Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Mort des artistes

Combien faut-il de fois secouer mes grelots
Et baiser ton front bas, morne caricature?
Pour piquer dans le but, de mystique nature,
Combien, ô mon carquois, perdre de javelots?

Nous userons notre âme en de subtils complots,
Et nous démolirons mainte lourde armature,
Avant de contempler la grande Créature
Dont l'infernal désir nous remplit de sanglots!

Il en est qui jamais n'ont connu leur Idole,
Et ces sculpteurs damnés et marqués d'un affront,
Qui vont se martelant la poitrine et le front,

N'ont qu'un espoir, étrange et sombre Capitole!
C'est que la Mort, planant comme un soleil nouveau,
Fera s'épanouir les fleurs de leur cerveau!

Charles Baudelaire

The Death of Artists

How many times must I shake my bauble and bells
And kiss your low forehead, dismal caricature?
To strike the target of mystic nature,
How many javelins must I waste, O my quiver?

We shall wear out our souls in subtle schemes
And we shall demolish many an armature
Before contemplating the glorious Creature
For whom a tormenting desire makes our hearts grieve!

There are some who have never known their Idol
And those sculptors, damned and branded with shame,
Who are always hammering their brows and their breasts,

Have but one hope, bizarre and somber Capitol!
It is that Death, soaring like a new sun,
Will bring to bloom the flowers of their brains!

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

The Death of Artists

How often must I shake my bells, and kiss
Your brow, sad Travesty? How many a dart,
My quiver, shoot at Nature's mystic heart
Before I hit the target that I miss?

We'll still consume our souls in subtle schemes,
Demolishing tough harness, long before
We see the giant Creature of our dreams
Whom all the world is weeping to adore.

Some never knew their Idol, though they prayed:
And these doomed sculptors, with an insult branded,
Hammer your brows and bosom, heavy-handed,

In the one hope, O Capitol of shade!
That Death like some new sun should rise and give
Warmth to their wasted flowers, and make them live.

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

La Mort des artistes

how often must I shake my bells, and deign
to kiss thy brow debased, full travesty?
to pierce the mark, whose goal is mystery,
how oft, my quiver, waste thy darts in vain?

we shall exhaust our soul and subtle brain
and burst the bars of many a tyranny,
ere we shall glimpse the vast divinity
for which we burn and sob and burn again!

some too their idol never knew, and now,
flouted and branded with the brand of hell,
go beating fists of wrath on breast and brow;

one hope they know, strange, darkling citadel!
— can Death's new sunlight, streaming o'er the tomb,
lure the dead flower of their brain to bloom?

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


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.