Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Deux guerriers ont couru l'un sur l'autre, leurs armes
Ont éclaboussé l'air de lueurs et de sang.
Ces jeux, ces cliquetis du fer sont les vacarmes
D'une jeunesse en proie à l'amour vagissant.

Les glaives sont brisés! comme notre jeunesse,
Ma chère! Mais les dents, les ongles acérés,
Vengent bientôt l'épée et la dague traîtresse.
— Ô fureur des coeurs mûrs par l'amour ulcérés!

Dans le ravin hanté des chats-pards et des onces
Nos héros, s'étreignant méchamment, ont roulé,
Et leur peau fleurira l'aridité des ronces.

— Ce gouffre, c'est l'enfer, de nos amis peuplé!
Roulons-y sans remords, amazone inhumaine,
Afin d'éterniser l'ardeur de notre haine!

Charles Baudelaire

The Duel

Two warriors rushed upon each other; their arms
Spattered the air with sparks and blood.
This fencing, this clashing of steel, are the uproar
Of youth when it becomes a prey to puling love.

The blades are broken! like our youth
My darling! But the teeth, the steely fingernails,
Soon avenge the sword and the treacherous dagger.
— O Fury of mature hearts embittered by love!

In the ravine haunted by lynxes and panthers,
Our heroes viciously clasping each other, rolled,
And their skin will put blooms on the barren brambles.

This abyss, it is hell, thronged with our friends!
Let us roll there without remorse, cruel amazon,
So the ardor of our hatred will be immortalized!

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


Two fighters rushed together: sabres bleak
With crimson blood-gouts lit the air above.
That clinking swordplay was the tender squeak
Of youth , when it's a prey to bleating love.

The swords are splintered, like our youth, my darling,
And now it's teeth and talons are the fashion.
The clash of swords is child's play to the snarling
Of hearts adult in ulcerated passion.

In the ravine by lynx and leopard haunted,
Our heroes, wrestling heroes, roll undaunted.
Rags of their skin flower red upon the gorse.

This gulf is hell, and peopled by our friends.
Here, hellcat! Come, let's roll without remorse
To celebrate a feud that never ends!

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

The Duel

Two warriors dueled upon the battle ground,
Their arms scattering bright sparks and blood; above
This sport, the clash of steel gave forth the sound
Of youth fallen a prey to puling love.

The blades are broken, darling, like the moon
Of our sweet youth! but teeth and fingernails
Avenge the sword and traitorous dagger soon.
Old hearts that love's old bitterness assails!

In the ravine where lynx and panther ramble,
Our heroes bite the dust in fierce embrace,
Their skin shall bring new bloom to the dry bramble.
This pit is hell, our friends' choice dwelling place!
Let us roll there, O cruel Amazon,
So our fierce hatred may live on and on!

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


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.