with her glance divine?

Put we our pride to singing of her praise!
Happy the thralls who know her gentle yoke,
Angelic perfume floats along her ways,
And she hath clad us in a shining cloak!

Out in the night and in the solitude
Out in the street and in the multitude
Her phantom dances torch-like in the air;

And sometimes speaks she: "Beauty, thou shalt choose
Thine only love, for love of me who am fair;
I am Madonna, Guardian-Angel, Muse!"

— 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.