Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Fontaine de Sang

Il me semble parfois que mon sang coule à flots,
Ainsi qu'une fontaine aux rythmiques sanglots.
Je l'entends bien qui coule avec un long murmure,
Mais je me tâte en vain pour trouver la blessure.

À travers la cité, comme dans un champ clos,
Il s'en va, transformant les pavés en îlots,
Désaltérant la soif de chaque créature,
Et partout colorant en rouge la nature.

J'ai demandé souvent à des vins captieux
D'endormir pour un jour la terreur qui me mine;
Le vin rend l'oeil plus clair et l'oreille plus fine!

J'ai cherché dans l'amour un sommeil oublieux;
Mais l'amour n'est pour moi qu'un matelas d'aiguilles
Fait pour donner à boire à ces cruelles filles!

Charles Baudelaire

The Fountain of Blood

It seems to me at times my blood flows out in waves
Like a fountain that gushes in rhythmical sobs.
I hear it clearly, escaping with long murmurs,
But I feel my body in vain to find the wound.

Across the city, as in a tournament field,
It courses, making islands of the paving stones,
Satisfying the thirst of every creature
And turning the color of all nature to red.

I have often asked insidious wines
To lull to sleep for a day my wasting terror;
Wine makes the eye sharper, the ear more sensitive!

I have sought in love a forgetful sleep;
But love is to me only a bed of needles
Made to slake the thirst of those cruel prostitutes!

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

The Fountain of Blood

My blood in waves seems sometimes to be spouting
As though in rhythmic sobs a fountain swooned.
I hear its long, low, rushing sound till, doubting,
I feel myself all over for the wound.

Across the town, as in the lists of battle,
It flows, transforming paving stones to isles,
Slaking the thirst of creatures, men, and cattle,
And colouring all nature red for miles.

Sometimes I've sought relief in precious wines
To lull in me the fear that undermines,
But found they sharpened every sense the more.

I've also sought forgetfulness in lust,
But love's a bed of needles, and they thrust
To give more drink to each rapacious whore.

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

The Fountain of Blood

It seems to me sometimes my blood is bubbling out
As fountains do, in rhythmic sobs; I feel it spout
And lapse; I hear it plainly; it makes a murmuring sound;
But from what wound it wells, so far I have not found.

As blood runs in the lists, round tumbled armored bones,
It soaks the city, islanding the paving-stones;
Everything thirsty leans to lap it, with stretched head;
Trees suck it up; it stains their trunks and branches red.

I turn to wine for respite, I drink, and I drink deep;
(Just for one day, one day, neither to see nor hear!)
Wine only renders sharper the frantic eye and ear.

In terror I cry to love, "Oh, put my mind to sleep!"
But love for me is only a mattress where I shrink
On needles, and my blood is given to whores to drink.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)


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.