La musique souvent me prend comme une mer!
Vers ma pâle étoile,
Sous un plafond de brume ou dans un vaste éther,
Je mets à la voile;
La poitrine en avant et les poumons gonflés
Comme de la toile
J'escalade le dos des flots amoncelés
Que la nuit me voile;
Je sens vibrer en moi toutes les passions
D'un vaisseau qui souffre;
Le bon vent, la tempête et ses convulsions
Sur l'immense gouffre
Me bercent. D'autres fois, calme plat, grand miroir
De mon désespoir!
— Charles Baudelaire
Music often transports me like a sea!
Toward my pale star,
Under a ceiling of fog or a vast ether,
I get under sail;
My chest thrust out and my lungs filled
Like the canvas,
I scale the slopes of wave on wave
That the night obscures;
I feel vibrating within me all the passions
Of ships in distress;
The good wind and the tempest with its convulsions
Over the vast gulf
Cradle me. At other times, dead calm, great mirror
Of my despair!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Music uplifts me like the sea and races
Me to my distant star,
Through veils of mist or through ethereal spaces,
I sail on it afar.
With chest flung out and lungs like sails inflated
Into the depth of night
I escalade the backs of waves serrated,
That darkness veils from sight.
I feel vibrating in me the emotions
That storm-tossed ships must feel.
The fair winds and the tempests and the oceans
Sway my exultant keel.
Sometimes a vast, dead calm with glassy stare
Mirrors my dumb despair.
— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)
Music often takes me like the sea’s surge:
Cresting towards my destined star,
Wrapped in cloud-gray or blue, as sky and ocean merge,
I voyage, oh, so far.
My lungs inflated, chest breasting like a sail
the flowing, onward thrust,
I overscale the hunched-high waves, borne through the veil
of the night’s persistent gust.
Within me, passions vibrate, hardship, pain, in rough
fair winds or storms’ convulsions swirl, exalted stuff,
where deep nothing gapes,
and lift me. But other times, in mirror calm . . . futility . . .
my soul . . . the endless sea . . . .
— Edward Eriksson
Music oft seizes me and sweeps me like a sea toward where my star shines pale,
With mists for ceiling, or through an immensity of ether I set sail.
My breast flung forward and my lungs swollen like white canvas, windswept I scale
The backs of heaping waves over which gentle night has wound a darkling veil.
So all the passions of a vessel suffering rise in me; the brave blast
Of winds, and storms in their convulsive movements, swing me, cradled on the vast
Abyss. At other times, dead calms, like mirrors there, reflecting my despair.
— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)
Launch me, O music, whither on the soundless
Sea my star gleams pale!
I beneath cloudy cope or rapt in boundless
Æther set my sail;
With breast outblown, swollen by the wind that urges
Swelling sheets, I scale
The summit of the wave whose vexed surges
Night from me doth veil;
A labouring vessel's passions in my pulses
Thrill the shuddering sense;
The wind that wafts, the tempest that convulses,
O'er the gulf immense
Swing me. — Anon flat calm and clearer air
Glass my soul's despair!
— W. J. Robertson, from Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, edited by Thomas Robert Smith (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)
Oft Music possesses me like the seas!
To my planet pale,
'Neath a ceiling of mist, in the lofty breeze,
I set my sail.
With inflated lungs and expanded chest,
Like to a sail,
On the backs of the heaped-up billows I rest —
Which the shadows veil —
I feel all the anguish within me arise
Of a ship in distress;
The tempest, the rain, 'neath the lowering skies,
My body caress:
At times, the calm pool or the mirror clear
Of my despair!
— Cyril Scott, Baudelaire: The Flowers of Evil (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909)
Oft Music, as it were some moving mighty sea,
Bears me toward my pale
Star: in clear space, or 'neath a vaporous canopy
On-floating, I set sail.
With heaving chest which strains forward, and lungs outblown,
I climb the ridged steeps
Of those high-piled clouds which 'thwart the night are thrown,
Veiling its starry deeps.
I suffer all the throes, within my quivering form.
Of a great ship in pain,
Now a soft wind, and now the writhings of a storm
Upon the vasty main
Rock me: at other times a death-like calm, the bare
Mirror of my despair.
— 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.