Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil


Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d'eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l'Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

Charles Baudelaire


Be quiet and more discreet, O my Grief.
You cried out for the Evening; even now it falls:
A gloomy atmosphere envelops the city,
Bringing peace to some, anxiety to others.

While the vulgar herd of mortals, under the scourge
Of Pleasure, that merciless torturer,
Goes to gather remorse in the servile festival,
My Grief, give me your hand; come this way

Far from them. See the dead years in old-fashioned gowns
Lean over the balconies of heaven;
Smiling Regret rise from the depths of the waters;

The dying Sun fall asleep beneath an arch, and
Listen, darling, to the soft footfalls of the Night
That trails off to the East like a long winding-sheet.

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


Be good, my Sorrow: hush now: settle down.
You sighed for dusk, and now it comes: look there!
A denser atmosphere obscures the town,
To some restoring peace, to others care.

While the lewd multitude, like hungry beasts,
By pleasure scourged (no thug so fierce as he!)
Go forth to seek remorse among their feasts —
Come, take my hand; escape from them with me.

From balconies of sky, around us yet,
Lean the dead years in fashions that have ceased.
Out of the depth of waters smiles Regret.

The sun sinks moribund beneath an arch,
And like a long shroud rustling from the East,
Hark, Love, the gentle Night is on the march.

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


Be tranquil, O my Sorrow, and be wise.
The Evening comes, is here, for which you sought:
The Dusk, wrapping the city in disguise,
Care unto some, to others peace has brought.

Now while the sordid multitude with shame
Obeying Pleasure's whip and merciless sway,
Go gathering remorse in servile game,
Give me your hand, my Sorrow, come this way,

Far from them. See the years in ancient dress
Along the balconies of heaven press,
Smiling Regret from deepest waters rise;

Beneath an arch the old Sun goes to bed,
And like a winding-sheet across the skies,
Hear, my Beloved, hear the sweet Night tread.

— Barbara Gibbs, Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1955)


Rest still, lie quiet, be chastened, O my Grief,
Who summoned evening. Lo, it falls! The air
Deepens as dusk receives the town in fief,
Bringing content to some, to others care.
While the base herds of mortals seek relief
Under the lash of hangman Pleasure where
Timeless, Remorse crowns passions that are brief,
Grief, O my grief, your hand; let us repair

Far hence, aloof.
Behold the spent Years press
On Heaven's high balconies in old-world dress;
Regret rise from the waters, smiling bright;
Under an arch, the sun die somnolent,
And shroud-like, trailing to the orient,
Hark, Love, my love, how softly steals the Night.

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


Calm down, my Sorrow, we must move with care.
You called for evening; it descends, it's here.
The town is coffined in its atmosphere,
bringing relief to some, to others care.

Now while the common multitude strips bare,
feels pleasure's cat o' nine tails on its back,
and fights off anguish at the great bazaar,
give me your hand, my Sorrow. Let's stand back;

back from these people! Look, the dead years dressed
in old clothes crowd the balconies of the sky.
Regret emerges smiling from the sea,

the sick sun slumbers underneath an arch,
and like a shroud strung out from east to west,
listen, my Dearest, hear the sweet night march!

— Robert Lowell, from Marthiel & Jackson Matthews, eds., The Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1963)


Be wise, O my Woe, seek thy grievance to drown,
Thou didst call for the night, and behold it is here,
An atmosphere sombre, envelopes the town,
To some bringing peace and to others a care.

Whilst the manifold souls of the vile multitude,
'Neath the lash of enjoyment, that merciless sway,
Go plucking remorse from the menial brood,
From them far, O my grief, hold my hand, come this way.

Behold how they beckon, those years, long expired,
From Heaven, in faded apparel attired,
How Regret, smiling, foams on the waters like yeast;

Its arches of slumber the dying sun spreads,
And like a long winding-sheet dragged to the East,
Oh, hearken Beloved, how the Night softly treads!

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


lie still, my Dolour; let thy tossing cease.
didst call for Night: 'tis falling now: for see!
bearing to some her care, to some her peace,
the evening robes the town with mystery.

while all the herd in vulgar revelries,
'neath Pleasure's lash, that falls implacably,
now runs to cull remorse from vanities,
my Dolour, give thy hand and come with me

to ways apart. lo, all our years gone by,
in robes outworn, bend from the balconied sky:
from waters deep arise our Joys deceased:

the sun is dying now beneath an arch:
and, like a long shroud trailing from the east,
— hark, dear! — Night softly starts her shadowy march.

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


Thou, O my Grief, be wise and tranquil still,
The eve is thine which even now drops down,
To carry peace or care to human will,
And in a misty veil enfolds the town.

While the vile mortals of the multitude,
By pleasure, cruel tormentor, goaded on,
Gather remorseful blossoms in light mood —
Grief, place thy hand in mine, let us be gone

Far from them. Lo, see how the vanished years,
In robes outworn lean over heaven's rim;
And from the water, smiling through her tears,

Remorse arises, and the sun grows dim;
And in the east, her long shroud trailing light,
List, O my grief, the gentle steps of Night.

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


Be wise, O my Sorrow, be calmer.
You implored the evening; it falls; here it is:
A dusky air surrounds the town,
Bringing peace to some, worry to others.

Whilst the worthless crowd of humanity,
Lashed by Pleasure, that merciless torturer,
Go to gather remorse in slavish rejoicing,
Give me your hand, my Sorrow; come with me,

Far from them. See the dead years leaning,
In worn-out clothing, on the balconies of the skies;
See how Regret, grinning, rises from the deep waters;

The dying sun goes to sleep in an archway,
And, like a long shroud dragging from the East,
Hear, O my dear one, hear the soft night coming.

— 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.