Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Semper eadem

«D'où vous vient, disiez-vous, cette tristesse étrange,
Montant comme la mer sur le roc noir et nu?»
— Quand notre coeur a fait une fois sa vendange
Vivre est un mal. C'est un secret de tous connu,

Une douleur très simple et non mystérieuse
Et, comme votre joie, éclatante pour tous.
Cessez donc de chercher, ô belle curieuse!
Et, bien que votre voix soit douce, taisez-vous!

Taisez-vous, ignorante! âme toujours ravie!
Bouche au rire enfantin! Plus encor que la Vie,
La Mort nous tient souvent par des liens subtils.

Laissez, laissez mon coeur s'enivrer d'un mensonge,
Plonger dans vos beaux yeux comme dans un beau songe
Et sommeiller longtemps à l'ombre de vos cils!

Charles Baudelaire

Ever the Same

"Whence comes to you, you asked, this singular sadness
That rises like the sea on the naked, black rock?"
— Once our heart has gathered the grapes from its vineyard,
Living is an evil. That's a secret known to all,

A simple pain, with no mystery,
As obvious to all men as your gaiety.
So abandon your search, inquisitive beauty;
And though your voice is sweet, be still!

Be silent, ignorant! ever enraptured soul!
Mouth with the child-like laugh! Still more than Life,
Death holds us frequently with subtle bonds.

Let, let my heart become drunk with a lie; let it
Plunge into your fair eyes as into a fair dream
And slumber long in the shadow of your lashes.

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

Semper Eadem

"Whence," ask you, "does this strange new sadness flow
Like rising tides on rocks, black, bare, and vast?"
For human hearts, when vintage-time is past,
To live is bad. That secret all men know —

An obvious sorrow, with no mystery, shown,
Clear as your joy, to everyone around.
O curious one, seek nothing more profound,
And speak not, though your voice be sweet in tone.

Hush, ignorant! Hush, soul that's still enraptured,
And mouth of childish laughter! Neatly captured,
Death pulls us, more than life, with subtle wile.

Oh let my thought get drunk upon a lie,
And plunge, as in a dream, in either eye,
And in their lashes' shadow sleep awhile!

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

Semper Eadem

"What in the world," you said, "has brought on this black mood,
Climbing you as the sea climbs up a naked reef?"
— When once the heart has made its harvest (understood
By all men, this) why, just to be alive is grief:

A pain quite simple, nothing mysterious at all,
And like that joy of yours, patent to all we meet;
Stop asking questions, then, I beg of you, and fall
Silent a while, fair prober, though your voice be sweet.

Ah, yes, be silent, ignorant girl, always so gay,
Mouth with the childlike laughter! More than Life, I say,
Death has the power to hold us by most subtle ties.

My one fictitious comfort, kindly, let me keep:
To plunge as into dreams into your lovely eyes,
And in the shadow of your lashes fall asleep.

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

Semper Eadem

"From whence it comes, you ask, this gloom acute,
Like waves that o'er the rocky headland fall?"
When once our hearts have gathered in their fruit,
To live is a curse! a secret known to all,

A grief, quite simple, nought mysterious,
And like your joy — for all, both loud and shrill,
Nay cease to clamor, be not e'er so curious!
And yet although your voice is sweet, be still!

Be still, O soul, with rapture ever rife!
O mouth, with the childish smile! Far more than Life,
The subtle bonds of Death around us twine.

Let — let my heart, the wine of falsehood drink,
And dream-like, deep within your fair eyes sink,
And in the shade of thy lashes long recline!

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

Semper eadam

you asked: "what floods of gloom engulf you — strange
as creeping tides against a bare black wall?"
— when hearts once crush their grapes and close the grange,
life is an evil. secret known to all,

'tis but the common grief each man betrays
to all, as you your joy, in eyes or brow
so veil, my fair one, your inquiring gaze
and though your voice is low, be silent now!

be silent, simple soul! mouth always gay
with girlish laughter! more than Life, today,
Death binds our hearts with tenuous webs of doom;

let mine be drunken with the wine of lies,
o let me delve for dreams in those deep eyes
and slumber long beneath your eyebrows' gloom!

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

Semper Eadem

"Whence," ask you, "is this heavy sadness shed.
Rising like ocean round the bare black stone?"
When the heart's crop has once been harvested
Life is a burden! 'Tis of all men known.

A simple grief and not mysterious,
Blown like thy joy for all the world: so cease,
Cease, O fair questioner, to probe me thus,
And, though thy voice be gentle, hold thy peace.

Hold thy peace, rapturous one! Child's mouth so rife
With merriment. Death's links with us oft seem
Subtler than those which bind our souls to Life.

Let, let my heart grow drunken with a lie,
And plunge in thy great eyes as in a dream.
And slumber 'neath thy lashes tranquilly!

— 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.