Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Prière d'un païen

Ah! ne ralentis pas tes flammes;
Réchauffe mon coeur engourdi,
Volupté, torture des âmes!
Diva! Supplicem exaudî!

Déesse dans l'air répandue,
Flamme dans notre souterrain!
Exauce une âme morfondue,
Qui te consacre un chant d'airain.

Volupté, sois toujours ma reine!
Prends le masque d'une sirène
Faite de chair et de velours,

Ou verse-moi tes sommeils lourds
Dans le vin informe et mystique,
Volupté, fantôme élastique!

Charles Baudelaire

A Pagan's Prayer

Ah! do not dampen your ardor;
Warm my numb heart again,
Pleasure, torture of souls!
Goddess! hear me, I beseech you!

Goddess who permeates the air,
Flame in our underground cavern!
Grant the prayer of a soul bored utterly,
Who offers you a brazen hymn.

Pleasure, be my queen forever!
Put on a siren's mask
Fashioned of flesh and of velvet

Or pour on me your heavy sleep,
In wine, formless and mystical,
O Pleasure, elastic phantom!

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

Pagan Prayer

Don't stint the fires with which you flare.
Warm up my dull heart to delight,
O Pleasure, torture of the sprite,
O Goddess, hear my fervent prayer!

Goddess, who through the ether pass,
Flame in this subterranean hole!
Raise up a chilled and stricken soul
Who lifts to you his peal of brass.

O Pleasure, always be my queen!
In flesh and velvet to be seen,
Mask your beauty like a siren:

Or else my soul with sleep environ
Drained from the formless mystic wine,
Elastic phantom! which is thine.

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

Pagan's Prayer

Ah! keep your ardors ever near me,
Warm my numb heart, preserve it whole,
O Pleasure, torture of the soul!
Goddess, I do beseech thee: Hear me!
Goddess who permeates the dim
Caverns of our obscurity,
Hark to a heart gnawed by ennui
Which offers thee this a brazen hymn.

Joy, be my queen always, I ask,
Pleasure, put on a siren's mask
Fashioned of velvet and of flesh,
Or pour your sleep, heavy and fresh,
In wine, your mystic formless treasure,
Elastic phantom, holy Pleasure!

— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)

The Pagan's Prayer

Ah, damp not yet the living coals!
Heat once again my heart in thee!
Voluptuousness, thou scourge of souls,
Goddess, incline thine ear to me!

Spirit abroad in the bright air,
Flame in our dark and secret ways,
Freezing I bring thee — grant my prayer! —
A song of brass to bruit thy praise!

Siren, be still my sovereign; keep
Thy kingdom; wear thy mask, whose mesh
Is half of velvet, half of flesh!

Or pour me out thy heavy sleep,
In mystic and amorphous wine:
Phantom elastic and divine.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, 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.