Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Madrigal triste

I

Que m'importe que tu sois sage?
Sois belle! Et sois triste! Les pleurs
Ajoutent un charme au visage,
Comme le fleuve au paysage;
L'orage rajeunit les fleurs.

Je t'aime surtout quand la joie
S'enfuit de ton front terrassé;
Quand ton coeur dans l'horreur se noie;
Quand sur ton présent se déploie
Le nuage affreux du passé.

Je t'aime quand ton grand oeil verse
Une eau chaude comme le sang;
Quand, malgré ma main qui te berce,
Ton angoisse, trop lourde, perce
Comme un râle d'agonisant.

J'aspire, volupté divine!
Hymne profond, délicieux!
Tous les sanglots de ta poitrine,
Et crois que ton coeur s'illumine
Des perles que versent tes yeux.

II

Je sais que ton coeur, qui regorge
De vieux amours déracinés,
Flamboie encor comme une forge,
Et que tu couves sous ta gorge
Un peu de l'orgueil des damnés;

Mais tant, ma chère, que tes rêves
N'auront pas reflété l'Enfer,
Et qu'en un cauchemar sans trêves,
Songeant de poisons et de glaives,
Éprise de poudre et de fer,

N'ouvrant à chacun qu'avec crainte,
Déchiffrant le malheur partout,
Te convulsant quand l'heure tinte,
Tu n'auras pas senti l'étreinte
De l'irrésistible Dégoût,

Tu ne pourras, esclave reine
Qui ne m'aimes qu'avec effroi,
Dans l'horreur de la nuit malsaine
Me dire, l'âme de cris pleine:
«Je suis ton égale, ô mon Roi!»

Charles Baudelaire


Gloomy Madrigal

I

What's it to me that you are sage?
Be beautiful! and be sad! Tears
Add a charm to the countenance
As a stream does to a landscape;
Storms make the flowers fresh again.

I love you most of all when joy
Flees from your oppressed brow,
When your heart is drowned in horror,
When the frightful cloud of the Past
Is spread out over your Present.

I love you when your large eyes shed
Tears as hot as blood, when
In spite of my hand which lulls you
Your unbearable pain comes through
Like a dying man's death-rattle.

I breathe in, heavenly pleasure!
Profound, delightful hymn!
Every sob from your breast
And I believe your heart lights up
With the pearls that your eyes pour out!

II

I know, your heart, overflowing
With old, uprooted loves,
Still blazes like a forge
And that there smolders in your breast
Something of the pride of the damned;

But my sweet, so long as your dreams
Have not reflected Hell,
While in a nightmare without respite,
Dreaming of poisons and daggers,
Enamored with powder and steel,

Answering the door fearfully,
Seeing misfortune everywhere,
Convulsing when the hour strikes,
You have not felt yourself embraced
By irresistible Disgust;

You cannot, slave and queen
Who love me only with terror,
In the unhealthy night's horror
Say to me, your soul full of cries,
"I am your equal, O my King!"

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


Sad Madrigal

I

That you are good what does it matter?
Be sad: be beautiful! The rain
Rejuvenates the flowering plain.
As streams do landscapes, teardrops flatter
Your face. Your looks, by weeping, gain.

When joy from your dejected forehead
Has fled, your heart is in the power
Of torment, and, to make you cower,
The huge cloud of your past, with horrid
Black shadow, overlooms the hour,

I love you most: and when your eye
Pours water hot as blood in battle,
And when, despite the fact that I
Am nursing you, you give a cry
Like death, an agonising rattle.

Delicious hymn, profound delight,
Pleasure divine! I breathe with zest
The sobs arising from your breast.
I think your heart must blaze the light
Of pearls that from your eyes are pressed.

II

I know your heart once more disgorges
Its old uprooted love-affairs:
And flaming with the heat of forges
You feel the pride of vanished orgies,
Which makes the damned put on such airs.

But now ere yet your evil dreams
Reflect the red flames of the Pit,
While in an endless nightmare scheming
Of poison-draughts and daggers gleaming,
Cold steel and powder tempt your wit:

While yet in fear the door you answer
And see all things with vague mistrust:
Free from his grasp, O dear entrancer,
And not yet partnered for a dancer
With irresistible Disgust,

You'll never claim, both queen and slave,
Who only love me with affright
In the sick silence of the night,
And while your feelings inly rave —
To match with me in power or might.

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


Madrigal triste

I

what care I, love, that thou be wise?
be fair! be sad! for tears contain
an added charm in lovely eyes,
like vales a river glorifies;
the rose is fresher in the rain.

I love thee best when joy has fled
thy cowering brow and eyes aghast;
when all thy heart is drowned in dread;
when life for thee is overspread
by dreadful storm-clouds from the past.

I love thee when thy heart's distress
pours blood-warm from thy streaming eye;
when, notwithstanding my caress,
thine anguish in its heaviness
bursts from thee like a dying cry.

celestial rapture 'tis to breathe
— like some profound melodious hymn —
the sobs that in thy bosom seethe,
for me thy heart grows bright beneath
the pearls upon those eyes abrim!

II

I know what long infernal hours
thy heart, with loves uprooted crammed,
flames like a forge in leaping flowers;
I know that in thy bosom glowers
some of the pride of all the Damned;

and yet, my dear, till fate contrives
that all thy dreams resemble hell,
and, in an endless nightmare's gyves,
musing of poisons and of knives,
craving for steel and bursting shell,

fearful when opening to a knock,
full of a boundless vast distrust
and quivering at the striking clock,
thou liest crushed beneath the rock
of irresistible Disgust,

thou canst not, o my queen and slave
who lovest me with shuddering,
here in the Night's unwholesome grave,
cry from thy heart, that shrieking cave:
"I am thine equal, o king!"

— Lewis Piaget Shanks, Flowers of Evil (New York: Ives Washburn, 1931)


A Madrigal of Sorrow

What do I care though you be wise?
Be sad, be beautiful; your tears
But add one more charm to your eyes,
As streams to valleys where they rise;
And fairer every flower appears

After the storm. I love you most
When joy has fled your brow downcast;
When your heart is in horror lost,
And o'er your present like a ghost
Floats the dark shadow of the past.

I love you when the teardrop flows,
Hotter than blood, from your large eye;
When I would hush you to repose
Your heavy pain breaks forth and grows
Into a loud and tortured cry.

And then, voluptuousness divine!
Delicious ritual and profound!
I drink in every sob like wine,
And dream that in your deep heart shine
The pearls wherein your eyes were drowned.

I know your heart, which overflows
With outworn loves long cast aside,
Still like a furnace flames and glows,
And you within your breast enclose
A damn├Ęd soul's unbending pride;

But till your dreams without release
Reflect the leaping flames of hell;
Till in a nightmare without cease
You dream of poison to bring peace,
And love cold steel and powder well;

And tremble at each opened door,
And feel for every man distrust,
And shudder at the striking hour —
Till then you have not felt the power
Of Irresistible Disgust.

My queen, my slave, whose love is fear,
When you awaken shuddering,
Until that awful hour be here,
You cannot say at midnight drear:
"I am your equal, O my King!"

— F.P. Sturm, from Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, edited by Thomas Robert Smith (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)


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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.