Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

La Lune offensée

Ô Lune qu'adoraient discrétement nos pères,
Du haut des pays bleus où, radieux sérail,
Les astres vont te suivre en pimpant attirail,
Ma vieille Cynthia, lampe de nos repaires,

Vois-tu les amoureux sur leurs grabats prospères,
De leur bouche en dormant montrer le frais émail?
Le poète buter du front sur son travail?
Ou sous les gazons secs s'accoupler les vipères?

Sous ton domino jaune, et d'un pied clandestin,
Vas-tu, comme jadis, du soir jusqu'au matin,
Baiser d'Endymion les grâces surannées?

— «Je vois ta mère, enfant de ce siècle appauvri,
Qui vers son miroir penche un lourd amas d'années,
Et plâtre artistement le sein qui t'a nourri!»

Charles Baudelaire

The Offended Moon

O Moon whom our ancestors discreetly adored,
Radiant seraglio! from the blue countries' height
To which the stars follow you in dashing attire,
My ancient Cynthia, lamp of our haunts,

Do you see the lovers on their prosperous pallets,
Showing as they sleep, the cool enamel of their mouths?
The poet beating his forehead over his work?
Or the vipers coupling under the withered grass?

Under your yellow domino, with quiet step,
Do you go as in days of old from morn till night
To kiss the faded charms of Endymion?

— "I see your mother, child of this impoverished age,
Bending toward her mirror a heavy weight of years,
Skillfully disguising the breast that nourished you!"

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

The Moon Offended

O moon, to whom our fathers used to pray,
From your blue home, where, odalisques of light,
'The stars will follow you in spruce array,
Old Cynthia, lantern of our dens by night,

Do you see sleeping lovers on their couches
Reveal the cool enamel of their teeth:
The poet at his labours, how he crouches:
And vipers — how they couple on the heath?

In yellow domino, with stealthy paces,
Do you yet steal with clandestine embraces
To clasp Endymion's pale, millenial charm?

— "I see your mother, by her mirror, buckled
By weight of years, poor child of death and harm!
Patching with art the breast at which you suckled!"

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

The Injured Moon

Oh Moon, discreetly worshipped by our sires,
still riding through your high blue countries, still
trailed by the shining harem of your stars,
old Cynthia, the lamp of our retreats...

the lovers sleep open-mouthed! When they breathe,
they show the white enamel of their teeth.
The writer breaks his teeth on his work-sheets,
the vipers couple under the hot hill.

Dressed in your yellow hood, do you pursue
your boy from night to dawn, till the sun climbs
skyward, where dim Endymion disappears?

"I see your mother, Child of these poor times,
crushed to her mirror by the heavy years.
She cunningly powders the breast that nourished you."

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

The Outraged Moon

O Moon, adored of old, discreetly, by our sires!
From that blue land above, where, in a glittering train,
Sandaled with gold, revealed through veils of gossamer rain,
The stars attend your steps and wait on your desires,

Do you, by chance, my ancient Cynthia, behold
The parted lips of lovers drowsy with delight?
Or, coupling under the dry grass, the writhing cold
Snakes? Or some poet working far into the night?

Or, shall we say, 'tis your old flame Endymion
Whose superannuated charms you gaze upon?
Fancy your keeping up that faded rendezvous!

— "Insolent child of this degenerate century,
Your wrinkled, simpering mother, — that is what I see.
Enameling with art the breast that suckled you!"

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

The Offended Moon

O Moon, O lamp of hill and secret dale!
Thou whom our fathers, ages out of mind.
Worshipped in thy blue heaven, whilst behind
Thy stars streamed after thee a glittering trail,

Dost see the poet, weary-eyed and pale.
Or lovers on their happy beds reclined,
Showing white teeth in sleep, or vipers twined,
'Neath the dry sward; or in a golden veil

Stealest thou with faint footfall o'er the grass
As of old, to kiss from twilight unto dawn
The faded charms of thine Endymion?...

"O child of this sick century, I see
Thy grey-haired mother leering in her glass
And plastering the breast that suckled thee!"

— Jack Collings Squire, Poems and Baudelaire Flowers (London: The New Age Press, Ltd, 1909)


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.