Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Franciscae meae laudes

Novis te cantabo chordis,
O novelletum quod ludis
In solitudine cordis.

Esto sertis implicata,
Ô femina delicata
Per quam solvuntur peccata!

Sicut beneficum Lethe,
Hauriam oscula de te,
Quae imbuta es magnete.

Quum vitiorum tempegtas
Turbabat omnes semitas,
Apparuisti, Deitas,

Velut stella salutaris
In naufragiis amaris.....
Suspendam cor tuis aris!

Piscina plena virtutis,
Fons æternæ juventutis
Labris vocem redde mutis!

Quod erat spurcum, cremasti;
Quod rudius, exaequasti;
Quod debile, confirmasti.

In fame mea taberna
In nocte mea lucerna,
Recte me semper guberna.

Adde nunc vires viribus,
Dulce balneum suavibus
Unguentatum odoribus!

Meos circa lumbos mica,
O castitatis lorica,
Aqua tincta seraphica;

Patera gemmis corusca,
Panis salsus, mollis esca,
Divinum vinum, Francisca!

Charles Baudelaire

In Praise of My Frances

I'll sing to you on a new note,
O young hind that gambols gaily
In the solitude of my heart.

Be adorned with wreaths of flowers,
O delightful woman
By whom our sins are washed away!

As from a benign Lethe,
I shall drink kisses from you,
Who were given a magnet's strength.

When a tempest of vices
Was sweeping down on every path,
You appeared, O divinity!

Like the star of salvation
Above a disastrous shipwreck...
I shall place my heart on your altar!

Reservoir full of virtue,
Fountain of eternal youth,
Restore the voice to my mute lips!

You have burned that which was filthy,
Made smooth that which was rough,
Strengthened that which was weak.

In my hunger you are the inn,
In the darkness my lamp,
Lead me always on virtue's path.

Add your strength now to my strength,
Sweet bath scented
With pleasant perfumes!

Shine forth from my loins,
O cuirass of chastity,
That was dipped in seraphic water,

Cup glittering with precious stones,
Bread seasoned with salt, delectable dish,
Heavenly wine — My Frances.

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

Praises of My Francisca

(Verses to a learned and devout Milliner)

Upon new chords of you I sing.
And the new-born bud you bring
From solitude, the pure heart's Spring.

Your brows should be with garlands twined
Woman of delightful mind,
Who our trespasses unbind.

As the wondrous balm of Lethe,
Through thy kisses, I will breathe thee.
All are magnetised who see thee.

When my vices, wild and stormy,
From my wonted courses bore me
It was You appeared before me,

Star of Oceans! you that alter
Courses, when the pilots falter —
Take my heart upon your altar.

Cistern full of virtuous ruth,
Fountain of eternal youth,
Give to dumbness speech and truth!

What was dirty, you cremated,
What uneven — you equated,
What was weak you re-created.

Inn, on the hungry roads I tramp,
And, in the dark, a guiding lamp
To steer the lost one back to camp.

To my strength add strength, O sweet
Bath, where scents and unguents meet!
Anoint me for some peerless feat!

Holy water most seraphic,
On the lusts in which I traffic
Flash your chastity ecstatic.

Bowl of gems where radiance dances.
Salt that the holy bread enhances,
And sacred wine — your name is Frances!

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

Francescae Meae Laudes

I shall sing new chords, O hind,
As you gambol unconfined
Through my solitary mind.

Rest, adorned with wreaths of flowers,
Comely woman whose vast powers
Wash away these sins of ours

As from Lethe's stream I shall
Drink your kisses, one and all,
Magnet-like and magical.

When our vices stormily
Swept down every path with glee,
You approved, O Deity!

Like the bright star of salvation
Amid shipwreck's desolation —
Take my heart in rapt oblation.

Source of every good and store
Of eternal youth, restore
Song to my mute lips once more.

What was foul you calcinated
What was rough you Ievigated,
What was weak you stimulated.

In my hunger, you the inn,
In my dark, the lamp; and in
Your pale hands, an end to sin.

Add your strength to mine, new-sent,
Sweet bath ever redolent
Of the suaver perfumes blent.

From my loins, gleam radiantly
O cuirass of chastity
Steeped in balm seraphically.

Cup with precious gems ashine,
Savory bread, celestial wine,
Blessed food, Francesca mine!

— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)


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.