Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Le Coucher du Soleil Romantique

Que le soleil est beau quand tout frais il se lève,
Comme une explosion nous lançant son bonjour!
— Bienheureux celui-là qui peut avec amour
Saluer son coucher plus glorieux qu'un rêve!

Je me souviens!... J'ai vu tout, fleur, source, sillon,
Se pâmer sous son oeil comme un coeur qui palpite...
— Courons vers l'horizon, il est tard, courons vite,
Pour attraper au moins un oblique rayon!

Mais je poursuis en vain le Dieu qui se retire;
L'irrésistible Nuit établit son empire,
Noire, humide, funeste et pleine de frissons;

Une odeur de tombeau dans les ténèbres nage,
Et mon pied peureux froisse, au bord du marécage,
Des crapauds imprévus et de froids limaçons.

Charles Baudelaire

The Sunset of Romanticism

How beautiful the Sun is when newly risen
He hurls his morning greetings like an explosion!
— Fortunate the one who can lovingly salute
His setting, more glorious than a dream!

I remember!... I have seen all, flower, stream, furrow,
Swoon under his gaze like a palpitating heart...
— Let us run to the horizon, it's late,
Let us run fast, to catch at least a slanting ray!

But I pursue in vain the sinking god;
Irresistible Night, black, damp, deadly,
Full of shudders, establishes his reign;

The odor of the tomb swims in the shadows
And at the marsh's edge my timid foot
Treads upon slimy snails and unexpected toads.

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

Romantic Sunset

How lovely is the sun, when, freshly soaring,
Like an explosion, first he bids "Good-Day."
Happy the man, on gorgeous sunsets poring,
Who can salute with love its parting ray.

I've seen all things, flower, furrow, pond, and rill,
Swoon in his gaze like a poor heart that dies.
Run to the skyline. It is late. We still
May catch one parting ray before it flies.

But it's in vain I chase my God receding.
Night irresistible, damp, black, unheeding
Establishes her empire, full of fear.

Amongst the shades a grave-like odour trails.
My naked feet walk into chilly snails
And bullfrogs unforeseen along the mere.

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

Sundown of Romanticism

How beautiful the sun when his new-risen beams
Hurl forth his morning greetings as huge guns might shoot,
— Thrice-happy he whose loving heart can still salute
His setting glow which is more beautiful than dreams.
I remember. I have seen all — flower, stream, furrow — sway
Under his gaze like swooning hearts that palpitate.
Let us run to the sky-rim, it is all too late,
Lot us run fast to catch at least one slanting ray!

But I pursue this sinking deity in vain,
Night irresistibly resumes her baleful reign,
Black, humid, full of shudderings as sharp as flails.
The stench of tombs swims over shadows thick as soot,
And at the marsh's edge my apprehensive foot
Treads upon slimy toads and unexpected snails.

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

The Romantic Sunset

How beautiful is the sun when it rises, fresh
Like an explosion sending us its greeting!
— Grateful is the one who can salute with love
Its setting, more glorious than a dream!

I remember!... I have seen all, flower, spring, furrow,
Faint under its watch like a palpitating heart.
— Let us run toward the horizon, it is late, let us run fast,
So we can at least catch an oblique ray!

But in vain I pursued a retreating God
The irresistible night cast its empire,
Dark, humid, morbid and full of shudders;

An odor of a tomb lurks, tenebrous,
And my anguished, frightened, and cold foot,
At a marsh's edge, treads unpredictable toads along the way.

— Said Leghlid (poet and writer)

The Set of the Romantic Sun

How beauteous the sun as it rises supreme,
Like an explosion that greets us from above,
Oh, happy is he that can hail with love,
Its decline, more glorious far, than a dream.

I saw flower, furrow, and brook... I recall
How they swooned like a tremulous heart 'neath the sun,
Let us haste to the sky-line, 'tis late, let us run,
At least to catch one slanting ray ere it fall.

But the god, who eludes me, I chase all in vain,
The night, irresistible, plants its domain,
Black mists and vague shivers of death it forbodes;

While an odour of graves through the darkness spreads,
And on the swamp's margin, my timid foot treads
Upon slimy snails, and on unseen toads.

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


Fair is the sun when first he flames above,
Flinging his joy down in a happy beam;
And happy he who can salute with love
The sunset far more glorious than a dream.

Flower, stream, and furrow! — I have seen them all
In the sun's eye swoon like one trembling heart —
Though it be late let us with speed depart
To catch at least one last ray ere it fall!

But I pursue the fading god in vain,
For conquering Night makes firm her dark domain,
Mist and gloom fall, and terrors glide between,

And graveyard odours in the shadow swim,
And my faint footsteps on the marsh's rim,
Bruise the cold snail and crawling toad unseen.

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


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.