Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Imaginez Diane en galant équipage,
Parcourant les forêts ou battant les halliers,
Cheveux et gorge au vent, s'enivrant de tapage,
Superbe et défiant les meilleurs cavaliers!

Avez-vous vu Théroigne, amante du carnage,
Excitant à l'assaut un peuple sans souliers,
La joue et l'oeil en feu, jouant son personnage,
Et montant, sabre au poing, les royaux escaliers?

Telle la Sisina! Mais la douce guerrière
À l'âme charitable autant que meurtrière;
Son courage, affolé de poudre et de tambours,

Devant les suppliants sait mettre bas les armes,
Et son coeur, ravagé par la flamme, a toujours,
Pour qui s'en montre digne, un réservoir de larmes.

Charles Baudelaire


Imagine Diana in elegant attire,
Roaming through the forest, or beating the thickets,
Hair flying in the wind, breast bare, drunk with the noise,
Superb, defying the finest horsemen!

Have you seen Théroigne that lover of carnage,
Urging a barefoot mob on to attack,
Her eyes and cheeks aflame, playing her role,
And climbing, sword in hand, the royal staircase?

That is Sisina! But the sweet amazon's soul
Is as charitable as it is murderous;
Her courage, exalted by powder and by drums,

Before supplicants, knows how to lay down its arms,
And her heart, ravaged by love, has always,
For him who is worthy, a reservoir of tears.

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


Picture Diana, gallantly arrayed,
Ranging the woods, elated with the chase,
With flying hair and naked breasts displayed,
Defying fleetest horsemen with her pace.

Know you Theroigne whom blood and fire exalt,
Hounding a shoeless rabble to the fray,
Up royal stairways heading the assault,
And mounting, sword in hand, to show the way?

Such is Sisina. Terrible her arms.
But charity restrains her killing charms.
Though rolling drums and scent of powder madden

Her courage, — laying by its pikes and spears,
For those who merit, her scorched heart will sadden,
And open, in its depth, a well of tears.

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


Imagine Diana in gorgeous array,
How into the forests and thickets she flies,
With her hair in the breezes, and flushed for the fray,
How the very best riders she proudly defies.

Have you seen Théroigne, of the blood-thirsty heart,
As an unshod herd to attack he bestirs,
With cheeks all inflamed, playing up to his part,
As he goes, sword in hand, up the royal stairs?

And so is Sisina — yet this warrior sweet,
Has a soul with compassion and kindness replete,
Inspired by drums and by powder, her sway

Knows how to concede to the supplicants' prayers,
And her bosom, laid waste by the flames, has alway,
For those that are worthy, a fountain of tears.

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