Charles Baudelaire

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Gangs of demons are boozing in our brain --

ranked, swarming, like a million warrior ants,

from To the Reader, Flowers of Evil

Charles-Pierre Baudelaire was born April 9, 1821. He is best known for the collection of poetry entitled: Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil). He also translated much of Edgar Allan Poe's work into French. However, his first publications were as an art critic in 1845.

Brief foray into Politics

In February 1848 Baudelaire participated in the riots that overthrew King Louis-Philippe; he also participated in a June uprising; and finally in 1851 the resistance to the Bonapart military coup. Shortly afterwards he claimed to have lost interest in politics, and from then on would focus on his writing.

Artificial Paradise

Les Paradis artificiels (Artificial Paradise) was published in 1860. Here, Baudelaire translated sections of Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an Opium Eater, while adding his own analysis from his personal experience with drugs. Contrary to what some might expect, it is mostly negative. He knew what the drugs were doing to him.

In 1866, at age 45, Baudelaire was stricken with paralysis and aphasia. and he died a year later on August 31, 1867.

Relationship with Victor Hugo

While Baudelaire came from the generation following Hugo's, they were acquaintances.

"The remarkable thing about Baudelaire's doomed relationship with Hugo is.....Hugo's astonishing persistence. "To Charles Baudelaire, jungamus dextras", Hugo wrote in a copy of [one of his poetry volumes]. Baudelaire translated for Manet: "I don't think it means simply, 'let's shake hands'. I know the innuendoes of V. Hugo's Latin. It also means, 'Let's join hands TO SAVE THE HUMAN RACE'. But I don't give a damn about the human race, and he never noticed."1

Flowers of Evil

Romantic Sunset

by Charles Baudelaire

Fair is the sun when first he flames above,

Flinging his joy down in a happy beam;

And happy he who can salute with love

The sunset far more glorious than a dream.

Flower, stream, and furrow!--I have seen them all

In the sun’s eye swoon like one trembling heart --

Though it be late let us with speed depart

To catch at least one last ray ere it fall!

But I pursue the fading god in vain,

For conquering Night makes firm her dark domain,

Mist and gloom fall, and terrors glide between,

And graveyard odours in the shadow swim,

And my faint footsteps on the marsh’s rim,

Bruise the cold snail and crawling toad unseen.
1From Graham Robb's biography, Victor Hugo

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