CHARLES BAUDELAIRE (FLOWERS OF EVIL) Benediction
Flowers of Evil
“Benediction” is composed of nineteen quatrains written in regular Alexandrine, or twelve-syllable, lines with an alternating abab rhyme scheme. Charles Baudelaire’s choice of this traditional verse form contrasts with his innovative use of imagery that was to inspire a new symbolic form of expression in French poetry.
While the poem uses the third person, the poet it describes clearly represents Baudelaire himself. The autobiographical elements, however, are generalized enough for the poet to represent at the same time the romantic archetype of the poet as an inspired figure misunderstood by society.
When, by an edict of the powers supreme,
The Poet in this bored world comes to be,
His daunted mother, eager to blaspheme,
Rages to God, who looks down piteously:
-‘Rather than have this mockery to nurse
Why not a nest of snakes for me to bear!
And may that night of fleeting lust be cursed,
When I conceived my penance, unaware!
Since from all women you chose me to shame,
To be disgusting to my grieving spouse,
And since I can’t just drop into the flames
Like an old love-note, this misshapen mouse,
l turn your hate that overburdens me
Toward the damned agent of your spiteful doom,
And I will twist this miserable tree
So its infected buds will never bloom!’
She swallows thus her hatred’s foaming spit
And, never grasping the divine design,
She makes herself within Gehenna’s pit
The pyre suited to a mother’s crimes.
Still, with an angel guarding secretly,
The misfit child grows drunk on sunny air;
In all he drinks or eats in ecstasy
He finds sweet nectar and ambrosia there.
Free as a bird, he plays with clouds and wind,
Sings of the Passion with enraptured joy;
Tending his pilgrimage, his Guardian
Must weep to see the gladness of the boy.
Those he would love watch him with jaundiced eye,
Or, growing bold with his tranquillity,
Look for a certain way to make him cry,
Testing on him their own ferocity.
In bread and wine intended for his mouth
They muddle filthy spit with dirt and ash;
Hypocrites, all that he touches they throw out,
And blame their feet for walking in his path.
His woman cries to all the countryside:
‘Since he has found me worthy to adore
I’ll let the heathen idols be my guide
And gild myself, as they have done before;
I’ll sate myself with incense, myrrh, and nard,
With genuflections, meats and wines galore,
To prove I can in that admiring heart
Laughingly claim the homage due the Lord!
I’ll set on him my frail, determined hand
When I am bored with this blasphemous farce;
My fingemails, like harpies’ talons, can
Claw out a bloody pathway to his heart.
I’ll dig the bright red heart out of his breast,
A pitiful and trembling baby bird;
To satisfy the dog I like the best
I’ll toss it to him, with a scornful word!’
Toward Heaven, where he sees a throne of gold,
The Poet lifts his arms in piety,
And brilliant flashes from his lucid soul
Block from his sight the people’s cruelty:
– ‘Be praised, my God, who gives us suffering
As remedy for our impurities,
And as the best and purest nurturing
To fit the strong for holy ecstasies!
I know in Heaven there’s a place for me
Kept for the poet in celestial zones,
And that I’ll feast throughout eternity
With Virtues, Powers, Dominations, Thrones.
Man’s sorrow is a nobleness, I trust,
Untouchable by either earth or he;
I know to weave my mystic crown I must
Tax a the times, the universe as we.
But treasure lost from old Palmyra’s wealth,
The unknown metals, pearls out of the sea,
Can’t equal, though you mounted them yourself,
This diadem of dazzling clarity,
Since it is perfect luminosity,
Drawn from the holy hearth of primal rays,
Of which men’s eyes, for a their majesty,
Are only mournful mirrors, dark and crazed!’
Charles Baudelaire – Flowers of Evil – Benediction
Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.
His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire’s highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term “modernity” (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and art’s responsibility to capture that experience. (wikipedia)
Salon de 1845, 1845
Salon de 1846, 1846
La Fanfarlo, 1847
Les Fleurs du mal, 1857
Les paradis artificiels, 1860
Réflexions sur Quelques-uns de mes Contemporains, 1861
Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne, 1863
Curiosités Esthétiques, 1868
L’art romantique, 1868
Le Spleen de Paris, 1869
Oeuvres Posthumes et Correspondance Générale, 1887–1907
Mon Coeur Mis à Nu, 1897
Oeuvres Complètes, 1922–53 (19 vols.)
Mirror of Art, 1955
The Essence of Laughter, 1956
Curiosités Esthétiques, 1962
The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, 1964
Baudelaire as a Literary Critic, 1964
Arts in Paris 1845–1862, 1965
Selected Writings on Art and Artist, 1972
Selected Letters of Charles Baudelaire, 1986
Twenty Prose Poems, 1988
Critique d’art; Critique musicale, 1992