Self Portrait by Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire's
Fleurs du mal / Flowers of Evil

Épigraphe pour un livre condamné

Lecteur paisible et bucolique,
Sobre et naïf homme de bien,
Jette ce livre saturnien,
Orgiaque et mélancolique.

Si tu n'as fait ta rhétorique
Chez Satan, le rusé doyen,
Jette! tu n'y comprendrais rien,
Ou tu me croirais hystérique.

Mais si, sans se laisser charmer,
Ton oeil sait plonger dans les gouffres,
Lis-moi, pour apprendre à m'aimer;

Âme curieuse qui souffres
Et vas cherchant ton paradis,
Plains-moi!... Sinon, je te maudis!

Charles Baudelaire

Epigraph for a Condemned Book

Quiet and bucolic reader,
Upright man, sober and naive,
Throw away this book, saturnine,
Orgiac and melancholy.

If you did not do your rhetoric
With Satan, that artful dean,
Throw it away, you'd grasp nothing,
Or else think me hysterical.

But if, without being entranced,
Your eye can plunge in the abyss,
Read me, to learn to love me;

Inquisitive soul that suffers
And keeps on seeking paradise,
Pity me!... or else, I curse you!

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

Epigraph for a Condemned Book

Dear reader, peaceful and bucolic,
Ingenuous, sober, hierophantic,
Lay by this book so corybantic,
So Saturnine, and melancholic.

If elsewhere than in Satan's school
You learned your syntax and your grammar,
Lay by! You'll think I rave and stammer
And am a stark, hysteric fool.

But if, not yielding to their charm,
Your eye can plumb the gulfs of harm —
Then learn to love me, read my verses.

Inquiring sufferer, who seek
Your Paradise, to you I speak:
Pity me!... else, receive my curses!

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


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.