Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Le Flambeau vivant

Ils marchent devant moi, ces Yeux pleins de lumières,
Qu'un Ange très savant a sans doute aimantés
Ils marchent, ces divins frères qui sont mes frères,
Secouant dans mes yeux leurs feux diamantés.

Me sauvant de tout piège et de tout péché grave,
Ils conduisent mes pas dans la route du Beau
Ils sont mes serviteurs et je suis leur esclave
Tout mon être obéit à ce vivant flambeau.

Charmants Yeux, vous brillez de la clarté mystique
Qu'ont les cierges brûlant en plein jour; le soleil
Rougit, mais n'éteint pas leur flamme fantastique;

Ils célèbrent la Mort, vous chantez le Réveil
Vous marchez en chantant le réveil de mon âme,
Astres dont nul soleil ne peut flétrir la flamme!

Charles Baudelaire


The Living Torch

They walk in front of me, those eyes aglow with light
Which a learned Angel has rendered magnetic;
They walk, divine brothers who are my brothers too,
Casting into my eyes diamond scintillations.

They save me from all snares and from all grievous sin;
They guide my steps along the pathway of Beauty;
They are my servitors, I am their humble slave;
My whole being obeys this living torch.

Bewitching eyes, you shine like mystical candles
That burn in broad daylight; the sun
Reddens, but does not quench their eerie flame;

While they celebrate Death, you sing the Awakening;
You walk, singing the awakening of my soul,
Bright stars whose flame no sun can pale!

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


The Living Torch

Those lit eyes go before me, in full view,
(Some cunning angel magnetised their light) —
Heavenly twins, yet my own brothers too,
Shaking their diamond blaze into my sight.

My steps from every trap or sin to save,
In the strait road of Beauty they conduct me.
They are my servants, and I am their slave,
Obedient in whatever they instruct me.

Delightful eyes, you burn with mystic rays
Like candles in broad day; red suns may blaze,
But cannot quench their still, fantastic light.

Those candles burn for death, but you for waking:
You sing the dawn that in my soul is breaking,
Stars which no sun could ever put to flight!

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


The Living Torch

They stand before me now, those eyes that shine,
No doubt inspired by an Angel wise;
They stand, those God-like brothers that are mine,
And pour their diamond fires in mine eyes.

From all transgressions, from all snares, they save,
Towards the Path of Joy they guide my ways;
They are my servants, and I am their slave;
And all my soul, this living torch obeys.

Ye charming Eyes — ye have those mystic beams,
Of candles, burning in full day; the sun
Awakes, yet kills not their fantastic gleams:

Ye sing the Awak'ning, they the dark oblivion;
The Awak'ning of my spirit ye proclaim,
O stars — no sun can ever kill your flame!

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


Le Flambeau vivant

they march before me, filled with light divine
— those eyes turned magnets by some angel wise;
they lead, my Heavenly Twins, good brothers mine,
whose jewelled fires hold my gazing eyes.

they guard from every sin and error grave,
they show my feet the path to Beauty's porch;
they are my servitors and I their slave,
wholly obedient to their heavenly torch.

enchanted eyes, ye have the mystic ray
of tapers lit at noon: the fire of day
reddens, but quenches not their eery glow: —

'tis Death they sing, while ye extol the Morn;
ye point the way and chant a soul reborn
— stars that no sun can pale nor overthrow!

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


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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.