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Les Fleurs du Mal (Les grands classiques Culture commune)

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Presents the first American translation of the complete text of Baudelaire's 1857 masterwork and includes the complete original French texts for easy comparison.

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Presents the first American translation of the complete text of Baudelaire's 1857 masterwork and includes the complete original French texts for easy comparison.

30 review for Les Fleurs du Mal (Les grands classiques Culture commune)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    After reading Baudelaire, I suddenly find myself wanting to smoke cigarettes and say very cynical things while donning a trendy haircut. Plus, if I didn't read Baudelaire, how could I possibly carry on conversations with pretentious art students? In all seriousness, though, I wish my French was better, so that I could read it in its intended language. I'm sure it looses something in the translation... but it's still great stuff nonetheless. And with a title like "Flowers of Evil," how can you go After reading Baudelaire, I suddenly find myself wanting to smoke cigarettes and say very cynical things while donning a trendy haircut. Plus, if I didn't read Baudelaire, how could I possibly carry on conversations with pretentious art students? In all seriousness, though, I wish my French was better, so that I could read it in its intended language. I'm sure it looses something in the translation... but it's still great stuff nonetheless. And with a title like "Flowers of Evil," how can you go wrong?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    I read Les Fleurs du Mal many years back, but it is still within me. Just a few words about this beautiful, sometimes nightmarish, masterpiece. What do you expect to feel when reading Charles Baudelaire? Nothing, I expect, falsely innocent, but superior free-flowing dream sequences of surrealism. I loved to read of prophetic dreams with occasional moments of grace, where the fallen world seems to transform itself into an eternally beautiful moment. As always with poetry we have our preferences, I read Les Fleurs du Mal many years back, but it is still within me. Just a few words about this beautiful, sometimes nightmarish, masterpiece. What do you expect to feel when reading Charles Baudelaire? Nothing, I expect, falsely innocent, but superior free-flowing dream sequences of surrealism. I loved to read of prophetic dreams with occasional moments of grace, where the fallen world seems to transform itself into an eternally beautiful moment. As always with poetry we have our preferences, those that touches us deeper. I am no poet, so I have to satisfy myself to tell you that in its better moments for me it is simply splendid. Just a taste: Elevation Above the ponds, the rills and the dells, The mountains and woods, the clouds and the seas, Beyond the sun and the galaxies, Beyond the confines of the starry shells, O my mind, you proceed with agility, And as a good swimmer finds joy in the tide, You gaily traverse the heavens vast and wide With an indescribable and male felicity. Fly away beyond earth’s morbid miasmas; Purge yourself in the upper atmosphere, And drink up, divine liqueur so clear, The pure fire suffusing the vast cosmos. Behind the worry and vast chagrin That weigh on our days as gloomy as night, Happy is he who in vigorous flight Can depart for the fields bright and serene; He whose thoughts, like uncaged birds, Soar skyward each morning in liberty, —Who floats above life, and grasps effortlessly The language of flowers and things without words! Elévation Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées, Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers, Par delà le soleil, par delà les éthers, Par delà les confins des sphères étoilées, Mon esprit, tu te meus avec agilité, Et, comme un bon nageur qui se pâme dans l’onde, Tu sillonnes gaiement l’immensité profonde Avec une indicible et mâle volupté.   Envole-toi bien loin de ces miasmes morbides; Va te purifier dans l’air supérieur, Et bois, comme une pure et divine liqueur, Le feu clair qui remplit les espaces limpides. Derrière les ennuis et les vastes chagrins Qui chargent de leur poids l’existence brumeuse, Heureux celui qui peut d’une aile vigoureuse S’élancer vers les champs lumineux et sereins; Celui dont les pensers, comme des alouettes, Vers les cieux le matin prennent un libre essor, —Qui plane sur la vie, et comprend sans effort Le langage des fleurs et des choses muettes!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Here's a recent essay on Baudelaire from the trusty, always-interesting online mag The Millions: http://www.themillions.com/2013/04/th... So as to try to follow that, I've got to disclose a bit of an embarrassment. Baudelaire was, for me, the kind of poet only certain kinds of people liked. By this I don't mean Francophiles or the merely pretentious but there was something that set a devotee of C.B. apart from your average earnest, quavering, verbose, nervous poet or poetry fanboy. It's hard to Here's a recent essay on Baudelaire from the trusty, always-interesting online mag The Millions: http://www.themillions.com/2013/04/th... So as to try to follow that, I've got to disclose a bit of an embarrassment. Baudelaire was, for me, the kind of poet only certain kinds of people liked. By this I don't mean Francophiles or the merely pretentious but there was something that set a devotee of C.B. apart from your average earnest, quavering, verbose, nervous poet or poetry fanboy. It's hard to put it into words- maybe you know it when you see it- but there was something sort of...elegant...and...removed...and...cynical about somebody who felt like carting around this haunted menagerie everywhere they went, the way you just do with your favorite poets... I'm no stranger to French poetry or literary bleakness, believe you me, but there was always something slightly creepy about Baudelaire, I could never put my finger on why I recoiled from it and what this meant. There's the languid, morbid Romanticism, fond of grand statements and magnificent imagery; the surgically precise mastery of rhyme and meter (I don't speak more than toddler's French but you can pretty much get a good sense of this stuff with the original text facing the English translations); the utterly bleak yet exotic, nigh- perfumed insights, metaphoric associations and twists of phrase; the poet's own (and those of his poetic subjects) addictions and rhapsodies; the deep, indescribable longings muddled with spleen; the detestation of smug comfort and propriety with the love of the 'perverse', the 'occult' and the melodious rumination mixed with ominous, pervading ennui... Well, call me a hardheaded New England Pragmatist, but there was something sort of suspiciously sickly about this guy. I mean, here I am, 11:22pm, feasting on my pauper's pleasures of potato salad, a rather stale corn muffin and a can of Sprite. I'm very ok with this. Not necessarily dying to be anywhere else or doing much else. I'm content, in my clean, well-lighted place down the street from the apt. I mean, haunted wonderlands are all well and good but in the words of Peter Griffin, SOMEBODY THROW A FREAKING PIE! My oldest friend, a fine poet and a dedicated teacher and a loving husband and father, just loved this stuff when we were growing up. Still does, in fact. It inspired him. I never quite got it- I mean, there's plenty to take from the poems AS poems but really, where does one relate? I wasn't outraged by Baudelaire, I was given the willies. I was just pretty definitively turned-off by an elaborately detailed, mockingly erotic poem about finding a maggot-teeming corpse, spreadeagled, in the middle of a spring stroll with your lover...I get it, I get it, but I'm gonna start slowly backing away now, ok?... I didn't get it, and I didn't even really want to. Now that's totally changed. I don't quite know why. I think it's got something to do with reading Walter Benjamin's interesting take on Baudelaire's style and literary achievement on a bus on the way to visit said friend. Nothing I like better than a fine and appreciative literary assessment. And I really love it when someone's insights turn my own around... So that planted the seed, as did time and experience. I'm not the same person I was when I first encountered poetry, not to mention life itself, and my tastes haven't changed in the sense of the old favorites, the lodestars, but they've definitely widened and evolved and been enriched and (I think) deepened. I think I'm aware of ironies more than I ever was, and unfulfillment, loss, dead air and lights that turn off. I've been dealing with a long string of anguish, disappointment, despair, confusion and frustration. Time has worn away some of the gilding from the world, and this is what some like to call 'experience'. Ok, well, sure, but so what? Well, Baudelaire's one of the so-whats. I never understood what his kind of visionary poetics really meant, what it did and where it brought the craft of poetry and the interested, open-minded reader. I think in some ways this is the kind of poetry that you need to grow into. Rimbaud works just fine when you're pissed off and rebellious and Promethean and you're 16, but he was a genius and his work survives real scrutiny and lasts after the humidity of adolescence cools off... Baudelaire (a poet Rimbaud admired, btw, no mean feat in and of itself) requires a little more out of you to really start to absorb, I've found. Everybody knows by now that he was into hashish and absinthe and that he had plenty of torrid affairs and that he blew through most of his inheritance on the finest linens and dandied it up something fierce... He also had quite the lover/mistress/muse/femme fatale, as The Daily Beast makes clear: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles... What I think I missed out on initially was the old soul that shifts and speaks within these tortured, skeptical, vivid, tastefully arranged and somehow gruesomely challenging poems. Baudelaire isn't interested in pissing off the stuffy, conventional reading public because he's a spoiled, creepy, brat it's because he has a vision of life (his own, his city's, etc) that just couldn't come across in any other guise. I'm making an ass of myself now, as per usual, so I'm going to stop bumbling down the explication road and just quote this poem in full. I'm not an expert or anything, but I definitely think that this poem is essential: Reversibility Angel of gladness, do you know of anguish, Shame, of troubles, sobs, and of remorse, And the vague terrors of those awful nights That squeeze the heart like paper in a ball? Angel of gladness, do you know of pain? Angel of kindness, do you know of hatred, Clenched fists in the shadow, tears of gall, When Vengeance beats his hellish call to arms, And makes himself the captain of our will? Angel of kindness, do you know revenge? Angel of health, are you aware of Fevers Who by pallid hospitals' great walls Stagger like exiles, with the lagging foot, Searching for sunlight, mumbling with their lips? Angel of health, do you know of disease? Angel of beauty, do you know of wrinkles, Fear of growing old, the great torment To read the horror of self-sacrifice In eyes our avid eyes had drunk for years? Angel of beauty, do you know these lines? Angel of fortune, happiness and light, David in dying might have claimed the health That radiates from your enchanted flesh; But, angel, I implore only your prayers, Angel of fortune, happiness and light! I was reading this at work, looking out through the big windows and watching cold night full of pissing rain trembling in the puddles on the corner of the opposite side of the street, sky all black, stained yellow streetlights, city spaces, melancholic, churning... I think I get it now. Sometimes you have to pick the flowers yourself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Superlative. Thrilling. Sensual. Naughty. Macabre. Joyous. Liberating. Essential. Poetry for the reluctant poetry reader, i.e. me. (A little distracted here listening to Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love which I finally acquired. Hence the choppiness). Great translation. Don’t care about reading in the original or what is lost in translation. Each translation adds to or improves the previous and this one reads pretty swell to me. Where do I go from here? Verlaine? Rimbaud? Mallarmé? Pam A Superlative. Thrilling. Sensual. Naughty. Macabre. Joyous. Liberating. Essential. Poetry for the reluctant poetry reader, i.e. me. (A little distracted here listening to Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love which I finally acquired. Hence the choppiness). Great translation. Don’t care about reading in the original or what is lost in translation. Each translation adds to or improves the previous and this one reads pretty swell to me. Where do I go from here? Verlaine? Rimbaud? Mallarmé? Pam Ayres? (No one’s on GR at the weekends anyway, I don’t have to bust too many vessels being erudite). Read this shit now.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    The Poet is an exile on earth. The only ones to let him wrap around and be a giant. The work of Charles Baudelaire represents the end of one epoch and the beginning of another that lasts even today: the Decadentism. Baudelaire's poems are a journey through inwardness and a call to a spiritualistic breath that is drawn beyond Religion and any atheistic and positivist conception. Nature pulsates with spirituality, the consecrated fire of Prometheus is poetic inspiration, and Hate is a demon that c The Poet is an exile on earth. The only ones to let him wrap around and be a giant. The work of Charles Baudelaire represents the end of one epoch and the beginning of another that lasts even today: the Decadentism. Baudelaire's poems are a journey through inwardness and a call to a spiritualistic breath that is drawn beyond Religion and any atheistic and positivist conception. Nature pulsates with spirituality, the consecrated fire of Prometheus is poetic inspiration, and Hate is a demon that consumes us. Only the worms and our feelings allow us, as in a tennis court, in a short moment, to overcome it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Olivier Delaye

    Les Fleurs du Mal or The Flowers of Evil or, let’s extrapolate here, The Beauty of Evil is a masterpiece of French literature which should have pride of place in any bookcase worth its name, right between Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. For indeed the beauty of evil, what with its mephitic yet oh so alluring aroma, is exactly what this book is about—a collection of poems and elegies reflecting Baudelaire’s views on our poor human condition stemming mainly from our doomed lives Les Fleurs du Mal or The Flowers of Evil or, let’s extrapolate here, The Beauty of Evil is a masterpiece of French literature which should have pride of place in any bookcase worth its name, right between Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. For indeed the beauty of evil, what with its mephitic yet oh so alluring aroma, is exactly what this book is about—a collection of poems and elegies reflecting Baudelaire’s views on our poor human condition stemming mainly from our doomed lives upon which hovers like the sword of Damocles the inevitability of death, while all the while we keep on fooling ourselves by pursuing the ever so elusive quest for a perfect world, a perfect existence, and, dare we say it, immortality. Baudelaire’s answer to this plight of ours, tentative though it may be, is escapism—pure but mainly impure escapism—which, under his pen, takes various forms, ranging from travels to drugs, sex to faith, sleep to contemplation—like so many petals of the flowers of evil the author plucks off one after another in a fateful game of Loves me, Loves me not. Needless to say that Les Fleurs du Mal isn’t a book for everyone, and that if you’re looking for a read to put a smile on your face, you’d do well to turn around and look somewhere else. It is fair to say that with his masterful poetry Baudelaire pierces not only our heart but our soul. His words undress us completely and let us see us for what we really are—just human beings living our lives. Which, when we think about it, isn’t so bad. That is, as long as we keep remembering to put into practice this little quote from yet another master of his genre, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” And indeed, it matters not how long we live, but how well we live. If anything, Les Fleurs du Mal taught me that much. Oh, and The Lord of the Rings, too, of course! OLIVIER DELAYE Author of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jon(athan) Nakapalau

    Truly a unique an haunting voice - a visionary poet who forces you to question all that you find comforting - immersion of the self into the torrent of humanity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James

    One of my favorite poets of all time. Baudelaire emphasized above all the disassociated character of modern experience: the sense that alienation is an inevitable part of our modern world. In his prose, this complexity is expressed via harshness and shifts of mood. The constant emphasis on beauty and innocence, even alongside the seamier aspects of humanity, reinforce an existentialist ideal that rejects morality and embraces transgression. Objects, sensations, and experiences often clash, implici One of my favorite poets of all time. Baudelaire emphasized above all the disassociated character of modern experience: the sense that alienation is an inevitable part of our modern world. In his prose, this complexity is expressed via harshness and shifts of mood. The constant emphasis on beauty and innocence, even alongside the seamier aspects of humanity, reinforce an existentialist ideal that rejects morality and embraces transgression. Objects, sensations, and experiences often clash, implicitly rejecting personal experiences and memories; only operations of consciousness (e.g., revulsion and self-criticism) are valued and even exalted. Indeed, for Baudelaire, the shock of experiencing is the act of living. Baudelaire's talent for poetry aside, his genius was to jolt the reader into this mindset, to feel what he wanted to feel and experience what he wanted to experience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis Ever since the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge was eaten any lore became an attribute of evil. So to read books in order to wide one’s horizons is just to sign a pact with the devil. “Pillowed on evil, Satan Trismegist Ceaselessly cradles our enchanted mind, The flawless metal of our will “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis Ever since the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge was eaten any lore became an attribute of evil. So to read books in order to wide one’s horizons is just to sign a pact with the devil. “Pillowed on evil, Satan Trismegist Ceaselessly cradles our enchanted mind, The flawless metal of our will we find Volatilized by this rare alchemist. The Devil holds the puppet threads; and swayed By noisome things and their repugnant spell, Daily we take one further step toward Hell, Suffering no horror in the olid shade.” And of course the poets, who manage to pack their words in the most seductive opuses, are the worst of tempters… “When by an edict of the powers supreme A poet's born into this world's drab space, His mother starts, in horror, to blaspheme Clenching her fists at God, who grants her grace.” So when the poet unsheathes his stylus and applies it to vellum the flowers of evil effloresce. Such are the poet’s morose ideals: “What my heart, deep as an abyss, demands, Lady Macbeth, is your brave bloody hands, And, Aeschylus, your dreams of rage and fright, Or you, vast Night, daughter of Angelo's, Who peacefully twist into a strange pose Charms fashioned for a Titan's mouth to bite.” But when poets die their poems live… “Then, O my beauty, tell the insatiate worm Who wastes you with his kiss, I have kept the godlike essence and the form Of perishable bliss!”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay & George Dillon It's outrageous that this wonderful translation is out of print. After looking at many versions (including Richard Howard, James McGowan, and Cyril Scott who was my second favourite) this was the only one with truly good poems which replicated the original structures and had the glittering night-magic of Baudelaire's sensual, sinister, romantic, gothic wonderland. Which would of course have something to do with one of the translators herse translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay & George Dillon It's outrageous that this wonderful translation is out of print. After looking at many versions (including Richard Howard, James McGowan, and Cyril Scott who was my second favourite) this was the only one with truly good poems which replicated the original structures and had the glittering night-magic of Baudelaire's sensual, sinister, romantic, gothic wonderland. Which would of course have something to do with one of the translators herself being a distinguished poet. These are poetic translations rather than ones designed to reproduce the exact meanings line-by-line, but for the non-academic reader I think they are by far the most satisfying as poetry. Female characters seem stronger than in other translations, undoubtedly Millay's work. One commentator in a source I now can't find says that in her translation of Baudelaire's women - often passive in the original - she finds a powerful active voice she only rarely displayed in her own poems. I've taken a long time to finish Les Fleurs du Mal but this was largely because I despaired of how to describe Baudelaire's verse, something quite beyond my powers, and kept being distracted from reading by trying to find (im)possible phrases. Some of the translations from this edition can be found here, with a bit of patience, clicking and scrolling.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion

    This is a step towards possession. Certainly the possession does not last the entire way through, but even in the less interesting or repetitive poems there are some jarring lines, amplified by a soul in Heat. Like any elevated piece of literature, Flowers of Evil consumed me to such an extent that at times I forgot I was reading words on a page, its intensity moving my mind into some unknown zone where images, thoughts, and recollections screamed by, colliding with each other. So, too, did I fee This is a step towards possession. Certainly the possession does not last the entire way through, but even in the less interesting or repetitive poems there are some jarring lines, amplified by a soul in Heat. Like any elevated piece of literature, Flowers of Evil consumed me to such an extent that at times I forgot I was reading words on a page, its intensity moving my mind into some unknown zone where images, thoughts, and recollections screamed by, colliding with each other. So, too, did I feel at times that even the writer himself was "not all there," taken away by a demon, merely the vehicle for some phantasm. Yes, Baudelaire sold me on his deal, not merely because of content or form, but because of the legitimacy and authenticity of his spirit that comes through them. At its best I lost the idea that Baudelaire was “writing,” or “constructing thoughts and ideas.” More often I felt like I was seeing a living reality and the spirit behind it, the dreams he “knows.” We can look at a whore and see nothing poetic just as we can look at the sun and see nothing poetic. But the poetic is everywhere and, for me, the more I can tap into, the better life is. Is it more and more rare to find a person who sees anything poetic in the sun? Is the modern mind still trying to convince itself that myth doesn’t work? Whatever one's answer to those questions, most will agree that it’s even rarer to find someone who sees anything POETIC in the heist, the hell, the holey handbag. And then even rarer yet again to find someone who can see the poetic in such things and communicate it to others on a convincing level. And then perhaps it’s only a very singular visionary who can not only see the poetic in such things, but communicate it in such a way that it creates its own inspiring beauty while remaining true to the original inspiration. Sure we have heists, whores, and holey handbags a dime a dozen, but do they even recognize their own beauty much? Are they as tuned in to their own spirit as Baudelaire was? I hate cars, but I love to watch the rare person who is passionate and soulful about them. I don't read books on toe-picking, but show me someone passionate about their toe-picking and I'll gladly sit down beside them to observe and ask engaging questions, join in a little. Baudelaire. Hate his whoring if you will, but there is a passion, a depth, a profound nature to it that would have me in rapid pursuit to follow him anywhere. And the guy never seems disappointed! That is what twists the knife in me time and time again! But he’s not just writing of whore houses and opium dens, telling us of their ugly and vile colors. No! He’s not just heading out on a heartless, gutless, mindless hedonistic romp. No! This is the debased as Ideal, wrapping the demon up in lovely meter, rhyme, and high metaphor, carrying the gutter into the heavens! The Saint of Whores! The Divinity of Syphilis! The God of Pooping your Pants! I love it. He loves! Not foul for a moment! There is goodness in it all!!!! I can’t even crystalize Baudelaire without sounding silly! To find Beauty in the Gutter! This is the Man! Far too much of it to originate from mere constructs and ideas. No, there are demons and gods at work. Baudelaire wouldn’t even spit on a Renoir painting. He’d just undress it and fly. The Corpse on the lip, a taste from God. Possessed. I can not get so close to It, except through Baudelaire. Beautiful Ugliness. Goodness. When literature helps you live a new life, or at least revitalize it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    How to describe this volume of poetry? Avant-garde, modernistic, innovative, original? Yes, all of those, and to use a modern slang word, edgy. So edgy in fact, for mid 19th century France, that Napoleon III's government prosecuted him for "an insult to public decency". Six of the poems were banned until 1949. Don't worry; by today's standards they are not so alarming.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Receuillement/ Blues Blues, be cool, keep quiet, you mutha, Intruder, second-story man, you enter with dusk, It descends. It's here, an atmosphere Surrounds the town. Builds some up, knocks me down. Meanwhile the rabble ruled by body Pleasures, thankless beasts overburdened Build toward a bundle of remorse In drugged dances. Blues, take my hand, Come from them, come here. Look behind me At the defunct years, at the balconies Of heaven; in tattered copes, rise out Of the waters of Regret. The sun sleeps Mori Receuillement/ Blues Blues, be cool, keep quiet, you mutha, Intruder, second-story man, you enter with dusk, It descends. It's here, an atmosphere Surrounds the town. Builds some up, knocks me down. Meanwhile the rabble ruled by body Pleasures, thankless beasts overburdened Build toward a bundle of remorse In drugged dances. Blues, take my hand, Come from them, come here. Look behind me At the defunct years, at the balconies Of heaven; in tattered copes, rise out Of the waters of Regret. The sun sleeps Moribund on a buttress; and listen, My true-blues, hear dusk's sweet steps. --see my Goodreads writings for my trans of L'Imprévu We have Baudelaire to thank for the world renown of our second-rate 19C poet Edgar Allan a Po-po-poe -dee-oh. (First rate storyteller, imitated fairly well by Dickens, once.) When a genius translates a less-than; other examples, TS Eliot's LaForgue? Moliere's anybody? Baudelaire also took crap from the French Government same year Flaubert got off because of the rank of his father: his defense lawyer argued a guilty verdict would impugn Dr Flaubert, much as Lizzie Borden's father was used in her defense in the courtroom a few miles from my house. Since they lost the Flaubert case, they went with zeal after Baudelaire, managed to win, stop his publisher and him in their tracks until they dropped ten poems, later printed as Les épaves (below). I think Charley B was a nasty little prick (a word I use advisedly, rarely, un petit bite); see his love poem to a corpse. But..and this is a bigger but(t) than Charley's…he was a genuine genius. Unfortunately. His opening address to his reader as his Brother Hypocrite gives insight into our recent US presidential winner. (And of course, he calls me, his reader, his brother hypocrite--as I condescend from the great heights of my superior morality.) I am sure I would be disgusted by Charley B0-bo-bo-dee-baudelaire. I would not vote for him, but I must vote for his disgusting verse. (One demurer, B himself says that writing draws one away from screwing, so he has created the disgust as an artistic enfranchisement.) And, may I say having translated from a half dozen languages--and published them--Charley's Blues evoked a bit of his genius in me. As an American "baby-boomer," I've never understood the Russian / Pushkin's obsession with скучно, boredom, but I find its source here in empire France, Russia's birth-culture (as ours is England). Peut être it's a remnant of upper class, Marie Antoinette France. Baudelaire's opening address to his reader ends with the descent of the Monster, "Ennui." Gems throughout, almost any poem can be praised in its concentrated, tidal pull. Say, a little sheaf, Les épaves, "Wrecks" like the two schooners that rested on the shore of my childhood in Wiscasset, Maine (Hesper and the Luther Little). Awakening very late, he must pursue the sun god as s/he retires, loses out to the god Nuit, humid and full of chill. An odor of the tomb, the swampy residence of snails and toads. Or the art-painting in Prison, by Delacroix, Tasso on his bed, turning pages with his feet, inflamed with a terror of the dizzying (circular) stairs into the depths of his soul. Laughter fills the prison, with Doubt and Fear (again not unlike US politics 2016) circling with grimaces and wails, awakening from horrid dreams to find himself surrounded by four walls. The Real. His wonderful praise of Daumier defends the comedic historian's mockery, not the harsh laugh of Satan, but the gentle satire of the benevolent. (Europeans often suspect laughter; only the English writer embraces it always...though not in the 2017 Nobel winner.) Two short poems are among Les épaves, which he ends by addressing his harsh critic Monselet; but first, Part II of his Monster, the Macabre Nymph: Fool, you should go straight to the Devil! I'm even happy to go with you, If not for this frightful haste Which leaves me agitated. Then, Well, better You--go straight to Hell! (Garnier, 199) Then, finally, "A Frisky Cabaret" (un cabaret folâtre): You who dote on skeletons And detestable cliches To spice your voluptuous taste, (Stick to simple omelettes!) Oh great Pharaoh, King Monselet! In front of your unforeseen Instruction, I dream of you: In a bar At the cemetery, six feet deep.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ivana de B.

    As I read this I simply felt as if I understood Baudelaire completely, and as if he understood me. Then I realized my body craved for a cigarette and was ready to throw a cynical, sarcastic comment.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Beautifully debauched and morbid, thank you for inspiring the symbolists and decadents. 2016: Having read a few works by authors who were influenced by this, having seen works of art and illustrations either inspired or based on this, having random lines always swirling and being recited in my head, I thought it was time to revisit this... Oh the joy I felt reading this again. Favorite poems: La Muse malade La Muse vénale La Beauté L'Idéal Les Bijoux Parfum exotique Une Charogne Le Vampire À Celle qui e Beautifully debauched and morbid, thank you for inspiring the symbolists and decadents. 2016: Having read a few works by authors who were influenced by this, having seen works of art and illustrations either inspired or based on this, having random lines always swirling and being recited in my head, I thought it was time to revisit this... Oh the joy I felt reading this again. Favorite poems: La Muse malade La Muse vénale La Beauté L'Idéal Les Bijoux Parfum exotique Une Charogne Le Vampire À Celle qui est trop gaie Le Flambeau vivant Le Poison Le Flacon Spleen (Quand le ciel bas et lourd) Danse macabre Le Cygne L'Âme du vin Une martyre Lesbos La Mort des amants Les Promesses d'un visage L'Examen de minuit L'Avertisseur Man’s sorrow is a nobleness, I trust, Untouchable by either earth or hell; ---- My soul’s a tomb that, wretched cenobite, I travel in throughout eternity; Nothing adorns the walls of this sad shrine. ---- Far from the tombs of the brave Toward a churchyard obscure and apart, Like a muffled drum, my heart Beats a funeral march to the grave. But sleeping lies many a gem In dark, unfathomed caves, Far from the probes of men; And many a flower waves And wastes its sweet perfumes In desert solitudes. ---- O beauty, how I pity you! the great Stream of your tears ends in my anxious heart; Your lie transports me, and my soul drinks up The seas brought forth by Sorrow from your eyes. ---- O Beauty! do you visit from the sky Or the abyss? infernal and divine, Your gaze bestows both kindnesses and crimes, So it is said you act on us like wine. Your eye contains the evening and the dawn; You pour out odours like an evening storm Your kiss is potion from an ancient jar, That can make heroes cold and children warm. Are you of heaven or the nether world? [...] You scatter joys and sorrows at your whim, And govern all, and answer no man’s call. Beauty, you walk on corpses, mocking them; Horror is charming as your other gems, And Murder is a trinket dancing there Lovingly on your naked belly’s skin. You are a candle where the mayfly dies In flames, blessing this fire’s deadly bloom. The panting lover bending to his love Looks like a dying man who strokes his tomb ---- When my lusts move towards you in caravan My ennuis drink from cisterns of your eyes. From these black orbits where the soul breathes through, O heartless demon! pour a drink less hot; I’m not the Styx, nine times embracing you Alas! and my Megaera, I can not, To break your nerve and bring you to your knees, In your bed’s hell become Persephone! ---- Your eyes, where nothing is revealed, The bitter nor the sweet, Are two cold stones, in which the tinctures Gold and iron meet ---- Opium will expand beyond all measures, Stretch out the limitless, Will deepen time, make rapture bottomless, With dismal pleasures Surfeit the soul to point of helplessness. But that is nothing to the poison flow Out of your eyes, those round Green lakes in which my soul turns upside-down … To these my dreams all go At these most bitter gulfs to drink or drown. But all that is not worth the prodigy Of your saliva, girl That bites my soul, and dizzies it, and swirls It down remorselessly, Rolling it, fainting, to the underworld. ---- Like angels who have bestial eyes I’ll come again to your alcove And glide in silence to your side In shadows of the night, my love; And I will give to my dark mate Cold kisses, frigid as the moon, And I’ll caress you like a snake That slides and writhes around a tomb. ---- In a rich land, fertile, replete with snails I’d like to dig myself a spacious pit Where I might spread at leisure my old bones And sleep unnoticed, like a shark hate both testaments and epitaphs; Sooner than beg remembrance from the world I would, alive, invite the hungry crows To bleed my tainted carcass inch by inch. O worms! dark playmates minus ear or eye, Prepare to meet a free and happy corpse; ---- Skies torn apart like wind-swept sands, You are the mirrors of my pride; Your mourning clouds, so black and wide, Are hearses that my dreams command, And you reflect in flashing light The Hell in which my heart delights. ---- I am the wound, and rapier! I am the cheek, I am the slap! I am the limbs, I am the rack, The prisoner, the torturer! I am my own blood’s epicure. ---- Paris may change, but in my melancholy mood Nothing has budged! New palaces, blocks, scaffoldings, Old neighbourhoods, are allegorical for me, And my dear memories are heavier than stone ---- Have you observed that coffins of the old Are nearly small enough to fit a child? Death, in this similarity, sets up An eerie symbol with a strange appeal ---- Let our closed curtains, then, remove us from the world, And let our lassitude allow us to find rest! I would obliterate myself upon your throat And find the coolness of the tombs within your breast! ---- What, then, has God to say of cursing heresies, Which rise up like a flood at precious angels’ feet? A self-indulgent tyrant, stuffed with wine and meat, He sleeps to soothing sounds of monstrous blasphemies. The sobs of martyred saints and groans of tortured men No doubt provide the Lord with rapturous symphonies ---- We will have beds imbued with mildest scent And couches, deep as tombs, in which to lie, Flowers around us, strange and opulent, Blooming on shelves under the finest skies. Approaching equally their final light, Our twin hearts will be two great flaming brands That will be double in each other’s sight— Our souls the mirrors where the image stands. One evening made of rose and mystic blue We will flare out, in an epiphany ---- What do I care if you be wise? Be lovely! and be sad! For tears Are as appealing on the face As rivers in the countryside; Flowers are freshened by the storm. I love you most of all when joy Escapes from your defeated brow; Or when a horror drowns your heart

  16. 5 out of 5

    Denisse

    3.5 Not going to lie. I'm not an avid reader of poetry, nor does it impress me much, I'm a full descriptions kind of girl. But I wanted to try and here I am. Way too much negativity all around, but hey! Some poems stuck with me for real. So I'll call it a challenge completed. Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge 2019: A book out of your comfort zone. Lo que nadie conoce, persiguiendo lo nuevo. ¿Por que los autores mas odiados o no valorados en su época son los mejor reconocidos en la actualidad? 3.5 Not going to lie. I'm not an avid reader of poetry, nor does it impress me much, I'm a full descriptions kind of girl. But I wanted to try and here I am. Way too much negativity all around, but hey! Some poems stuck with me for real. So I'll call it a challenge completed. Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge 2019: A book out of your comfort zone. Lo que nadie conoce, persiguiendo lo nuevo. ¿Por que los autores mas odiados o no valorados en su época son los mejor reconocidos en la actualidad? La verdad es que no tengo palabras reales para una reseña decente, pero definitivamente para ser un poeta que se inclinaba mucho a la negatividad de su vida, sus pasiones y país, los poemas con mas luz fueron los que se quedaron conmigo. ¡Soy un monje haragán! ¿Cuándo voy a poder convertir el teatro de mi triste miseria en labor de mis manos y en amor de mis ojos? De todas formas, se llega a sentir todo muy personal. Siempre es así, por lo general entre mas oscuro y depresivo mas identificados nos sentimos. ¡Vaya vida! Me recomendaron poesía mas alegre, creo que le daré una oportunidad.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Quiver

    Baudelaire: poet of the cityscape, founder of modernity, who introduces the commonplace into the poetic: ennui, modernity, darkness, and worms, death, worms, worms. He was controversial, judged for being obscene, yet the controversial nature of his poems is only apparent from a historical point of view. (Those readers unaccustomed to the extreme possibilities of poetic expression will find certain images slightly disturbing even today.) Baudlaire's modernisation streak not withstanding, I found h Baudelaire: poet of the cityscape, founder of modernity, who introduces the commonplace into the poetic: ennui, modernity, darkness, and worms, death, worms, worms. He was controversial, judged for being obscene, yet the controversial nature of his poems is only apparent from a historical point of view. (Those readers unaccustomed to the extreme possibilities of poetic expression will find certain images slightly disturbing even today.) Baudlaire's modernisation streak not withstanding, I found his most touching verses to be those filled with more standard romantic imagery. The Poet is a kinsman in the clouds Who scoffs at archers, loves a stormy day; But on the ground, among the hooting crowds, He cannot walk, his wings are in the way. (From The Albatross) Overall, I was unimpressed. A few stood out with striking word-combinations or trenchant expressions of mood. For me, the importance of Baudelaire's work lies in the way it influenced the creative work of others (and as such this is a must-read for any literary enthusiast). Read fairly quickly, this collection of poems—like any other opus of a literary great—gives insight into the mind of the man and the topics of his time. In itself, this too is no little accomplishment. She sifts through my intimate being Like the tang of salt from the sea, And into my famished spirit Pours a taste for the heavenly. (From Hymn) This review is part of a series that includes: - Stéphane Mallarmé’s Collected Poems , - Arthur Rimbaud’s Collected Poems , - Paul Verlaine’s Selected Poems , - Guillaume Apollinaire’s Selected Poems , - and Paul Valéry’s Selected Writings .

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Beyrouthy

    When it comes to the most beautiful literature in the world, I radically believe in the imperial prominence of Nineteenth century French literature. Charles Baudelaire is one of the poets that tremendously alimented this conviction. Originally entitled "Les Lesbiennes" and brazenly delineating sexuality and libidinous desires, the poems which Baudelaire composed in the decade of 1840-1850 were continuously censored until 1857, when his work was published with the title "Les Fleurs du Mal". The be When it comes to the most beautiful literature in the world, I radically believe in the imperial prominence of Nineteenth century French literature. Charles Baudelaire is one of the poets that tremendously alimented this conviction. Originally entitled "Les Lesbiennes" and brazenly delineating sexuality and libidinous desires, the poems which Baudelaire composed in the decade of 1840-1850 were continuously censored until 1857, when his work was published with the title "Les Fleurs du Mal". The beautiful perversion, the splendid depravity and the glorious morbidity which are characteristics of Baudelaire were reflected in his poems: Ma jeunesse ne fut qu'un ténébreux orage, Traversé ça et là par de brilliants soleils; Le tonnerre et la pluie ont fait un tel ravage Qu'il reste en mon jardin bien peu de fruits vermeils Unlike contemporaneous poets, Le Poète Maudit did not rebuke urbanity and voiced his Parnassian argument that art must find beauty in the most corrupted situations. He faced acclaim as well as rejection, but managed to remain, even after approximately two centuries after his death, the notorious dandy of the nineteenth century, a French version of George Gordon Byron and the harbinger of modern poetry.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    When my eyes, to this cat I love Drawn as by a magnet's force, Turn tamely back upon that appeal, And when I look within myself, I notice with astonishment The fire of his opal eyes, Clear beacons glowing, living jewels, Taking my measure, steadily. My (initial) amateur assessment is that the translation is to blame for my absence of astonishment. There's no way this could be the same genius who gave us Paris Spleen. Maybe I am but confused. Maybe the threads which shriek decay and ennui were of When my eyes, to this cat I love Drawn as by a magnet's force, Turn tamely back upon that appeal, And when I look within myself, I notice with astonishment The fire of his opal eyes, Clear beacons glowing, living jewels, Taking my measure, steadily. My (initial) amateur assessment is that the translation is to blame for my absence of astonishment. There's no way this could be the same genius who gave us Paris Spleen. Maybe I am but confused. Maybe the threads which shriek decay and ennui were of inadequate weight. Maybe my own disposition suffers from dread and I was left with a meh? Perhaps I am inadequate. Perhaps I should pursue other editions and translators. I loved the allusion of street sweeps herding their storms. I love the self-deprecation. I just wanted more. Not the Absolute but more--on which to chew.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    Flowers of Evil was an entirely serendipitous impulse check-out from my local library. I can only imagine that what caught my eye was the title - Flowers of Evil - who could resist? So I pulled it from the shelf, opened it up at random, read a few verses, and said to myself "This isn't bad." Not only was it "not bad" but it was extraordinarily good; good enough that Baudelaire has joined the list of authors I'll pay money for. It's random events like finding authors whose work "speaks to me" in so Flowers of Evil was an entirely serendipitous impulse check-out from my local library. I can only imagine that what caught my eye was the title - Flowers of Evil - who could resist? So I pulled it from the shelf, opened it up at random, read a few verses, and said to myself "This isn't bad." Not only was it "not bad" but it was extraordinarily good; good enough that Baudelaire has joined the list of authors I'll pay money for. It's random events like finding authors whose work "speaks to me" in some way (Maugham, Le Guin, Chekhov, etc.) that keep me from being an out-and-out atheist. Afterall, it's strongly suggestive that there's at least a guardian spirit of some kind looking out for me. At the risk of offending or titilating some, Baudelaire's passions and obsessions mirror my own. I'm particularly taken with his ability to combine carnality with spirituality, often in the same poem. A short example that springs to mind is "Correspondences" (this and later translations are from the Oxford World Classic's edition, James McGowan, translator): Nature is a temple, where the living Columns sometimes breathe confusing speech; Man walks within these groves of symbols each Of which regards him as a kindred thing. As the long echoes, shadowy, profound, Heard from afar, blend in a unity, Vast as the night, as sunlight's clarity, So perfumes, colours, sounds may correspond. Odours there are, fresh as a baby's skin, Mellow as oboes, green as meadow grass, - Others corrupted, rich, triumphant, full, Having dimensions infinitely vast, Frankincense, musk, ambergris, benjamin, Singing the senses' rapture and the soul's. Or there's "Conversation": You are a pink and lovely autumn sky! But sadness in me rises like the sea, And leaves in ebbing only bitter clay On my sad lip, the smart of memory. Your hand slides up my fainting breast at will; But, love, it only finds a ravaged pit Pillaged by a woman's savage tooth and nail. My heart is lost; the beasts have eaten it. It is a palace sullied by the rout; They drink, they pull each other's hair, they kill! - A perfume swims around your naked throat!... O Beauty, scourge of souls, you want it still! You with hot eyes that flash in fiery feasts, Burn up these meagre scraps spared by the beasts! And any man (or woman) who writes poems to his cats is going to be on my A List by default. From section II of "The Cat" comes these verses which describe my young friend Oberon to a T (not to be confused with an earlier poem of the same name that begins, "Come, my fine cat, to my amorous heart"): From his soft fur, golden and brown, Goes out so sweet a scent, one night I might have been embalmed in it By giving him one little pet. He is my household's guardian soul; He judges, he presides, inspires All matters in his royal realm; Might he be fairy? or a god? When my eyes, to this cat I love Drawn as by a magnet's force, Turn tamely back upon that appeal, And when I look within myself, I notice with astonishment The fire of his opal eyes, Clear beacons glowing, living jewels, Taking my measure, steadily. And, unlike in re my Russian literary interests, I was pleased to find that my graduate-school French was good enough that I could intelligently compare the parallel texts in the Oxford edition. McGowan uses a variety of techniques in translating Baudelaire; sometimes following both syntax and wording nearly exactly, sometimes translating a bit freely. In most cases I think he comes very close to capturing the original's intent. There was something that I found utterly inexplicable: There is a missing poem. The final section of the Oxford edition are 14 poems (supposedly) that were included in the 1868 edition of the original work. Poem #3, "The Peace Pipe," isn't there. The text goes from poem #2, "To Theodore de Banville," to poem #4, "Prayer of a Pagan," as does the table of contents. I probably would have missed it entirely because I usually don't focus on the numbering but for the fact that there's a note for "The Peace Pipe" on page 383. Despite that, readers of this review are safe in assuming that I highly recommend Baudelaire.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Death, decay, death, WOE, death, despair, death, afternoon tea!, death, death, some more WOE... That's the Eddie Izzard version of this collection. Didn't finish all of them. I tried reading both the English and the French of every poem, so maybe that had something to do with it. This guy also gives Poe a run for his money in depressing. He translated Poe into French and made the imagery /more/ morose, if you can imagine. The poems I read I loved, though it does get a bit repetitive after awhile.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    I read a majority of the poems in French, which made the experience more beautiful. Each word is like a unique brushstroke of color on a grand canvas, applied with varying degrees of pressure, and each deeply and sensually hued. Baudelaire’s poetry paints gorgeous images of emotion, desire, and wanting that remain with you. Reading Les fleurs was a deeply personal and stirring experience for me. I have many favorites and could provide analyses on a dozen poems or more, but for the sake of length I read a majority of the poems in French, which made the experience more beautiful. Each word is like a unique brushstroke of color on a grand canvas, applied with varying degrees of pressure, and each deeply and sensually hued. Baudelaire’s poetry paints gorgeous images of emotion, desire, and wanting that remain with you. Reading Les fleurs was a deeply personal and stirring experience for me. I have many favorites and could provide analyses on a dozen poems or more, but for the sake of length, I will limit myself to one particularly poignant experience. Le Flacon was one of those poems that never left me, maybe because it was always a part of me. I love perfume, and I am an avid collector. I have perfumes that I've worn maybe once or twice, and I have perfumes that I wear every day. Sometimes, I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from re-arranging the bottles of perfume on the vanity table. Some of the happiness derives from the physical beauty of the arrangement; the glittering, multi-toned flasks of elaborate glass with gold- and silver-plated designs are the stuff of fantasy, a little treasure trove of beauty and fragility in my own room. But the other, more poignant happiness originates from the fragrance and the memories that accompany it. Some moments in life will always stay with you, and sometimes, that memory leaves not just a visual or emotional mark, but its own fragrance as well. My childhood home has a certain scent that will always define me and transport my thoughts to past. The ocean of the northwest has a wild, pungent smell that I associate with power and nature. The same goes for perfumes. One darkly colored flask that I use occasionally contains a deeply sensual tangerine and jasmine perfume that reminds me of a night years ago when the moon was big and red in the sky. I was by myself and sleepless, and nothing extraordinary happened, except that I feeling hyper-aware and happened to be wearing that perfume. Somehow, the surreal and rare vision of beauty in the night sky became associated with the fragrance of tangerine and jasmine. Another flask contains a fresh yet musky perfume, gifted to me when I lived in France. The person who gave me the perfume explained that this fragrance was popular with the young ladies these days, and perhaps I would share in the enthusiasm. I did. I wore it nearly every day for the remaining month I was in France, and though I have more than half the bottle left, when I take a whiff, I am reminded of the warm sun of Toulouse and Nice in the spring. Baudelaire understood this fascinating and unique joy--and when the memories are something you'd rather forget, pain. Le flacon is a reflection on memory, and how the past can be brought to life by something as simple as fragrance. Like memory, fragrance is powerful, porous (“II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière / Est poreuse”). Even if hidden and stored away in the deep attic of your mind, once the flask is uncorked, the fragrance stirs to life things left forgotten (“on trouve un vieux flacon qui se souvient / D'où jaillit toute vive une âme qui revient”). Baudelaire’s imagery and use of words is gorgeous, but the emotion that he evokes is something very personal and very special. I didn't like all of Baudelaire's works, and I liked some more than the others. In the end, which poems you end up liking or disliking depend on personal taste and, to a degree, whim. But everyone should pick up Les fleurs du mal. It is a collection that should be read and appreciated. Note: If you do a Google search, you can find all of his poems online for free. Most sites feature the poems in French with various English translations accompanying it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    rose vibrations

    My darling was naked, or nearly, for knowing my heart she had left on her jewels, the bangles and chains whose jingling music gave her the conquering air of a Moorish slave on days her master is pleased Whenever I hear such insolent harmonies, that scintillating world of metal and stone beguiles me altogether, and I am enthralled by objects whose sound is a synonym for light For there she lay on the couch, allowing herself to be adored, a secret smile indulging the deep and tenacious currents of my love wh My darling was naked, or nearly, for knowing my heart she had left on her jewels, the bangles and chains whose jingling music gave her the conquering air of a Moorish slave on days her master is pleased Whenever I hear such insolent harmonies, that scintillating world of metal and stone beguiles me altogether, and I am enthralled by objects whose sound is a synonym for light For there she lay on the couch, allowing herself to be adored, a secret smile indulging the deep and tenacious currents of my love which rose against her body like a tide Eyes fixed on mine with the speculative glare of a half-tamed tiger, she kept altering poses and the incorporation of candor into lust gave new charms to her metamorphoses; calmly I watched, with a certain detachment at first, as the swanlike arms uncoiled, and the legs, the sleek thighs shifting, shiny as oil, the belly, the breasts -- that fruit on my vine - clustered, more tempting than wicked cherubim, to undermine what peace I had achieved, dislodging my soul from its rock-crystal throne of contemplation, once so aloof, so serene As if a new Genesis had been at work, I saw a boy’s torso joined to Antiope’s hips, belying that lithe waist by those wide loins... O the pride of rouge upon that tawny skin! And then, the lamp having given up the ghost, the dying coals made the only light in the room: each time they heaved another flamboyant sigh, they flushed that amber-colored flesh with blood!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    I was so taken by this book that I memorized whole passages to repeat if only to myself at various times of the day. As I recall, my friends began to think I was mentally ill. Nevertheless, the power of this book was immense on my life as a college junior, I think, and it caused me to fall in love with everything that was French, cynical and wearing a beret, much like a Parisian waiter on his day off. I actually picked this book up because I loved the name, but it also began a long term love aff I was so taken by this book that I memorized whole passages to repeat if only to myself at various times of the day. As I recall, my friends began to think I was mentally ill. Nevertheless, the power of this book was immense on my life as a college junior, I think, and it caused me to fall in love with everything that was French, cynical and wearing a beret, much like a Parisian waiter on his day off. I actually picked this book up because I loved the name, but it also began a long term love affair not only with Baudelaire, but Rimbaud and especially Verlaine. These poets literally opened up a new level of excitement in me for the depth at which the human spirit could both soar and sink, if one were truly willing to be led. I can still smell the acrid Gauloises cigarettes I smoked, but maybe that was just my imagination walking by the Seine so late at night and thinking these wonderful thoughts!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie –A Court of Books–

    Baudelaire, I love you. This is for this kind of books that I'm so happy to be native French. I was able to read it in its intended language. And I.LOVE.IT. I actually felt IT, what he meant, what he wanted me to feel, what he probably felt himself. Joy. Pain. Sorrow. Grief. Dreams. Depression. Ecstasy. Need. Helplessness. Freedom. Addiction. Adoration. Hatred. Wonder. Just read it, it worth the try.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    At this point not much has to be said about the quality of the poems in Les Fleurs du Mal, and this is an especially beautiful translation. The monotypes and the complete original French text make this probably the essential version to have around. I will add a caveat to this review. While I find Richard Howard's translations to be gorgeous and unique, they are indeed his interpretations, and he does take liberties with the text. An example is in "Reversibilite", where he omits the "Ange" which t At this point not much has to be said about the quality of the poems in Les Fleurs du Mal, and this is an especially beautiful translation. The monotypes and the complete original French text make this probably the essential version to have around. I will add a caveat to this review. While I find Richard Howard's translations to be gorgeous and unique, they are indeed his interpretations, and he does take liberties with the text. An example is in "Reversibilite", where he omits the "Ange" which the speaker is addressing at the beginning of each stanza. The effect of this is no doubt to bring a sharp directness to this angel's interrogation, but one must decide for themselves how much liberty a translator is allowed. I personally don't mind to a see an intelligent translator indulge themselves once in a while.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Martone

    Charles Baudelaire is with out a doubt my favorite poet. He writes with such passion and emotion I can't help but fall in love. I feel like he is speaking to my soul, letting me into his beautiful world. He had a tortured soul and you can feel his pain in his work. His poem are so beautiful and bewitched with romance. To me he is a deeply intellectual person so much that it is almost a fault. His poems are filled with deep, twisted, and painful thought. In his poems he lets you see through his ey Charles Baudelaire is with out a doubt my favorite poet. He writes with such passion and emotion I can't help but fall in love. I feel like he is speaking to my soul, letting me into his beautiful world. He had a tortured soul and you can feel his pain in his work. His poem are so beautiful and bewitched with romance. To me he is a deeply intellectual person so much that it is almost a fault. His poems are filled with deep, twisted, and painful thought. In his poems he lets you see through his eyes showing you his world. He is not a poet for everyone. His works are bold and push peoples comfort level. I feel you need to have suffered and felt pain to truly understand his poetry. He writes to the incurable romantic, the dark and pained sole, the masochist, the intellectual, but not the average person. Most people would find his work unappealing and dark but I believe that's why I love his poetry. Its not for everyone and this makes it special. It is deep and saturated with emotion and I am one of lucky few who is able to enjoy the intoxicating poems of Charles Baudelaire.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)

    This translation for Oxford World's Classics by James N McGowan is wonderful enough that I was compelled to buy it, and is offered next to the French text in this excellent paperback for a degree of transparency I am grateful for even with my limited and very much rusty French. An indispensable resource too is the site http://fleursdumal.org/ which offers multiple older translations, again along with the original French.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    My love of literature began at a young age, in part, with French literature. I loved translations of Alexander Dumas and when I grew past romantic adventures, I was entranced at the clinical realist precision of Balzac. I briefly dated a French woman in New York City who begged me to move with her to Marseilles where I would attend the University of Marseilles (she had magically already procured an application) at the expense of French taxpayers (what liberals call "universal education") so long My love of literature began at a young age, in part, with French literature. I loved translations of Alexander Dumas and when I grew past romantic adventures, I was entranced at the clinical realist precision of Balzac. I briefly dated a French woman in New York City who begged me to move with her to Marseilles where I would attend the University of Marseilles (she had magically already procured an application) at the expense of French taxpayers (what liberals call "universal education") so long as I learned to speak French in 9 months time. I never left the States and never learned French. However, if I did learn French, it would be mainly to read Baudelaire in the original. I doubt many readers picking this book up will be aware of the atom bomb it dropped on Paris when it was published. Reading it now it may still sound fresh, irreverent, decadent, and Satanic, but you have to multiply that by a factor of 100 to get the 19th century reaction. To add some perspective, this decadent evil little book of poems dealing with lesbianism, artifice, death, a dog corpse festering and open like the legs of a prostitute...this was circa the Civil War! Baudelaire was lucky he was only fined for "indecency" but a few of the poems were outlawed in France until (are you setting down?) 1949! I don't want to discuss the poems or do explications of them. Any serious poet should own this book. Baudelaire was a masterful poet, a brilliant critic, he was THE reason Edgar Allen Poe was introduced to the Continent via his translations, and he virtually threw his artistic back out writing these poems. He would never surpass them and would spend years editing the volume and perhaps basking in the rays of their infamy. Baudelaire is a prime example of quality over quantity. I will take Les Fleurs Du Mal over a dozen books of poetry from a lesser poet and he stands head and shoulders over his contemporaries. The French Symbolists were nebulous...rather like a Romantic poet who smoked too much opium. Baudelaire on the other hand, had a keen mind sharp as a knife and wrote verse that was outrageous in its subject matter as it is technically brilliant. You have the tenants of symbolism, the mysterious music of Nature, the sublime, the absinthe-fueled hallucinations, but they are there in Baudelaire with a wicked energy. There are a handful of books in modern times that have shocked. Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer, a few others. One has to read Les Fleurs Du Mal with the understanding that it is among their company.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I wrote a review of this work last year, which marked my first encounter with Baudelaire. I don't really have much to add this time around -- I wanted to re-read Baudelaire's verse before moving on to his prose poems in Le Spleen de Paris. Baudelaire is a poet of the darkest depths of the human soul, a poet who explores delicately the ills of civilization, the hidden caverns of human sexuality and the problems of the day with sharp insight and clarity (if sometimes in a manner that is very pessi I wrote a review of this work last year, which marked my first encounter with Baudelaire. I don't really have much to add this time around -- I wanted to re-read Baudelaire's verse before moving on to his prose poems in Le Spleen de Paris. Baudelaire is a poet of the darkest depths of the human soul, a poet who explores delicately the ills of civilization, the hidden caverns of human sexuality and the problems of the day with sharp insight and clarity (if sometimes in a manner that is very pessimistic and humorously critical of his contemporaries). He deals with things that are for many unspeakable and perhaps even unimaginable, challenging his readers to broaden their perception of the modern world. He was, as Jonathan Culler writes in the introduction, "a social misfit, a poète maudit," and a "poet of the city," all qualities that made him very different from many of those who preceded him. And he gave us, as T.S. Eliot says, "the nearest thing to a complete renovation [in poetry] that we have experienced." And it was probably because of his unique style (though still in many ways constricted -- at least in his verse poems -- by the traditional forms of the day) that he influenced so many others, including Rimbaud (though he criticized Baudelaire's conservative form), Verlaine, Eliot and Proust. His words are beauty touched by the macabre, they flow like a delicious poison across the page -- he uses phrases and deals with themes that are sometimes beautiful, but also frank and perhaps even distasteful to some (many of his poems were after all banned due to their themes). Swinburne wrote that Baudelaire's poetry was filled with "the sharp and cruel enjoyments of pain, the acrid relish of suffering felt or inflicted, the sides on which nature looks unnatural." And he remarked that Baudelaire's love of cats, reflected in three of the poems in Les Fleurs du mal, was very fitting given that the book has "altogether a feline style of beauty – subtle, luxurious, with sheathed claws." The claws can (be warned) inflict pain, but it is a pain worth risking to experience the subtle beauty of the words that flow like music across the page. And it is with this sort of tension with which the poet deals still fresh in my mind that I look forward to diving right into Le Spleen de Paris.

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