Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

À Théodore de Banville

Vous avez empoigné les cries de la Déesse
Avec un tel poignet, qu'on vous eût pris, à voir
Et cet air de maîtrise et ce beau nonchaloir,
Pour un jeune ruffian terrassant sa maîtresse.

L'oeil clair et plein du feu de la précocité,
Vous avez prélassé votre orgueil d'architecte
Dans des constructions dont l'audace correcte
Fait voir quelle sera votre maturité.

Poète, notre sang nous fuit par chaque pore;
Est-ce que par hasard la robe du Centaure
Qui changeait toute veine en funèbre ruisseau

Était teinte trois fois dans les baves subtiles
De ces vindicatifs et monstrueux reptiles
Que le petit Hercule étranglait au berceau?

Charles Baudelaire

To Théodore de Banville

So roughly did you seize the Goddess by her hair
That, seeing your imperious, nonchalant look,
One would have taken you to be
A young ruffian manhandling his mistress.

Your bright eye filled with the fire of precocity,
You indulged the pride of an architect
In your phrasing, correct in spite of its daring;
You showed what you will be in your maturity.

Poet, our blood escapes from every pore;
Was it merely by chance the robe of the Centaur
Which transformed every vein into a fatal stream

Was dyed three times in the subtle froth
Of those reptiles, monstrous and vindictive
That little Hercules strangled in his cradle?

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

To Théodore de Banville, 1842

Your hands have seized the goddess by the hair
In such a grasp, so finally and fully,
One thinks of some Herculean young Bully
Flooring his mistress with a lordly air.

With clear eyes radiant with precocious fire,
You've shown such pride in architecture fine
And such a pure audacity of line —
One knows to what your manhood will aspire.

Poet! Our blood, through every pore outpressed,
Escapes from us as if the Centaur's vest
Made a funereal rill of every vein;

One thinks that vest was dyed in vengeful spittle
Of the two snakes that Hercules, when little,
Throttled in his two fists till they were slain.

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

To Théodore de Banville, 1842

So proud your port, your arm so powerful.
With such a grip you grip the goddess' hair,
That one might take you, from your casual air.
For a young ruffian flinging down his trull.

Your clear eye flashing with precocity,
You have displayed yourself proud architect
Of fabrics so audaciously correct
That we may guess what your ripe prime will be.

Poet, our blood ebbs out through every pore;
Is it, perchance, the robe the Centaur bore,
Which made a sullen streamlet of each vein,

Was three times dipped within the venom fell
Of those old reptiles fierce and terrible
Whom, in his cradle, Hercules had slain?

— 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.