Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Les Yeux de Berthe

Vous pouvez mépriser les yeux les plus célèbres,
Beaux yeux de mon enfant, par où filtre et s'enfuit
Je ne sais quoi de bon, de doux comme la Nuit!
Beaux yeux, versez sur moi vos charmantes ténèbres!

Grands yeux de mon enfant, arcanes adorés,
Vous ressemblez beaucoup à ces grottes magiques
Où, derrière l'amas des ombres léthargiques,
Scintillent vaguement des trésors ignorés!

Mon enfant a des yeux obscurs, profonds et vastes,
Comme toi, Nuit immense, éclairés comme toi!
Leurs feux sont ces pensers d'Amour, mêlés de Foi,
Qui pétillent au fond, voluptueux ou chastes.

Charles Baudelaire

Bertha's Eyes

You can hold in contempt the most famous eyes,
Beautiful eyes of my child, whence filters and flees
A certain something as kind, as sweet as the Night!
Beautiful eyes pour your charming shadows upon me!

Urge eyes of my child, adored mysteries,
You greatly resemble those magical grottos
In which, behind the heap of lethargic shadows,
Unknown treasures sparkle indistinctly!

My child has eyes, dark, profound and immense
Like you, vast Night, lighted like you!
Their fires are those thoughts of Love mingled with Faith
Which sparkle in their depths, voluptuous or chaste.

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

Bertha's Eyes

The most illustrious gaze you may despise,
Eyes of my child, where filters and takes flight
I know not what of goodness, soft as night.
Pour out on me your lovely shade, dear eyes!

Great eyes of my dear child! arcanes adored!
You seem like magic caves where shadow darkles
And, through the mass of crowded gloom, there sparkles
And scintillates some richly treasured hoard.

My girl has eyes as deep, vast, and serene
As you, O night, immense, and lit like you;
Their fires are thoughts of Love, with faith shot through,
Voluptuous, and chaste, though sparkling keen.

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

Bertha's Eyes

The loveliest eyes you can scorn with your wondrous glow:
O! beautiful childish eyes there abounds in your light,
A something unspeakably tender and good as the night:
O! eyes! over me your enchanting darkness let flow.

Large eyes of my child! O Arcana profoundly adored!
Ye resemble so closely those caves in the magical creek;
Where within the deep slumbering shade of some petrified peak,
There shines, undiscovered, the gems of a dazzling hoard.

My child has got eyes so profound and so dark and so vast,
Like thee! oh unending Night, and thy mystical shine:
Their flames are those thoughts that with Love and with Faith combine,
And sparkle deep down in the depths so alluring or chaste.

— Cyril Scott, Baudelaire: The Flowers of Evil (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909)

The Eyes of My Child

You can despise the most celebrated eyes,
O eyes of my lovely child, through which filter and flee
The goodness and softness of Night immeasurably!
Beautiful eyes, pour on me your charming darkness!

Great eyes of my child, adorable mysteries,
You look so like those magical grottos
Where, from heaps of lethargic shadows,
Dimly sparkle unknown treasures!

My child has dark, deep eyes and wide,
Illuminated like you, like you, enormous night!
Their fires are dreams of Love and Faith
Scintillating in the very heart, voluptuous or chaste.

— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)


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.