Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Rebelle

Un Ange furieux fond du ciel comme un aigle,
Du mécréant saisit à plein poing les cheveux,
Et dit, le secouant: «Tu connaîtras la règle!
(Car je suis ton bon Ange, entends-tu?) Je le veux!

Sache qu'il faut aimer, sans faire la grimace,
Le pauvre, le méchant, le tortu, l'hébété,
Pour que tu puisses faire à Jesus, quand il passe,
Un tapis triomphal avec ta charité.

Tel est l'Amour! Avant que ton coeur ne se blase,
À la gloire de Dieu rallume ton extase;
C'est la Volupté vraie aux durables appas!»

Et l'Ange, châtiant autant, ma foi! qu'il aime,
De ses poings de géant torture 1'anathème;
Mais le damné répond toujours: «Je ne veux pas!»

Charles Baudelaire

The Rebel

A furious Angel swoops down like an eagle,
Grabs a fistful of the infidel's hair,
And shaking him says: "You shall know the rule!
(For I am your good angel, do you hear?) You shall!

Know that you must love without making a wry face
The pauper, the scoundrel, the hunchback, the dullard,
So that you can make for Jesus when he passes
A triumphal carpet of your love.

Such is love! Before your heart becomes indifferent,
Relight your ecstasy before the glory of God;
That is the true Voluptuousness with the lasting charms!"

The Angel who gives punishment equal to his love
Beats the anathema with his giant fists;
But the damned one still answers: I shall not!"

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

The Rebel

An angel from the sky swoops like an eagle,
Seizes the culprit's hair in his strong fist,
And shakes him, saying "You must know what's legal
For I am your Good Angel. I insist.

Know you must cherish, without wry grimaces,
The poor, deformed, blockheaded, sick, and vile:
And thus unroll for Christ's triumphal paces
The carpet of your charity in style.

For such is Love! Before your heart grows dim,
Light up your heart from God and burn for him.
That is the true delight that lasts for ever."

The Angel, by his love filled with more ardour,
With giant fists belabours him the harder.
The damned soul always answers, "I will never."

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

The Rebel

Falling abruptly like a bird of prey from the sky,
A furious angel seizes the sinner by his hair
And says, "I will teach you to behave, do you hear me? I
Am your good spirit!" And shakes him angrily in the air.

"I will teach you to be kind — to love, without making a face,
The poor, the deformed, the depraved, the uncivil, the dirty, the dumb
That you may help with your charity to prepare a place
Here upon earth for Jesus when he is ready to come.

"Such is true love — the only virtue that exists,
The only happiness that endures. Take heed, before
Your heart is completely petrified and your senses rot."

And pounding upon his victim with his colossal fists
In love and in fury, the angel cannot cease to implore —
Nor the accursèd one to answer: "I will not!"

— George Dillon, 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.