Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


L'Aube spirituelle

Quand chez les débauchés l'aube blanche et vermeille
Entre en société de l'Idéal rongeur,
Par l'opération d'un mystère vengeur
Dans la brute assoupie un ange se réveille.

Des Cieux Spirituels l'inaccessible azur,
Pour l'homme terrassé qui rêve encore et souffre,
S'ouvre et s'enfonce avec l'attirance du gouffre.
Ainsi, chère Déesse, Etre lucide et pur,

Sur les débris fumeux des stupides orgies
Ton souvenir plus clair, plus rose, plus charmant,
À mes yeux agrandis voltige incessamment.

Le soleil a noirci la flamme des bougies;
Ainsi, toujours vainqueur, ton fantôme est pareil,
Ame resplendissante, à l'immortel soleil!

Charles Baudelaire


Spiritual Dawn

When debauchees are roused by the white, rosy dawn,
Escorted by the Ideal which gnaws at their hearts
Through the action of a mysterious, vengeful law,
In the somnolent brute an Angel awakens.

The inaccessible blue of Spiritual Heavens,
For the man thrown to earth who suffers and still dreams,
Opens and yawns with the lure of the abyss.
Thus, dear Goddess, Being, lucid and pure,

Over the smoking ruins of stupid orgies,
Your memory, clearer, more rosy, more charming,
Hovers incessantly before my widened eyes.

The sunlight has darkened the flame of the candles;
Thus, ever triumphant, resplendent soul!
Your phantom is like the immortal sun!

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


Spiritual Dawn

When in the company of the Ideal
(That gnawing tooth) Dawn enters, white and pink,
The rooms of rakes — each sated beast can feel
An Angel waking through the fumes of drink.

For downcast Man, who dreams and suffers still,
The azure of the mystic heaven above,
With gulf-like vertigo, attracts his will.
So, Goddess, lucid Being of pure love,

Over the smoking wreck of feasts and scandals,
Your phantom, rosy and enchanting, flies
And still returns to my dilated eyes.

The sun has blackened out the flame of candles.
So your victorious phantom seems as one,
O blazing spirit, with the deathless Sun!

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


The Spiritual Dawn

When the morning white and rosy breaks,
With the gnawing Ideal, upon the debauchee,
By the power of a strange decree,
Within the sotted beast an Angel wakes.

The mental Heaven's inaccessible blue,
For wearied mortals that still dream and mourn,
Expands and sinks; towards the chasm drawn.
Thus, cherished goddess, Being pure and true —

Upon the rests of foolish orgy-nights
Thine image, more sublime, more pink, more clear,
Before my staring eyes is ever there.

The sun has darkened all the candle lights;
And thus thy spectre like the immortal sun,
Is ever victorious — thou resplendent one!

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


L'Aube spirituelle

when to the drunkard's room the flushing East
comes with her comrade sharply-clawed, the Dream,
she wakens, by a dark avenging scheme,
an angel in the dull besotted beast.

deep vaults of inaccessible azure there,
before the dreamer sick with many a phasm,
open, abysmal as a beckoning chasm.
thus, deity, all pure clear light and air,

over the stupid orgy's reeking track
— brighter and lovelier yet, thine image flies
in fluttering rays before my widening eyes.

the sun has turned the candles' flame to black;
even so, victorious always, thou art one
— resplendent spirit! — with the eternal sun!

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


The Spiritual Dawn

When upon revellers the stained dawn breaks
The fierce ideal comes with it; at that hour,
Stirred by some terrible avenging power,
An angel in the sated brute awakes.

Above the stricken, suffering man there glow
Far azure plains of unimagined bliss
Which draw his dreaming spirit like the abyss.
O pure, beloved Goddess, even so

O'er the smoked wrecks of stupid scenes of shame
Brighter and rosier thy sweet memory
Hovers before my wide eyes hauntingly...

The Sun has dimmed and charred the candles' flame,
And thus, my glorious all-conquering one,
Thy shade is peer to the immortal Sun.

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


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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.