Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Mort des pauvres

C'est la Mort qui console, hélas! et qui fait vivre;
C'est le but de la vie, et c'est le seul espoir
Qui, comme un élixir, nous monte et nous enivre,
Et nous donne le coeur de marcher jusqu'au soir;

À travers la tempête, et la neige, et le givre,
C'est la clarté vibrante à notre horizon noir
C'est l'auberge fameuse inscrite sur le livre,
Où l'on pourra manger, et dormir, et s'asseoir;

C'est un Ange qui tient dans ses doigts magnétiques
Le sommeil et le don des rêves extatiques,
Et qui refait le lit des gens pauvres et nus;

C'est la gloire des Dieux, c'est le grenier mystique,
C'est la bourse du pauvre et sa patrie antique,
C'est le portique ouvert sur les Cieux inconnus!

Charles Baudelaire

The Death of the Poor

It's Death that comforts us, alas! and makes us live;
It is the goal of life; it is the only hope
Which, like an elixir, makes us inebriate
And gives us the courage to march until evening;

Through the storm and the snow and the hoar-frost
It is the vibrant light on our black horizon;
It is the famous inn inscribed upon the book,
Where one can eat, and sleep, and take his rest;

It's an Angel who holds in his magnetic hands
Sleep and the gift of ecstatic dreams
And who makes the beds for the poor, naked people;

It's the glory of the gods, the mystic granary,
It is the poor man's purse, his ancient fatherland,
It is the portal opening on unknown Skies!

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

The Death of Paupers

It's Death comforts us, alas! and makes us live.
It is the goal of life, it brings us hope,
And, like a rich elixir, seems to give
Courage to march along the darkening slope.

Across the tempest, hail, and hoarfrost, look!
Along the black horizon, a faint gleam!
It is the inn that's written in the book
Where one can sleep, and eat, and sit and dream.

An Angel, in magnetic hands it holds
Sleep and the gift of sweet ecstatic dreams,
And makes a bed for poor and naked souls.

It is God's glory and the mystic grange:
The poor man's purse and fatherland it seems,
And door that opens Heavens vast and strange.

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

The Death of the Poor

Death? Death is our one comfort! — is the bread whereby
We live, the wine that warms us when all hope is gone;
The very goal of Life. That we shall one day die:
This is the thought which gives us courage to go on.

Clear on the black horizon, through the blinding sleet,
That beacon burns; — oh, Death, thou inn of wide renown!
Is it not written in the book: "Here all may eat;
Here there is rest for all; here all may sit them down?"

Thou hovering Angel, holding in thy magic hand
Slumber and blissful dreams; thou Glory overhead;
Mysterious attic, filled with treasures manifold;

The poor man's purse, and his remembered fatherland;
Thou, that remakest nightly the beggar's crumpled bed;
Thou only door ajar, pledge of the peace foretold!

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

The Death of the Poor

It is Death that consoles — yea, and causes our lives;
'Tis the goal of this Life and of Hope the sole ray,
Which like a strong potion enlivens and gives
Us the strength to plod on to the end of the day.

And all through the tempest, the frost and the snows,
'Tis the shimmering light on our black sky-line;
'Tis the famous inn which the guide-book shows,
Whereat one can eat, and sleep, and recline;

'Tis an angel that holds in his magic hands
The sleep, which ecstatic dream commands,
Who remakes up the beds of the naked and poor;

'Tis the fame of the gods, 'tis the granary blest,
'Tis the purse of the poor, and his birth-place of rest,
To the unknown Heavens, 'tis the wide-open door.

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

La Mort des pauvres

'tis Death that helps us live, 'tis Death consoles;
Death is life's goal; 'tis the one hope that cheers,
and, like a cordial, spurs our slackening souls,
bestowing strength to march till night appears;

through snow and hoar-frost, where the tempest rolls
toward the black hills, Death's leaping fire veers;
Death is the famous Inn the Book extols,
where we shall dine and rest among our peers;

Death is an angel, with his fingers full
of magic sleep and dreams most wonderful,
— who smoothes the bed whereon the beggar lies;

Death is the glory of the gods, the gold
all poor folk hoard, their fatherland of old,
Death is the portal wide to unknown skies!

— Lewis Piaget Shanks, Flowers of Evil (New York: Ives Washburn, 1931)

The Death of the Poor

Death is consoler and Death brings to life;
The end of all, the solitary hope;
We, drunk with Death's elixir, face the strife,
Take heart, and mount till eve the weary slope.

Across the storm, the hoar-frost, and the snow,
Death on our dark horizon pulses clear;
Death is the famous hostel we all know,
Where we may rest and sleep and have good cheer.

Death is an angel whose magnetic palms
Bring dreams of ecstasy and slumberous calms
To smooth the beds of naked men and poor.

Death is the mystic granary of God;
The poor man's purse; his fatherland of yore;
The Gate that opens into heavens untrod!

— F.P. Sturm, from Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, edited by Thomas Robert Smith (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)


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.