Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Sonnet d'automne

Ils me disent, tes yeux, clairs comme le cristal:
«Pour toi, bizarre amant, quel est donc mon mérite?»
— Sois charmante et tais-toi! Mon coeur, que tout irrite,
Excepté la candeur de l'antique animal,

Ne veut pas te montrer son secret infernal,
Berceuse dont la main aux longs sommeils m'invite,
Ni sa noire légende avec la flamme écrite.
Je hais la passion et l'esprit me fait mal!

Aimons-nous doucement. L'Amour dans sa guérite,
Ténébreux, embusqué, bande son arc fatal.
Je connais les engins de son vieil arsenal:

Crime, horreur et folie! — Ô pâle marguerite!
Comme moi n'es-tu pas un soleil automnal,
Ô ma si blanche, ô ma si froide Marguerite?

Charles Baudelaire

Autumn Sonnet

They say to me, your eyes, clear as crystal:
"For you, bizarre lover, what is my merit then?"
— Be charming and be still! My heart, which all things irk,
Except the candor of the animals of old,

Does not wish to reveal its black secret to you,
Whose lulling hands invite me to long sleep,
Nor its somber legend written with flame.
I hate passion; intelligence makes me suffer!

Let us love each other sweetly. Tenebrous Love,
Ambushed in his shelter, stretches his fatal bow.
I know all the weapons of his old arsenal:

Crime, horror, and madness! — pale marguerite!
Are you not, like me, an autumnal sun,
O my Marguerite, so white and so cold?

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

Autumn Sonnet

Your eyes like crystal ask me, clear and mute,
"in me, strange lover, what do you admire?"
Be lovely: hush: my heart, whom all things tire
Except the candour of the primal brute,

Would hide from you the secret burning it
And its black legend written out in fire,
O soother of the sleep that I respire!
Passion I hate, and I am hurt by wit.

Let us love gently. In his lair laid low,
Ambushed in shades, Love strings his fatal bow.
I know his ancient arsenal complete,

Crime, horror, lunacy — O my pale daisy!
Are we not suns in Autumn, silver-hazy,
O my so white, so snow-cold Marguerite?

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

Autumn Song

They ask me — thy crystalline eyes, so acute,
"Odd lover — why am I to thee so dear?"
— Be sweet and keep silent, my heart, which is sear,
For all, save the rude and untutored brute,

Is loth its infernal depths to reveal,
And its dissolute motto engraven with fire,
Oh charmer! whose arms endless slumber inspire!
I abominate passion and wit makes me ill.

So let us love gently. Within his retreat,
Foreboding, Love seeks for his arrows a prey,
I know all the arms of his battle array.

Delirium and loathing — O pale Marguerite!
Like me, art thou not an autumnal ray,
Alas my so white, my so cold Marguerite!

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

Sonnet of Autumn

They say to me, thy clear and crystal eyes:
"Why dost thou love me so, strange lover mine?"
Be sweet, be still! My heart and soul despise
All save that antique brute-like faith of thine;

And will not bare the secret of their shame
To thee whose hand soothes me to slumbers long,
Nor their black legend write for thee in flame!
Passion I hate, a spirit does me wrong.

Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat,
Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow,
And I too well his ancient arrows know:

Crime, horror, folly. O pale Marguerite,
Thou art as I, a bright sun fallen low,
O my so white, my so cold Marguerite.

— 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.