Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Goût du néant

Morne esprit, autrefois amoureux de la lutte,
L'Espoir, dont l'éperon attisait ton ardeur,
Ne veut plus t'enfourcher! Couche-toi sans pudeur,
Vieux cheval dont le pied à chaque obstacle butte.

Résigne-toi, mon coeur; dors ton sommeil de brute.

Esprit vaincu, fourbu! Pour toi, vieux maraudeur,
L'amour n'a plus de goût, non plus que la dispute;
Adieu donc, chants du cuivre et soupirs de la flûte!
Plaisirs, ne tentez plus un coeur sombre et boudeur!

Le Printemps adorable a perdu son odeur!

Et le Temps m'engloutit minute par minute,
Comme la neige immense un corps pris de roideur;
— Je contemple d'en haut le globe en sa rondeur
Et je n'y cherche plus l'abri d'une cahute.

Avalanche, veux-tu m'emporter dans ta chute?

Charles Baudelaire

The Desire for Annihilation

Dejected soul, once anxious for the strife,
Hope, whose spur fanned your ardor into flame,
No longer wishes to mount you! Lie down shamelessly,
Old horse who stumbles over every rut.

Resign yourself, my heart; sleep your brutish sleep.

Conquered, foundered spirit! For you, old jade,
Love has no more relish, no more than war;
Farewell then, songs of the brass and sighs of the flute!
Pleasure, tempt no more a dark, sullen heart!

Adorable spring has lost its fragrance!

And Time engulfs me minute by minute,
As the immense snow a stiffening corpse;
I survey from above the roundness of the globe
And I no longer seek there the shelter of a hut.

Avalanche, will you sweep me along in your fall?

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

The Thirst for the Void

My soul, you used to love the battle's rumble.
Hope, whose sharp spur once kindled you like flame,
Will mount on you no more. Rest, without shame,
Old charger, since at every step you stumble.

Sleep now the sleep of brutes, proud heart: be humble.

O broken raider, for your outworn mettle,
Love has no joys, no fight is worth disputing.
Farewell to all the trumpeting and fluting!
Pleasure, have done, when brooding shadows settle,

The blooms of spring are vanquished by the nettle.

As snows devour stiff corpses in their welter,
Time wolfs my soul in, minute after minute.
I've seen the world and everything that's in it,
And I no longer seek in it for shelter;

Come, Avalanche! and sweep me helter-skelter.

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


Poor weary soul! To think how thou wouldst plunge and leap
When the bright spur of Hope into thy flank was pressed!
He has unsaddled thee for good. Lie down and rest,
Old spavined horse, old nag not worthy of thy keep.

Thou, too, my heart, lie down and sleep thy bestial sleep.

And thou, my mind, old highwayman, thou who didst fling
Thyself from ambush upon every joy, go thou
And skulk in peace. No pleasure will come near thee now;
No joy can tempt so somber and uncouth a thing.

Gone, gone: even that infallible sweet thrill of spring!

Time blots me out, as flakes on freezing bodies fall;
I see the whole round world, with every animal,
And every flower, and every leaf on every branch,
And there is absolutely nothing I like at all.

Come down and carry me away, O avalanche.

— George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)


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.