Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Les Aveugles

Contemple-les, mon âme; ils sont vraiment affreux!
Pareils aux mannequins; vaguement ridicules;
Terribles, singuliers comme les somnambules;
Dardant on ne sait où leurs globes ténébreux.

Leurs yeux, d'où la divine étincelle est partie,
Comme s'ils regardaient au loin, restent levés
Au ciel; on ne les voit jamais vers les pavés
Pencher rêveusement leur tête appesantie.

Ils traversent ainsi le noir illimité,
Ce frère du silence éternel. Ô cité!
Pendant qu'autour de nous tu chantes, ris et beugles,

Eprise du plaisir jusqu'à l'atrocité,
Vois! je me traîne aussi! mais, plus qu'eux hébété,
Je dis: Que cherchent-ils au Ciel, tous ces aveugles?

Charles Baudelaire

The Blind

Contemplate them, my soul; they are truly frightful!
Like mannequins; vaguely ridiculous;
Strange and terrible, like somnambulists;
Darting, one never knows where, their tenebrous orbs.

Their eyes, from which the divine spark has departed,
Remain raised to the sky, as if they were looking
Into space: one never sees them toward the pavement
Dreamily bend their heavy heads.

Thus they go across the boundless darkness,
That brother of eternal silence. O city!
While about us you sing, laugh, and bellow,

In love with pleasure to the point of cruelty,
See! I drag along also! but, more dazed than they,
I say: "What do they seek in Heaven, all those blind?"

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

The Blind

My soul, survey them, dreadful as they seem.
Like marionettes, ridiculous they stare.
Strange as somnambulists that, in their dream,
Dart shadowy orbs around we know not where.

Their eyes, from which the heavenly spark has flown
Remain uplifted, as in distant quest,
Skyward: but never on the paving stone
Do they pore dreamingly or come to rest.

They traverse thus the illimitable Dark,
Twin of eternal Silence. While the City
May sing around us, bellow, laugh, or bark, —

By pleasure blinded even to horror, I,
Too, drag my way, but, more a thing of pity,
Ask what the Blind are seeking there on high.

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

The Blind

Look at them, Soul! They are horrible. Lo! there,
Like shrunk dwarfs, vaguely ludicrous; yet they keep
An aspect strange as those who walk in sleep.
Rolling their darkened orbs one knows not where.

Their eyes, from which the godlike spark has flown,
Stare upward at the sky as though to see
Some far thing; never hang they dreamily
Those eyes toward the barren pavement-stone.

Thus cross they the illimitable dark,
That brother of eternal silence. Mark!
O frenzied city, as thou roarest by.

Drunk with thy song and laughter, I too stray
With crawling feet! but ask, more dull than they,
"What seek they, all these blind men, in the sky?"

— 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.