Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Mort joyeux

Dans une terre grasse et pleine d'escargots
Je veux creuser moi-même une fosse profonde,
Où je puisse à loisir étaler mes vieux os
Et dormir dans l'oubli comme un requin dans l'onde.

Je hais les testaments et je hais les tombeaux;
Plutôt que d'implorer une larme du monde,
Vivant, j'aimerais mieux inviter les corbeaux
À saigner tous les bouts de ma carcasse immonde.

Ô vers! noirs compagnons sans oreille et sans yeux,
Voyez venir à vous un mort libre et joyeux;
Philosophes viveurs, fils de la pourriture,

À travers ma ruine allez donc sans remords,
Et dites-moi s'il est encor quelque torture
Pour ce vieux corps sans âme et mort parmi les morts!

Charles Baudelaire

The Joyful Corpse

In a rich, heavy soil, infested with snails,
I wish to dig my own grave, wide and deep,
Where I can at leisure stretch out my old bones
And sleep in oblivion like a shark in the wave.

I have a hatred for testaments and for tombs;
Rather than implore a tear of the world,
I'd sooner, while alive, invite the crows
To drain the blood from my filthy carcass.

O worms! black companions with neither eyes nor ears,
See a dead man, joyous and free, approaching you;
Wanton philosophers, children of putrescence,

Go through my ruin then, without remorse,
And tell me if there still remains any torture
For this old soulless body, dead among the dead!

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

The Joyous Dead

In a fat, greasy soil, that's full of snails,
I'll dig a grave deep down, where I may sleep
Spreading my bones at ease, to drowse in deep
Oblivion, as a shark within the wave.

I hate all tombs, and testaments, and wills:
I want no human tears; I'd like it more,
That ravens could attack me with their bills,
To broach my carcase of its living gore.

O worms! black friends, who cannot hear or see,
A free and joyous corpse behold in me!
You philosophic souls, corruption-bred,

Plough through my ruins! eat your merry way!
And if there are yet further torments, say,
For this old soulless corpse among the dead.

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

The Happy Dead Man

Slowly, luxuriously, I will hollow a deep grave,
With my own hands, in rich black snail-frequented soil,
And lay me down, forspent with that voluptuous toil,
And go to sleep, as happy as a shark in the wave.

No funeral for me, no sepulcher, no hymns;
Rather than beg for pity when alive, God knows,
I have lain sick and shelterless, and let the crows
Stab to their hearts' content at my lean festering limbs.

O worms! my small black comrades without ears or eyes,
Taste now for once a mortal who lies down in bliss.
O blithe materialists! O vermin of my last bed!

Come, march remorselessly through me. Come, and devise
Some curious new torment, if you can, for this
Old body without soul and deader than the dead.

— George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

Joyful Corpse

In a rich fertile loam where snails recess,
I wish to dig my own deep roomy grave,
There to stretch out my old bones, motionless,
Snug in death's sleep as sharks are in the wave.
Men's testaments and tombs spell queasiness,
The world's laments are not a boon I crave,
Sooner, while yet I live, let the crows press
My carrion blood from out my skull and nave.
O worms, black comrades without eyes or ears,
Behold, a dead man, glad and free, appears!
Lecher philosophers, spawn of decay,
Rummage remorseless through my crumbling head
To tell what torture may remain today
For this my soulless body which is dead.

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

The Gladly Dead

In a soil thick with snails and rich as grease
I've longed to dig myself a good deep grave,
There to stretch my old bones at ease
And sleep in oblivion, like a shark in a wave.

Wills I detest, and tombstones set in rows;
Before I'd beg a tear of anyone,
I'd rather go alive and let the crows
Bleed the last scrap of this old carrion.

O worms ! Black comrades without eye or ear,
Here comes a dead man for you, willing and gay;
Feasting philosophers, sons born of decay,

Come burrow through my ruins, shed not a tear;
But tell me if any torture is left to dread
For this old soulless body, dead as the dead?

— Jackson Mathews, Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1955)

The Joyous Defunct

Where snails abound — in a juicy soil,
I will dig for myself a fathomless grave,
Where at leisure mine ancient bones I can coil,
And sleep — quite forgotten — like a shark 'neath the wave.

I hate every tomb — I abominate wills,
And rather than tears from the world to implore,
I would ask of the crows with their vampire bills
To devour every bit of my carcass impure.

Oh worms, without eyes, without ears, black friends!
To you a defunct-one, rejoicing, descends,
Enlivened Philosophers — offspring of Dung!

Without any qualms, o'er my wreckage spread,
And tell if some torment there still can be wrung
For this soul-less old frame that is dead 'midst the dead!

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

The Joyous Corse

In a soil full of snails and free from stones
I fain would dig myself a pit full deep,
Where I might lay at ease my aged bones
And, like a wave-borne shark, forgetful sleep.

For testaments I hate, and tombs I hate;
Rather than crave a tear from human eyes
I would invite the crows their hunger sate
Upon my corpse's foul extremities.

O worms! O black, deaf, sightless company!
There comes to you a dead man glad and free.
O philosophic sons of rottenness,
Across my ruin crawl without remorse,
And tell if any pain may yet oppress
This old and soulless death-surrounded corse.

— 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.