Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Rêve d'un Curieux

À Félix Nadar

Connais-tu, comme moi, la douleur savoureuse
Et de toi fais-tu dire: «Oh! l'homme singulier!»
— J'allais mourir. C'était dans mon âme amoureuse
Désir mêlé d'horreur, un mal particulier;

Angoisse et vif espoir, sans humeur factieuse.
Plus allait se vidant le fatal sablier,
Plus ma torture était âpre et délicieuse;
Tout mon coeur s'arrachait au monde familier.

J'étais comme l'enfant avide du spectacle,
Haïssant le rideau comme on hait un obstacle...
Enfin la vérité froide se révéla:

J'étais mort sans surprise, et la terrible aurore
M'enveloppait. — Eh quoi! n'est-ce donc que cela?
La toile était levée et j'attendais encore.

Charles Baudelaire

The Dream of a Curious Man

To F.N.

Do you know as I do, delectable suffering?
And do you have them say of you: "O! the strange man!"
— I was going to die. In my soul, full of love,
A peculiar illness; desire mixed with horror,

Anguish and bright hopes; without internal strife.
The more the fatal hour-glass continued to flow,
The fiercer and more delightful grew my torture;
My heart was being torn from this familiar world.

I was like a child eager for the play,
Hating the curtain as one hates an obstacle...
Finally the cold truth revealed itself:

I had died and was not surprised; the awful dawn
Enveloped me. — What! is that all there is to it?
The curtain had risen and I was still waiting.

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

Dream of a Curious Person

To F.N.

Have you known such a savoury grief as I?
Do people say "Strange fellow!," whom you meet?
— My amorous soul, when I was due to die,
Felt longing mixed with horror; pain seemed sweet.

Anguish and ardent hope (no factious whim)
Were mixed: and as the sands of life ran low
My torture grew delicious yet more grim,
And of this dear old world would not let go.

I seemed a child, so keen to see the Show
He feels a deadly hatred of the Curtain...
And then I saw the hard, cold truth for certain.

I felt that dreadful dawn around me grow
With no surprise or vestige of a thrill.
The curtain rose — and I stayed waiting still.

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


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.