A Baudelairian Fortnight

In the past couple weeks, Baudelaire has come up again and again as a reference point for my thought, as a means of explanation and explication.  Below are two of my favorites.  Enjoy! :)

XIII. — The Kindness of the Moon


The Moon, who is embodied whimsy, peered through the window as you lay sleeping in your cradle, and said to herself: “This child suits me.”

So she softly descended her staircase of clouds and advanced noiselessly through the window-panes.  Then, stretching herself upon you with the supple tenderness of a mother, she deposited her colors upon your face.  Your pupils thus retain her green, and your cheeks remain uncommonly pale.  It was in contemplating this visitor that your eyes enlarged so exceptionally; and she clasped your throat so tenderly that you now harbor always a penchant for tears.

And yet, in the expansion of her joy, the Moon pervaded your chamber like a phosphorescent atmosphere, a luminous poison; and all this living light thought to itself, and then said: “You will suffer eternally the influence of my kiss.  You will be beautiful after my way.  You will love those whom I love and who love me: the water, the clouds, the silence and the night; the immense and green sea; formless and multiform straits, the space in which you do not exist, the lover whom you do not know; monstrous flowers; perfumes that cause delirium; cats that swoon upon piano keys and moan as might a woman, with voice both sweet and coarse!

“And you will be loved by my lovers, courted by my courtiers.  You will be the queen of green-eyed men whose throats have also been clasped in my nocturnal caresses, of those men who love the sea, the immense sea, tumultuous and green, formless and multiform straits, the space where they do not exist, the woman whom they do not know, sinister flowers that resemble the censers of an arcane faith, perfumes that upend the wills of men, and the savage and voluptuous animals that are the emblems of their insanity.”

And it is for that, my sweet, cursed, spoiled child, that I am now prostrate at your feet, seeking within your person the reflection of that dreaded Divinity, of that fateful godmother, of that poisoning wet-nurse of all the lunatics.

Tr. Kelsey Lynore, 2003

Lunar Eclipse, March 2007

VI. — The Crowds


Not each is given over to bathe oneself in the multitudes: to play the rife crowd is an art; and the one who can, does so at the expense of the masses; a drunken bout of fortitude, in whom a fairy breathed the taste of pretense and prestidigitation, the hatred of the home and the passion of the voyage.

Multitude, solitude: equal terms, interchangeable by the active and fecund poet.  He who knows not to people solitude, knows not to guard singularity in the teeming crowd.

The poet plays with this incomparable privilege, that he can be as he wishes: himself and other.  As his errant souls search for a form, he enters, when he wants, into the character of each.  For he alone, all is vacant, and if some of these vicinities appear to him closed, it is only that, to his eyes, they appear not worth the pain.

The lone and languishing stroller courts a singular inebriation from this universal communion.  That particular who easily weds the throng knows feverish exaltations, which will be eternally deprived the egoist, closed like a coffer, and the idle man; inchoate as a mollusc.  He adopts unto himself all the professions, all the joys and all the pathos that circumstance lays before him.

What mankind christens love is so negligible, so constricted and so anemic, when compared to this ineffable orgy, to this saintly prostitution of soul that yields its entirety, poetry and charity, the unforeseen that appears, the unknown that passes.

It is good to learn from the happy of this world, if only to briefly humiliate their asinine pride, that there are superior joys than their own, more immense and more refined.  The creators of colonies, the pastors of peoples, the missionary priests exiled to the ends of the earth, know without doubt something of this secret inebriation; and, to those of this vast family whose genius has been founded, they must laugh now and then at those who wonder at their fortunes so agitated, and at their lives so chaste.

Tr. Kelsey Lynore, 2003

Actias Luna. Photo by Peter Znamenskiy

Related Posts:

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

Someone recently wrote a poem about me…

“But I heard she had a rough childhood”: Rapunzel and the French Revolution

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