Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Ciel brouillé

On dirait ton regard d'une vapeur couvert;
Ton oeil mystérieux (est-il bleu, gris ou vert?)
Alternativement tendre, rêveur, cruel,
Réfléchit l'indolence et la pâleur du ciel.

Tu rappelles ces jours blancs, tièdes et voilés,
Qui font se fondre en pleurs les coeurs ensorcelés,
Quand, agités d'un mal inconnu qui les tord,
Les nerfs trop éveillés raillent l'esprit qui dort.

Tu ressembles parfois à ces beaux horizons
Qu'allument les soleils des brumeuses saisons...
Comme tu resplendis, paysage mouillé
Qu'enflamment les rayons tombant d'un ciel brouillé!

Ô femme dangereuse, ô séduisants climats!
Adorerai-je aussi ta neige et vos frimas,
Et saurai-je tirer de l'implacable hiver
Des plaisirs plus aigus que la glace et le fer?

Charles Baudelaire

Cloudy Sky

One would say that your gaze was veiled with mist;
Your mysterious eyes (are they blue, gray or green?)
Alternately tender, dreamy, cruel,
Reflect the indolence and pallor of the sky.

You call to mind those days, white, soft, and mild,
That make enchanted hearts burst into tears,
When, shaken by a mysterious, wracking pain,
The nerves, too wide-awake, jeer at the sleeping mind.

You resemble at times those gorgeous horizons
That the sun sets ablaze in the seasons of mist...
How resplendent you are, landscape drenched with rain,
Aflame with rays that fall from a cloudy sky!

O dangerous woman, O alluring climates!
Will I also adore your snow and your hoar-frost,
And can I draw from your implacable winter
Pleasures keener than iron or ice?

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

Misty Sky

One would have thought your eyes were veiled in haze
Strange eyes! (Grey, green, or azure is their gaze?)
It seems they would reflect, in each renewal,
The changing skies, dull, dreamy, fond, or cruel.

You know those days both warm and hazy, which
Melt into tears the hearts that they bewitch:
And when the nerves, uneasy to control,
Too-wide awake, upbraid the sleeping soul.

You, too, resemble such a lit horizon
As suns of misty seasons now bedizen...
As you shine out, a landscape fresh with rain
With misty sunbeams sparkling on the plain.

Dangerous girl, seductive as the weather!
Shall I adore your snows and frosts together?
In your relentless winter shall I feel
A kiss more sharp than that of ice and steel?

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

Overcast Sky

Meseemeth thy glance, soft enshrouded with dew,
Thy mysterious eyes (are they grey, green or blue?),
Alternately cruel, and tender, and shy,
Reflect both the languor and calm of the sky.

Thou recallest those white days — with shadows caressed,
Engendering tears from th' enraptured breast,
When racked by an anguish unfathomed that weeps,
The nerves, too awake, jibe the spirit that sleeps.

At times — thou art like those horizons divine,
Where the suns of the nebulous seasons decline;
How resplendent art thou — O pasturage vast,
Illumed by the beams of a sky overcast!

O! dangerous dame — oh seductive clime!
As well, will I love both thy snow and thy rime,
And shall I know how from the frosts to entice
Delights that are keener than iron and ice?

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

Ciel brouillé

thine eyes are veiled with vapour opaline;
— those eyes of mystery! — (azure, grey or green?)
cruel or soft in turn as dreams devise,
reflect the languor of the pallid skies.

thou'rt like these autumn days of silver-grey
whose magic melts the soul to tears: a day
when by a secret evil inly torn
the quivering nerves laugh drowsy wits to scorn.

thou art as fair as distant dales, where suns
of misty seasons leave their benisons...
how dazzling rich the dewy woodlands lie
flaming in sunlight from a ruffled sky!

o fateful woman! sky that lures and lours!
and shall I love thy snow, its frosty hours,
and learn to clutch from winter's iron gyves
new pleasure keen as cloven ice or knives?

— 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.