Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Une gravure fantastique

Ce spectre singulier n'a pour toute toilette,
Grotesquement campé sur son front de squelette,
Qu'un diadème affreux sentant le carnaval.
Sans éperons, sans fouet, il essouffle un cheval,
Fantôme comme lui, rosse apocalyptique,
Qui bave des naseaux comme un épileptique.
Au travers de l'espace ils s'enfoncent tous deux,
Et foulent l'infini d'un sabot hasardeux.
Le cavalier promène un sabre qui flamboie
Sur les foules sans nom que sa monture broie,
Et parcourt, comme un prince inspectant sa maison,
Le cimetière immense et froid, sans horizon,
Où gisent, aux lueurs d'un soleil blanc et terne,
Les peuples de l'histoire ancienne et moderne.

Charles Baudelaire

A Fantastic Print

That strange specter wears nothing more
Than a diadem, atrocious and tawdry,
Grotesquely fixed on his skeleton brow.
Without spurs, without whip, he winds a horse,
A phantom like himself, an apocalyptic steed
That foams at the nostrils like an epileptic.
Both of them are plunging through space
And trampling on the infinite with daring feet.
The horseman is waving a flaming sword
Over the nameless crowds who are crushed by his mount
And examines like a prince inspecting his house,
The graveyard, immense and cold, with no horizon,
Where lie, in the glimmer of a white, lifeless sun,
The races of history, ancient and modern.

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

Fantastic Engraving

A monstrous spectre carries on his forehead,
And at a rakish tilt, grotesquely horrid,
A crown such as at carnivals parade.
Without a Whip or spur he rides a jade,
A phantom-like apocalyptic moke,
Whose nostrils seem with rabid froth to smoke.
Across unbounded space the couple moves
Spurning infinity with reckless hooves.
The horseman waves a sword that lights the gloom
Of nameless crowds he tramples to their doom,
And, like a prince his mansion, goes inspecting
The graveyard, which, no skyline intersecting,
Contains, beneath a sun that's white and bleak,
Peoples of history, modem and antique.

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

Fantastic Print

This eerie specter wears no clothes at all.
A dreadful crown, reeking of carnival,
Sits weirdly on his naked skull. Without
Or spurs or whip, he wears his charger out
(A ghostly and apocalyptic nag,
Nose foaming like an epileptic hag).
The hideous pair plunge ruthlessly through space,
Trampling infinity at breakneck pace.

The horseman's flaming sword, as on they rush,
Fells victims that his steed has failed to crush,
And, like a prince inspecting his domain,
He scans the graveyard's limitless chill plain
Where, in a dull white sun's exhausted light,
Lies every race since man emerged from night.

— 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.