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Title: Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry
Author: Baudelaire, Charles
Language: English
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Edited by T. R. SMITH





    AVE ATQUE VALE. A Poem by A. C. Swinburne


    CHARLES BAUDELAIRE. A study by F. P. Sturm

    POEMS IN PROSE. Translated by Arthur Symons

    The Favours of the Moon
    Which is True?
    "L'Invitation au Voyage"
    The Eyes of the Poor
    The Cake
    Evening Twilight
    "Anywhere Out of the World"
    A Heroic Death
    Be Drunken

    POEMS IN PROSE. Translated by Joseph T. Shipley

    Dedication (To Arsène Houssaye)
    A Jester
    The Dog and the Vial
    The Wild Woman and the Coquette
    The Old Mountebank
    The Clock
    A Hemisphere in a Tress
    The Plaything of the Poor
    The Gifts of the Fairies
    The Lovely Dorothea
    The Counterfeit
    The Generous Player
    The Rope (To Edward Manet)
    A Thoroughbred
    The Mirror
    The Harbor
    Mistresses' Portraits
    Soup and the Clouds
    The Loss of a Halo
    Mademoiselle Bistoury
    Let us Flay the Poor
    Good Dogs (To Mr. Joseph Stevens)

    LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE. Translated by F. P. Sturm

    Every Man His Chimæra
    Venus and the Fool
    The Double Chamber
    At One o'Clock in the Morning
    The Confiteor of the Artist
    The Thyrsus (To Franz Liszt)
    The Marksman
    The Shooting-range and the Cemetery
    The Desire to Paint
    The Glass-vendor
    The Widows
    The Temptations; or, Eros, Plutos, and Glory

    THE FLOWERS OF EVIL. Translated by F. P. Sturm

    The Dance of Death
    The Beacons
    The Sadness of the Moon
    The Balcony
    The Sick Muse
    The Venal Muse
    The Evil Monk
    The Temptation
    The Irreparable
    A Former Life
    Don Juan in Hades
    The Living Flame
    The Flask
    The Eyes of Beauty
    Sonnet of Autumn
    The Remorse of the Dead
    The Ghost
    To a Madonna
    The Sky
    The Owls
    Bien Loin d'Ici
    To a Brown Beggar-maid
    The Swan
    The Seven Old Men
    The Little Old Women
    A Madrigal of Sorrow
    Mist and Rain
    The Corpse
    An Allegory
    The Accursed
    La Beatrice
    The Soul of Wine
    The Wine of Lovers
    The Death of Lovers
    The Death of the Poor
    Gypsies Travelling
    Franciscæ Meæ Laudes
    A Landscape
    The Voyage

    THE FLOWERS OF EVIL. Translated by W. J. Robertson

    Ill Luck
    Ideal Love
    Hymn to Beauty
    Exotic Fragrance
    Sonnet XVIII
    The Spiritual Dawn
    The Flawed Bell

    THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE. Translated by Richard Herne Shepherd

    A Carcass
    Weeping and Wandering

    Translated by Joseph T. Shipley


    My Heart Laid Bare



_In Memory of Charles Baudelaire_


    Nous devrions pourtant lui porter quelques fleurs;
    Les morts, les pauvres morts, ont de grandes douleurs,
    Et quand Octobre souffle, émondeur des vieux arbres,
    Son vent mélancolique a l'entour de leurs marbres,
    Certe, ils doivent trouver les vivants bien ingrats.
                                     Les Fleurs du Mal


    Shall I strew on thee rose or rue or laurel,
      Brother, on this that was the veil of thee?
      Or quiet sea-flower moulded by the sea,
    Or simplest growth of meadow-sweet or sorrel,
      Such as the summer-sleepy Dryads weave,
      Waked up by snow-soft sudden rains at eve?
    Or wilt thou rather, as on earth before,
      Half-faded fiery blossoms, pale with heat
      And full of bitter summer, but more sweet
    To thee than gleanings of a northern shore
    Trod by no tropic feet?


    For always thee the fervid languid glories
      Allured of heavier suns in mightier skies;
      Thine ears knew all the wandering watery sighs
    Where the sea sobs round Lesbian promontories,
      The barren kiss of piteous wave to wave
      That knows not where is that Leucadian grave
    Which hides too deep the supreme head of song.
      Ah, salt and sterile as her kisses were,
      The wild sea winds her and the green gulfs bear
    Hither and thither, and vex and work her wrong,
      Blind gods that cannot spare.


    Thou sawest, in thine old singing season, brother,
      Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us:
      Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous,
    Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other
      Blowing by night in some unbreathed-in clime;
      The hidden harvest of luxurious time,
    Sin without shape, and pleasure without speech;
      And where strange dreams in a tumultuous sleep
      Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep;
    And with each face thou sawest the shadow on each,
      Seeing as men sow men reap.


    O sleepless heart and sombre soul unsleeping,
      That were athirst for sleep and no more life
      And no more love, for peace and no more strife!
    Now the dim gods of death have in their keeping
      Spirit and body and all the springs of song,
      Is it well now where love can do not wrong,
    Where stingless pleasure has no foam or fang
      Behind the unopening closure of her lips?
      It is not well where soul from body slips
    And flesh from bone divides without a pang
      As dew from flower-bell drips.


    It is enough; the end and the beginning
      Are one thing to thee, who are past the end.
      O hand unclasped of unbeholden friend,
    For thee no fruits to pluck, no palms for winning,
      No triumph and no labor and no lust,
      Only dead yew-leaves and a little dust.
    O quiet eyes wherein the light saith nought,
      Whereto the day is dumb, nor any night
      With obscure finger silences your sight,
    Nor in your speech the sudden soul speaks thought,
      Sleep, and have sleep for light.


    Now all strange hours and all strange loves are over,
      Dreams and desires and sombre songs and sweet,
      Hast thou found place at the great knees and feet
    Of some pale Titan-woman like a lover,
      Such as thy vision here solicited,
      Under the shadow of her fair vast head,
    The deep division of prodigious breasts,
      The solemn slope of mighty limbs asleep,
      The weight of awful tresses that still keep
    The savor and shade of old-world pine-forests
      Where the wet hill-winds weep?


    Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision?
      O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom,
      Hast thou found sown, what gathered in the gloom?
    What of despair, of rapture, of derision,
      What of life is there, what of ill or good?
      Are the fruits gray like dust or bright like blood?
    Does the dim ground grow any seed of ours,
      The faint fields quicken any terrene root,
      In low lands where the sun and moon are mute
    And all the stars keep silence? Are there flowers
      At all, or any fruit?


    Alas, but though my flying song flies after,
      O sweet strange elder singer, thy more fleet
      Singing, and footprints of thy fleeter feet,
    Some dim derision of mysterious laughter
      From the blind tongueless warders of the dead,
      Some gainless glimpse of Proserpine's veiled head,
    Some little sound of unregarded tears
      Wept by effaced unprofitable eyes,
      And from pale mouths some cadence of dead sighs--
    These only, these the hearkening spirit hears,
      Sees only such things rise.


    Thou art far too far for wings of words to follow,
      Far too far off for thought or any prayer.
      What ails us with thee, who art wind and air?
    What ails us gazing where all seen is hollow?
      Yet with some fancy, yet with some desire,
      Dreams pursue death as winds a flying fire,
    Our dreams pursue our dead and do not find.
      Still, and more swift than they, the thin flame flies,
      The low light fails us in elusive skies,
    Still the foiled earnest ear is deaf, and blind
      Are still the eluded eyes.


    Not thee, O never thee, in all time's changes,
      Not thee, but this the sound of thy sad soul,
      The shadow of thy swift spirit, this shut scroll
    I lay my hand on, and not death estranges
      My spirit from communion of thy song--
      These memories and these melodies that throng
    Veiled porches of a Muse funereal--
      These I salute, these touch, these clasp and fold
      As though a hand were in my hand to hold,
    Or through mine ears a mourning musical
      Of many mourners rolled.


    I among these, I also, in such station
      As when the pyre was charred, and piled the sods,
      And offering to the dead made, and their gods,
    The old mourners had, standing to make libation,
      I stand, and to the gods and to the dead
      Do reverence without prayer or praise, and shed
    Offering to these unknown, the gods of gloom,
      And what of honey and spice my seedlands bear,
      And what I may of fruits in this chilled air,
    And lay, Orestes-like, across the tomb
      A curl of severed hair.


    But by no hand nor any treason stricken,
      Not like the low-lying head of Him, the King,
      The flame that made of Troy a ruinous thing,
    Thou liest and on this dust no tears could quicken
      There fall no tears like theirs that all men hear
      Fall tear by sweet imperishable tear
    Down the opening leaves of holy poet's pages.
      Thee not Orestes, not Electra mourns;
      But bending us-ward with memorial urns
    The most high Muses that fulfil all ages
      Weep, and our God's heart yearns.


    For, sparing of his sacred strength, not often
      Among us darkling here the lord of light
      Makes manifest his music and his might
    In hearts that open and in lips that soften
      With the soft flame and heat of songs that shine.
      Thy lips indeed he touched with bitter wine,
    And nourished them indeed with bitter bread;
      Yet surely from his hand thy soul's food came,
      The fire that scarred thy spirit at his flame
    Was lighted, and thine hungering heart he fed
      Who feeds our hearts with fame.


    Therefore he too now at thy soul's sunsetting,
      God of all suns and songs, he too bends down
      To mix his laurel with thy cypress crown
    And save thy dust from blame and from forgetting.
      Therefore he too, seeing all thou wert and art,
      Compassionate, with sad and sacred heart,
    Mourns thee of many his children the last dead,
      And hallows with strange tears and alien sighs
      Thine unmelodious mouth and sunless eyes,
    And over thine irrevocable head
      Sheds light from the under skies.


    And one weeps with him in the ways Lethean,
      And stains with tears her changing bosom chill;
      That obscure Venus of the hollow hill,
    That thing transformed which was the Cytherean,
      With lips that lost their Grecian laugh divine
      Long since, and face no more called Erycine
    A ghost, a bitter and luxurious god.
      Thee also with fair flesh and singing spell
      Did she, a sad and second prey, compel
    Into the footless places once more trod,
      And shadows hot from hell.


    And now no sacred staff shall break in blossom,
      No choral salutation lure to light
      A spirit with perfume and sweet night
    And love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom.
      There is no help for these things; none to mend,
      And none to mar; not all our songs, O friend,
    Will make death clear or make life durable.
      Howbeit with rose and ivy and wild vine
      And with wild notes about this dust of thine
    At least I fill the place where white dreams dwell
      And wreathe an unseen shrine.


    Sleep; and if life was bitter to thee, pardon,
      If sweet, give thanks; thou hast no more to live
      And to give thanks is good, and to forgive.
    Out of the mystic and the mournful garden
      Where all day through thine hands in barren braid
      Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade,
    Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants gray,
      Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearted,
      Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that started,
    Shall death not bring us all as thee one day
      Among the days departed?


    For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother,
      Take at my hands this garland, and farewell.
      Thin is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell,
    And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother,
      With sadder than the Niobean womb,
      And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb.
    Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done:
      There lies not any troublous thing before,
      Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more,
    For whom all winds are quiet as the sun,
      All waters as the shore.

[From inside-leaf: Charles Pierre Baudelaire was born in Paris, France,
on April 9,1821, and died there on August 31, 1867. Flowers of Evil was
published in 1857 by Baudelaire's friend Auguste Poulet Malassis, who
had inherited a printing business at Alençon. Some of them had already
appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes. The poet, the publisher, and the
printer were found guilty of having offended against public morals.]


In presenting to the American public this collection in English of
perhaps the most influential French poet of the last seventy years, I
consider it essential to explain the conditions under which the work
has been done.

Baudelaire has written poems that will, in all likelihood, live while
poetry is used as a medium of expression, and the great influence that
he has exercised on English and continental literature is mainly due to
the particular quality of his style, his way of feeling or his method
of thought. He is a master of analytical power, and in his highest
ecstasy of emotional expression, this power can readily be recognized.
In his own quotation he gave forth his philosophy on this point:

"The more art would aim at being philosophically clear, the more will
it degrade itself and return to the childish hieroglyphic: on the other
hand, the more art detaches itself from teaching, the more will it
attain to pure disinterested beauty.... Poetry, under pain of death
or decay, cannot assimilate Herself to science or ethics. She has not
Truth for object, she has only Herself." What appears at first glance
in the preceding phrases to be a contradiction is really a confirmation
of Baudelaire's conception of the highest understanding of æsthetic
principle. Baudelaire's ideal beauty is tempered with mystery and
sadness, the real too, but never the commonplace.

No poet has brought so many new ideas in sensation into a literary
style. Intellectually he is all sensation, though he seldom degenerates
into abstract sentimentality. This sum totality of the power of
absorbing external sensation is Baudelaire. From the effect of his
objectivity his art expresses itself as if solely subjective. This
condition of mind and art makes him most difficult to translate into
another language, in particular, English.

This collection of his verse and prose is gathered from those
experiments in translation which I think will most effectively convey
to the English reader those qualities that made Baudelaire what he is.
There are numerous translations from Baudelaire in English but most of
them may be dismissed as being seldom successful. Mr. Arthur Symons'
translation of some of the prose poems is a most beautiful adventure
in psychological sensations, effective though not always accurate in
interpretation. Mr. F. P. Sturm's effort with the Flowers of Evil and
the Prose Poems is always accurate, sometimes inspired, and often a
tour de force of translation. Mr. W. J. Robertson's translations from
the Flowers of Evil is the most successful of all. He maintains with
amazing facility all the subtlety, beauty and one might also say the
perfume of Baudelaire's verse. Mr. Shipley does a most meritorious
work in his translations from the prose poems, and the reader will be
everlastingly grateful to him for his fine painstaking translation of
the _Intimate Papers_ from Baudelaire's unpublished novels.

There are few interesting or valuable essays on the mind and art of
Baudelaire in English, but the reader will find the following critical
appreciations to be of inestimable use in the study of the poet:

"The Influence of Baudelaire": G. Turquet-Milnes (Constable: 1913);
"The Baudelaire Legend": James Huneker (Egoists: Scribner's: 1909); and
Théophile Gautier's essay on Baudelaire, of which an excellent English
translation has been made by Prof. Sumichrast.

I think that this anthology will give the reader an intelligent
understanding of the mind and art of a very great French poet.

                                                          T. R. Smith.

June, 1919.




Charles Baudelaire was one of those who take the downward path which
leads to salvation. There are men born to be the martyrs of the world
and of their own time; men whose imagination carries them beyond all
that we know or have learned to think of as law and order; who are
so intoxicated with a vision of a beauty beyond the world that the
world's beauty seems to them but a little paint above the face of the
dead; who love God with a so consuming fire that they must praise evil
for God's glory, and blaspheme His name that all sects and creeds may
be melted away; who see beneath all there is of mortal loveliness,
the invisible worm, feeding upon hopes and desires no less than upon
the fair and perishable flesh; who are good and evil at the same
time; and because the good and evil in their souls finds a so perfect
instrument in the refined and tortured body of modern times, desire
keener pleasure and more intolerable anguish than the world contains,
and become materialists because the tortured heart cries out in denial
of the soul that tortures it. Charles Baudelaire was one of these men;
his art is the expression of his decadence; a study of his art is the
understanding of that complex movement, that "inquietude of the Veil
in the temple," as Mallarmé called it, that has changed the literature
of the world; and, especially, made of poetry the subtle and delicate
instrument of emotional expression it has become in our own day.

We used to hear a deal about Decadence in the arts, and now we hear
as much about Symbolism, which is a flower sprung from the old
corruption--but Baudelaire is decadence; his art is not a mere literary
affectation, a mask of sorrow to be thrown aside when the curtain
falls, but the voice of an imagination plunged into the contemplation
of all the perverse and fallen loveliness of the world; that finds
beauty most beautiful at the moment of its passing away, and regrets
its perishing with a so poignant grief that it must needs follow it
even into the narrow grave where those "dark comrades the worms,
without ears, without eyes," whisper their secrets of terror and tell
of yet another pang--

    "Pour ce vieux corps sans âme et mort parmi les morts."

All his life Baudelaire was a victim to an unutterable weariness,
that terrible malady of the soul born out of old times to prey upon
civilisations that have reached their zenith--weariness, not of life,
but of living, of continuing to labour and suffer in a world that has
exhausted all its emotions and has no new thing to offer. Being an
artist, therefore, he took his revenge upon life by a glorification of
all the sorrowful things that it is life's continual desire to forget.
His poems speak sweetly of decay and death, and whisper their graveyard
secrets into the ears of beauty. His men are men whom the moon has
touched with her own phantasy: who love the immense ungovernable
sea, the unformed and multitudinous waters; the place where they are
not; the woman they will never know; and all his women are enigmatic
courtesans whose beauty is a transfiguration of sin; who hide the
ugliness of the soul beneath the perfection of the body. He loves them
and does not love; they are cruel and indolent and full of strange
perversions; they are perfumed with exotic perfumes; they sleep to the
sound of viols, or fan themselves languidly in the shadow, and only he
sees that it is the shadow of death.

An art like this, rooted in a so tortured perception of the beauty and
ugliness of a world where the spirit is mingled indistinguishably with
the flesh, almost inevitably concerns itself with material things, with
all the subtle raptures the soul feels, not by abstract contemplation,
for that would mean content, but through the gateway of the senses;
the lust of the flesh, the delight of the eye. Sound, colour, odour,
form: to him these are not the symbols that lead the soul towards
the infinite: they are the soul; they are the infinite. He writes,
always with a weary and laborious grace, about the abstruser and
more enigmatic things of the flesh, colours and odours particularly;
but, unlike those later writers who have been called realists, he
apprehends, to borrow a phrase from Pater, "all those finer conditions
wherein material things rise to that subtlety of operation which
constitutes them spiritual, where only the finer nerve and the keener
touch can follow."

In one of his sonnets he says:

    "Je hais la passion et l'esprit me fait mal!"

and, indeed, he is a poet in whom the spirit, as modern thought
understands the word, had little or no part. We feel, reading his
terrible poems, that the body is indeed acutely conscious of the soul,
distressfully and even angrily conscious, but its motions are not yet
subdued by the soul's prophetic voice. It was to forget this voice,
with its eternal _Esto memor_, that Baudelaire wrote imperishabl  of
perishable things and their fading glory.


Charles Baudelaire was born at Paris, April 21st, 1821, in an old
turreted house in the Rue Hautefeuille. His father, a distinguished
gentleman of the eighteenth-century school, seems to have passed his
old-world manners on to his son, for we learn from Baudelaire's friend
and biographer, Théophile Gautier, that the poet "always preserved the
forms of an extreme urbanity."

At school, during his childhood, he gained many distinctions, and
passed for a kind of infant prodigy; but later on, when he sat for his
examination as _bachelier ès lettres_, his extreme nervousness made him
appear almost an idiot. Failing miserably, he made no second attempt.
Then his father died, and his mother married General Aupick, afterwards
ambassador to Constantinople, an excellent man in every respect, but
quite incapable of sympathising with or even of understanding the love
for literature that now began to manifest itself in the mind of his
stepson. All possible means were tried to turn him from literature to
some more lucrative and more respectable profession. Family quarrels
arose over this all-important question, and young Baudelaire, who seems
to have given some real cause for offence to the step-father whose
aspirations and profession he despised, was at length sent away upon a
long voyage, in the hopes that the sight of strange lands and new faces
would perhaps cause him to forget the ambitions his relatives could but
consider as foolish and idealistic. He sailed the Indian Seas; visited
the islands of Mauritius, Bourbon, Madagascar, and Ceylon; saw the
yellow waters of the sacred Ganges; stored up the memory of tropical
sounds and colours and odours for use later on; and returned to Paris
shortly after his twenty-first birthday, more than ever determined to
be a man of letters.

His parents were in despair; no doubt quite rightly so from their
point of view. Théophile Gautier, perhaps remembering the many
disappointments and martyrdoms of his own sad life, defends the
attitude of General Aupick in a passage where he poignantly describes
the hopelessness of the profession of letters. The future author
of _The Flowers of Evil_, however, was now his own master and in a
position, so far as monetary matters were concerned, to follow out
his own whim. He took apartments in the Hôtel Pimodan, a kind of
literary lodging-house where all Bohemia met; and where Gautier and
Boissard were also at that period installed. Then began that life of
uninterrupted labour and meditation that has given to France her most
characteristic literature, for these poems of Baudelaire's are not
only original in themselves but have been the cause of originality
in others; they are the root of modern French literature and much of
the best English literature; they were the origin of that new method
in poetry that gave Mallarmé and Verlaine to France; Yeats and some
others to England. It was in the Hôtel Pimodan that Baudelaire and
Gautier first met and formed one of those unfading friendships not so
rare among men of letters as among men of the world; there also the
"Hashish-Eaters" held the _séances_ that have since become famous in
the history of literature. Hashish and opium, indeed, contribute not a
little to the odour of the strange _Flowers of Evil_; as also, perhaps,
they contributed to Baudelaire's death from the terrible malady known
as general paralysis, for he was a man who could not resist a so easy
path into the world of _macabre_ visions. I shall return to this
question again; there is internal evidence in his writings that shows
he made good literary use of these opiate-born dreams which in the end
dragged him into their own abyss.

It was in 1849, when Baudelaire was twenty-eight years of age, that he
made the acquaintance of the already famous Théophile Gautier, from
whose admirable essay I shall presently translate a passage giving us
an excellent pen-sketch of the famous poet and cynic--for Baudelaire
was a cynic: he had not in the least degree the rapt expression and
vague personality usually supposed to be characteristic of the poetic
mood. "He recalls," wrote M. Dulamon, who knew him well, "one of
those beautiful Abbés of the eighteenth century, so correct in their
doctrine, so indulgent in their commerce with life--the Abbé de Bernis,
for example. At the same time, he writes better verse, and would not
have demanded at Rome the destruction of the Order of Jesuits."

That was Baudelaire exactly, suave and polished, filled with sceptical
faith, cynical with the terrible cynicism of the scholar who is acutely
conscious of all the morbid and gloomy secrets hidden beneath the
fair exteriors of the world. Gautier, in the passage I have already
mentioned, emphasises both his reserve and his cynicism: "Contrary to
the somewhat loose manners of artists generally, Baudelaire prided
himself upon observing the most rigid _convenances_; his courtesy,
indeed, was excessive to the point of seeming affected. He measured his
sentences, using only the most carefully chosen terms, and pronounced
certain words in a particular manner, as though he wished to underline
them and give them a mysterious importance. He had italics and capital
letters in his voice. Exaggeration, much in honour at Pimodan's, he
disdained as being theatrical and gross; though he himself affected
paradox and excess. With a very simple, very natural, and perfectly
detached air, as though retailing, _à la Prudhomme_, a newspaper
paragraph about the mildness or rigour of the weather, he would advance
some satanically monstrous axiom, or uphold with the coolness of ice
some theory of a mathematical extravagance; for he always followed
a rigorous plan in the development of his follies. His spirit was
neither in words nor traits; he saw things from a particular point
of view, so that their outlines were changed, as objects when one
gets a bird's-eye view of them; he perceived analogies inappreciable
to others, and you were struck by their fantastic logic. His rare
gestures were slow and sober; he never threw his arms about, for he
held southern gesticulation in horror; British coolness seemed to him
to be good taste. One might describe him as a dandy who had strayed
into Bohemia; though still preserving his rank, and that cult of self
which characterises a man imbued with the principles of Brummel." At
this time Baudelaire was practically unknown outside his own circle of
friends, writers themselves; and it was not until eight years later, in
1857, when he published his _Flowers of Evil_, that he became famous.
Infamous would perhaps be a better word to describe the kind of fame
he at first obtained, for every Philistine in France joined in the cry
against a poet who dared to remind his readers that the grave awaits
even the rich; who dared to choose the materials of his art from among
the objects of death and decay; who exposed the mouldering secrecies of
the grave, and painted, in the phosphorescent colours of corruption,
frescoes of death and horror; who desecrated love in the sonnet
entitled "Causerie":

    "You are a sky of autumn, pale and rose!
    But all the sea of sadness in my blood
    Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lip morose
    Salt with the memory of the bitter flood.

    In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o'er;
    That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate
    By woman's tooth and talon: ah! no more
    Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate!

    It is a ruin where the jackals rest,
    And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay!
    --A perfume swims about your naked breast,
    Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way!
    With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared
    Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared!"

We can recall nothing like it in the literary history of our own
country; the sensation caused by the appearance of the first series
of Mr. Swinburne's _Poems and Ballads_ was mild in comparison; just
as Mr. Swinburne's poems were but wan derivatives from Baudelaire--at
least as far as ideas are concerned; I say nothing about their beauty
of expression or almost absolute mastery of technique--for it is quite
obvious that the English poet was indebted to Baudelaire for all the
bizarre and Satanic elements in his work; as Baudelaire was indebted
to Poe. Mr. Swinburne, however, is wild where Baudelaire is grave;
and where Baudelaire compresses some perverse and morbid image into a
single unforgettable line, Mr. Swinburne beats it into a froth of many
musical lovely words, until we forget the deep sea in the shining foam.

If we call to mind the reception at first given to the black-and-white
work of Aubrey Beardsley, it will give some idea of the consternation
caused in France by the appearance of the _Flowers of Evil_. Beardsley,
indeed, resembles Baudelaire in many ways, for he achieved in art what
the other achieved in literature: the apotheosis of the horrible and
grotesque, the perfecting of symbols to shadow forth intellectual sin,
the tearing away of the decent veil of forgetfulness that hides our own
corruption from our eyes, and his one prose romance, _Under the Hill_,
unhappily incomplete at his death at the age of twenty-four, beats
Baudelaire on his own ground. The four or five chapters which alone
remain of this incomplete romance stand alone in literature. They are
the absolute attainment of what Baudelaire more or less successfully
attempted--a testament of sin. Not the sin of the flesh, the gross
faults of the body that are vulgarly known as sin; but sin which is a
metaphysical corruption, a depravity of pure intellect, the sin of the
fallen angels in hell who cover their anguish with the sound of harps
and sweet odours; who are incapable of bodily impurity, and for whom
spiritual purity is the only terror. And since mortality, which is the
shadow of the immortal, can comprehend spiritual and abstract things
only by the analogies and correspondences which exist between them and
the far reflections of them that we call reality, both Baudelaire and
Beardsley, as indeed all artists who speak with tongues of spiritual
truth, choose more or less actual human beings to be the shadows of the
divine or satanic beings they would invoke, and make them sin delicate
sins of the refined bodily sense that we may get a far-off glimpse of
the Evil that is not mortal but immortal, the Spiritual Evil that has
set up its black throne beside the throne of Spiritual Good, and has
equal share in the shaping of the world and man.

I am not sure that Baudelaire, when he wrote this sinister poetry,
had any clear idea that it was his vocation to be a prophet either
of good or evil. Certainly he had no thought of founding a school of
poetry, and if he made any conscious effort to bring a new method into
literature, it was merely because he desired to be one of the famous
writers of his country. An inspired thinker, however, whether his
inspiration be mighty or small, receives his thought from a profounder
source than his own physical reason, and writes to the dictation of
beings outside of and greater than himself. The famous Eliphas Levi,
like all the mystics who came before and after him, from Basilides
the Gnostic to Blake the English visionary, taught that the poet and
dreamer are the mediums of the Divine Word, and sole instruments
through which the gods energise in the world of material things. The
writing of a great book is the casting of a pebble into the pool of
human thought; it gives rise to ever-widening circles that will reach
we know not whither, and begins a chain of circumstances that may end
in the destruction of kingdoms and religions and the awakening of new
gods. The change wrought, directly or indirectly, by _The Flowers of
Evil_ alone is almost too great to be properly understood. There is
perhaps not a man in Europe to-day whose outlook on life would not have
been different had _The Flowers of Evil_ never been written. The first
thing that happens after the publication of such a book is the theft
of its ideas and the imitation of its style by the lesser writers who
labour for the multitude, and so its teaching goes from book to book,
from the greater to the lesser, as the divine hierarchies emanate from
Divinity, until ideas that were once paradoxical, or even blasphemous
and unholy, have become mere newspaper commonplaces adopted by the
numberless thousands who do not think for themselves, and the world's
thought is changed completely, though by infinite slow degrees. The
immediate result of Baudelaire's work was the Decadent School in
French literature. Then the influence spread across the Channel, and
the English Æsthetes arose to preach the gospel of imagination to
the unimaginative. Both Decadence and Æstheticism, as intellectual
movements, have fallen into the nadir of oblivion, and the dust lies
heavy upon them, but they left a little leaven to lighten the heavy
inertness of correct and academic literature; and now Symbolism, a
greater movement than either, is in the ascendant, giving another
turn to the wheel, and to all who think deeply about such matters
it seems as though Symbolist literature is to be the literature of
the future. The Decadents and Æsthetes were weak because they had
no banner to fight beneath, no authority to appeal to in defence of
their views, no definite gospel to preach. They were by turns morbid,
hysterical, foolishly blasphemous, or weakly disgusting, but never
anything for long, their one desire being to produce a thrill at any
cost. If the hospital failed they went to the brothel, and when even
obscenity failed to stimulate the jaded palates of their generation
there was still the graveyard left. A more or less successful imitation
of Baudelaire's awful verses entitled "The Corpse" has been the
beginning of more than one French poet's corrupt flight across the sky
of literature. That Baudelaire himself was one of their company is
not an accusation, for he had genius, which his imitators, English or
French, have not; and his book, even apart from the fact that it made
straight the way for better things, must be admitted to be a great and
subtly-wrought work of art by whosoever reads it with understanding.
And, moreover, his morbidness is not at all an affectation; his
poems inevitably prove the writer to have been quite sincere in his
perversion and in his decadence.

The Symbolist writers of to-day, though they are sprung from him, are
greater than he because they are the prophets of a faith who believe
in what they preach. They find their defence in the writings of the
mystics, and their doctrines are at the root of every religion. They
were held by the Gnostics and are in the books of the Kabbalists and
the Magi. Blake preached them and Eliphas Levi taught them to his
disciples in France, who in turn have misunderstood and perverted them,
and formed strange religions and sects of Devil-worshippers. These
doctrines hold that the visible world is the world of illusion, not of
reality. Colour and sound and perfume and all material and sensible
things are but the symbols and far-off reflections of the things that
are alone real. Reality is hidden away from us by the five senses and
the gates of death; and Reason, the blind and laborious servant of the
physical brain, deludes us into believing that we can know anything of
truth through the medium of the senses. It is through the imagination
alone that man can obtain spiritual revelation, for imagination is the
one window in the prison-house of the flesh through which the soul
can see the proud images of eternity. And Blake, who is the authority
of all English Symbolist writers, long since formulated their creed
in words that have been quoted again and again, and must still be
quoted by all who write in defence of modern art:--_"The world of
imagination is the world of Eternity. It is the divine bosom into which
we shall all go after the death of the vegetated body. This world of
imagination is infinite and eternal, whereat the world of generation,
or vegetation, is finite and temporal. There exist in that eternal
world the permanent realities of everything which we see reflected in
this vegetable glass of nature!"_

In spite of the cry against _Flowers of Evil_, Baudelaire did not lack
defenders among literary men themselves; and many enthusiastic articles
were written in praise of his book. Thierry not unjustly compared him
to Dante, to which Barbey d'Aurevilly replied, "Baudelaire comes from
hell, Dante only went there"; adding at the finish of his article:
"After the _Flowers of Evil_ there are only two possible ways for the
poet who made them blossom: either to blow out his brains or become
a Christian." Baudelaire did neither. And Victor Hugo, after reading
the two poems, "The Seven Old Men" and "The Little Old Women," wrote
to Baudelaire. "You have dowered the heaven of art with one knows not
what deathly gleam," he said in his letter; "you have created a new
shudder." The phrase became famous, and for many years after this the
creation of a new shudder was the ambition of every young French writer
worth his salt.

When the first great wave of public astonishment had broken and ebbed,
Baudelaire's work began to be appreciated by others than merely
literary men, by all in fact who cared for careful art and subtle
thinking, and before long he was admitted to be the greatest after
Hugo who had written French verse. He was famous and he was unhappy.
Neither glory, nor love, nor friendship--and he knew them all--could
minister to the disease of that fierce mind, seeking it knew not what
and never finding it; seeking it, unhappily, in the strangest excesses.
He took opium to quieten his nerves when they trembled, for something
to do when they did not, and made immoderate use of hashish to produce
visions and heighten his phantasy. His life was a haunted weariness.
Thomas de Quincey's _Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_ seems to
have fascinated him to a great extent, for besides imitating the vices
of the author, he wrote, in imitation of his book, _The Artificial
Paradises_, a monograph on the effects of opium and hashish, partly
original, partly a mere translation from the _Confessions_.

He remembered his visions and sensations as an eater of drugs and
made literary use of them. At the end of this book, among the "Poems
in Prose," will be found one entitled "The Double Chamber," almost
certainly written under the influence of opium, and the last verse of
"The Temptation"--

    "O mystic metamorphosis!
      My senses into one sense flow--
    Her voice makes perfume when she speaks,
      Her breath is music faint and low!"

as well as the last six lines of that profound sonnet

    "Some perfumes are as fragrant as a child,
    Sweet as the sound of hautboys, meadow-green;
    Others, corrupted, rich, exultant, wild,
    Have all the expansion of things infinite:
    As amber, incense, musk, and benzoin,
    Which sing the sense's and the soul's delight,"

are certainly memories of a sensation he experienced under the
influence of hashish, as recorded in _The Artificial Paradises_, where
he has this curious passage:--"The senses become extraordinarily
acute and fine. The eyes pierce Infinity. The ear seizes the most
unseizable sounds in the midst of the shrillest noises. Hallucinations
commence.... External objects take on monstrous appearances and
show themselves under forms hitherto unknown.... The most singular
equivocations, the most inexplicable transposition of ideas, take
place. _Sounds are perceived to have a colour, and colour becomes
musical._" Baudelaire need not have gone to hashish to discover this.
The mystics of all times have taught that sounds in gross matter
produce colour in subtle matter; and all who are subject to any
visionary condition know that when in trance colours will produce
words of a language whose meaning is forgotten as soon as one awakes
to normal life; but I do not think Baudelaire was a visionary. His
work shows too precise a method, and a too ordered appreciation of the
artificial in beauty. There again he is comparable to Aubrey Beardsley,
for I have read somewhere that when Beardsley was asked if ever he saw
visions, he replied, "I do not permit myself to see them, except upon
paper." The whole question of the colour of sound is one of supreme
interest to the poet, but it is too difficult and abstract a question
to be written of here. A famous sonnet by Rimbaud on the colour of the
vowels has founded a school of symbolists in France. I will content
myself with quoting that--in the original, since it loses too much, by

    "A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu, voyelles,
    Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes,
    A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
    Qui bourdonnent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

    Golfes d'ombres; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
    Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombrelles;
    I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
    Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;

    U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
    Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
    Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux.

    O, suprême clairon, plein de strideurs étranges,
    Silences traversés des mondes et des anges.
    --O l'Oméga, rayon violet de ses yeux."

It is to be hoped that opium and hashish rendered Baudelaire somewhat
less unhappy during his life, for they certainly contributed to hasten
his death. Always of an extremely neurotic temperament, he began to
break down beneath his excesses, and shortly after the publication of
_The Artificial Paradises_, which shows a considerable deterioration in
his style, he removed from Paris to Brussels in the hope of building
up his health by the change. At Brussels he grew worse. His speech
began to fail; he was unable to pronounce certain words and stumbled
over others. Hallucinations commenced, no longer the hallucinations of
hashish; and his disease, rapidly establishing itself, was recognised
as "general paralysis of the insane." Gautier tells how the news of
his death came to Paris while he yet lived. It was false news, but
prematurely true. Baudelaire lingered on for another three months;
motionless and inert, his eyes the only part of him alive; unable to
speak or even to write, and so died.

He left, besides _The Flowers of Evil_ and _Little Poems in Prose_
(his masterpieces), several volumes of critical essays, published
under the titles of _Æsthetic Curiosities_ and _Romantic Art; The
Artificial Paradises_, and his translations of the works of Edgar Allan
Poe--admirable pieces of work by which Poe actually gains.


Baudelaire's love of the artificial has been insisted upon by all who
have studied his work, but to my mind never sufficiently insisted
upon, for it was the foundation of his method. He wrote many arguments
in favour of the artificial, and elaborated them into a kind of
paradoxical philosophy of art. His hatred of nature and purely natural
things was but a perverted form of the religious ecstasy that made the
old monk pull his cowl about his eyes when he left his cell in the
month of May, lest he should see the blossoming trees, and his mind be
turned towards the beautiful delusions of the world. The Egyptians and
the earliest of the Christians looked upon nature not as the work of
the good and benevolent spirit who is the father of our souls, but as
the work of the rebellious "gods of generation," who fashion beautiful
things to capture the heart of man and bind his Soul to earth. Blake,
whom I have already quoted, hated nature in the same fashion, and held
death to be the one way of escape from "the delusions of goddess Nature
and her laws." Baudelaire's revolt against external things was more
a revolt of the intellect than of the imagination; and he expresses
it, not by desiring that the things of nature should be swept away to
make room for the things of the spirit, but that they should be so
changed by art that they cease to be natural. As he was of all poets
the most intensely modern, holding that "modernity is one-half of art,"
the other half being something "eternal and immutable," he preferred,
unlike Blake and his modern followers, to express himself in quite
modern terms, and so wrote his famous and much misunderstood Éloge du
Maquillage to defend his views. As was usual with him, he pushed his
ideas to their extreme logical sequence, and the casual reader who
picks up that extraordinary essay is in consequence quite misled as to
the writer's intention.

It seems scarcely necessary at this time of day to assert that the
_Éloge du Maquillage_ is something more than a mere _Praise of
Cosmetics_, written by a man who wished to shock his readers. It is
the part expression of a theory of art, and if it is paradoxical and
far-fetched it is because Baudelaire wrote at a time when French
literature, in the words of M. Asselineau, "was dying of correctness,"
and needed very vigorous treatment indeed. If the _Éloge du Maquillage_
had been more restrained in manner, if it had not been something so
entirely contrary to all accepted ideas of the well-regulated citizen
who never thinks a thought that somebody else has not put into his
head, it might have been passed over without notice. It was written to
initiate the profane; to make them think, at least; and not to raise a
smile among the initiated. And moreover, it was in a manner a defence
of his own work that had met with so much hatred and opposition.

He begins by attempting to prove that Nature is innately and
fundamentally wrong and wicked. "The greater number of errors relative
to the beautiful date from the eighteenth century's false conceptions
of morality. Nature was regarded in those times as the base, source,
and type of all possible good and beauty.... If, however, we consent
to refer simply to the visible facts,... we see that Nature teaches
nothing, or almost nothing. That is to say, she _forces_ man to sleep,
to drink, to eat, and to protect himself, well or ill, against the
hostilities of the atmosphere. It is she also who moves him to kill
and eat or imprison and torture his kind; for, as soon as we leave
the region of necessities and needs to enter into that of luxuries
and pleasures, we see that Nature is no better than a counsellor to
crime.... Religion commands us to nourish our poor and infirm parents;
Nature (the voice of our own interest) commands us to do away with
them. Pass in review, analyse all that is natural, all the actions
and desires of the natural man, and you will find nothing but what is
horrible. All beautiful and noble things are the result of calculation.
Crime, the taste for which the human animal absorbs before birth,
is originally natural. Virtue, on the contrary, is _artificial_,
supernatural, since there has been a necessity in all ages and among
all nations for gods and prophets to preach virtue to humanity; since
man alone would have been unable to discover it. Evil is done without
effort, _naturally_ and by fatality; good is always the product of an

So far the argument is straightforward and expresses what many
must have thought, but Baudelaire, remembering that exaggeration
is the best way of impressing one's ideas upon the unimaginative,
immediately carries his argument from the moral order to the order of
the beautiful, and applies it there. The result is strange enough. "I
am thus led to regard personal adornment as one of the signs of the
primitive nobility of the human soul. The races that our confused and
perverted civilisation, with a fatuity and pride entirely laughable,
treats as savages, understand as does the child the high spirituality
of the toilet. The savage and the child, by their naïve love of all
brilliant things, of glittering plumage and shining stuffs, and the
superlative majesty of artificial forms, bear witness to their distaste
for reality, and so prove, unknown to themselves, the immateriality of
their souls."

Thus, with some appearance of logic, he carries his argument a step
farther, and this immediately brings him to the bizarre conclusion that
the more beautiful a woman naturally is, the more she should hide her
natural beauty beneath the artificial charm of rouge and powder. "She
performs a duty in attempting to appear magical and supernatural. She
is an idol who must adorn herself to be adored." Powder and rouge and
kohl, all the little artifices that shock respectability, have for
their end "the creation of an abstract unity in the grain and colour of
the skin." This unity brings the human being nearer to the condition
of a statue--that is to say, "a divine and superior being." Red and
black are the symbols of "an excessive and supernatural life." A touch
of kohl "lends to the eye a more decided appearance of a window opened
upon infinity"; and rouge augments the brilliance of the eye, "and adds
to a beautiful feminine face the mysterious passion of the priestess."
But artifice cannot make ugliness any the less ugly, nor help age to
rival youth. "Who dare assign to art the sterile function of imitating
nature?" Deception, if it is to have any charm, must be obvious and
unashamed; it must be displayed "if not with affectation, at least with
a kind of candour."

Such theories as these, if they are sincerely held, necessarily lead
the theorist into the strangest bypaths of literature. Baudelaire, like
many another writer whose business is with verse, pondered so long upon
the musical and rhythmical value of words that at times words became
meaningless to him. He thought his own language too simple to express
the complexities of poetic reverie, and dreamed of writing his poems
in Latin. Not, however, in the Latin of classical times; that was
too robust, too natural, too "brutal and purely epidermic," to use
an expression of his own; but in the corrupt Latin of the Byzantine
decadence, which he considered as "the supreme sigh of a strong being
already transformed and prepared for the spiritual life."

One of these Latin poems has appeared in all editions of _The Flowers
of Evil_. Though dozens as good are to be found in the Breviary of
the Roman Church, "Franciscæ Meæ Laudes" has been included in this
selection for the benefit of those curious in such matters. It is one
of Baudelaire's many successful steps in the wrong direction.


In almost every line of _The Flowers of Evil_ one can trace the
influence of Edgar Poe, and in the many places where Baudelaire has
attained a pure imaginative beauty as in "The Sadness of the Moon"
or "Music" or "The Death of Lovers," it is a beauty that would have
pleased the author of _Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque_. Another
kind of beauty, the beauty of death--for in Baudelaire's crucible
everything is melted into loveliness--is even more directly traceable
to Poe. In spite of the sonnet "Correspondences," and in spite of his
Symbolist followers of the present day, Baudelaire himself made but
an imperfect use of such symbols as he had; and these he found ready
to his hand in the works of the American poet. The Tomb, the symbol
of death or of an intellectual darkness inhabited by the Worm, who is
remorse; the Abyss, which is the despair into which the mortal part of
man's mind plunges when brought into contact with dead and perishing
substances; all these are borrowed from Poe. The Worm, who "devours
with a kiss," occasionally becomes Time devouring life, or the Demon,
"the obscure Enemy who gnaws the heart"; and when it is none of these
it is the Serpent, as in that sombre poem "To a Madonna"--the Serpent
beneath the feet of conquering purity. Baudelaire's imagination,
however, which continually ran upon _macabre_ images, loved remorse
more than peace, and loved the Serpent more than the purity that would
slay it, so he destroys purity with "Seven Knives" which are "the Seven
Deadly Sins," that the Serpent may live to prey upon a heart that finds
no beauty in peace. Even Love is evil, for his "ancient arrows" are
"crime, horror, folly," and the god Eros becomes a demon lying in wait:

    "Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat
    Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow,
    And I too well his ancient arrows know:
    Crime, Horror, Folly...."

Gautier pretends that the poet preserved his ideal under the form of
"the adorable phantom of La Beatrix, the ideal ever desired, never
attained, the divine and superior beauty incarnated in an ethereal
woman, spiritualised, made of light and flame and perfume, a vapour, a
dream, a reflection of the seraphical world"; but when Baudelaire has
a vision of this same Beatrice he sees her as one of a crowd of "cruel
and curious demons" who mock at his sorrow, and she, too, mocks him,
and caresses the demons who are his spiritual foes.

Baudelaire was too deeply in love with the artificial to care overmuch
for the symbols he could have found among natural objects. Only once
in _The Flowers of Evil_ does he look upon the Moon with the eyes of a
mystic; and that is when he remembers that all people of imagination
are under the Moon's influence, and makes his poet hide her iridescent
tear in his heart, "far from the eyes of the Sun," for the Sun is lord
of material labours and therefore hostile to the dreams and reveries
that are the activity of the poet. He sought more for bizarre analogies
and striking metaphors than for true symbols or correspondences. He is
happiest when comparing the vault of the heaven to "the lighted ceiling
of a music hall," or "the black lid of the mighty pot where the human
generations boil"; and when he thinks of the unfortunate and unhappy
folk of the world, he does not see any hope for them in any future
state; he sees, simply, "God's awful claw" stretched out to tear them.
He offers pity, but no comfort.

Sometimes he has a vision of a beauty unmingled with any malevolence;
but it is always evoked by sensuous and material things; perfume or
music; and always it is a sorrowful loveliness he mourns or praises.
Perhaps of all his poems "The Balcony" is most full of that tender and
reverential melancholy we look for in a poem of love; but even it tells
of a passion that has faded out of heart and mind and become beautiful
only with its passing away, and not of an existing love. The other love
poems--if indeed such a name can be given to "A Madrigal of Sorrow,"
"The Eyes of Beauty," "The Remorse of the Dead," and the like--are
nothing but terrible confessions of satiety, or cruelty, or terror. I
have translated "The Corpse," his most famous and most infamous poem,
partly because it shows him at his worst as the others in the volume at
his best, partly because it is something of the nature of a literary
curiosity. A poem like "The Corpse," which is simply an example of
what may happen if any writer pushes his theories to the extreme, does
not at all detract, be it said, from Baudelaire's delicate genius; for
though he may not be quite worthy of a place by Dante, he has written
poems that Dante might have been proud to write, and he is worthy to
be set among the very greatest of the moderns, alongside Hugo and
Verlaine. Read the sonnet entitled "Beauty" and you will see how
he has invoked in fourteen lines the image of a goddess, mysterious
and immortal; as fair as that Aphrodite who cast the shadow of her
loveliness upon the Golden Age; as terrible as Pallas, "the warrior
maid invincible." And as Minerva loved mortality in the person of
Ulysses, so Baudelaire's personification of Beauty loves the poets who
pray before her and gaze into her eternal eyes, watching the rising and
setting of their visionary Star in those placid mirrors.

The explanation of most of Baudelaire's morbid imaginings is this, that
he was a man haunted by terrible dream-like memories; chief among them
the memory that the loveliness he had adored in woman--the curve of a
perfect cheek, the lifting of a perfect arm in some gesture of imperial
indolence, the fall of a curl across, a pale brow, all the minute
and unforgettable things that give immortality to some movement of
existence--all these, and the woman and her lover, must pass away from
Time and Space; and he, unhappily, knew nothing of the philosophy that
teaches us how all objects and events, even the most trivial--a woman's
gesture, a rose, a sigh, a fading flame, the sound that trembles
on a lute-string--find a place in Eternity when they pass from the
recognition of our senses. If he believed in the deathlessness of man's
personality he gained no comfort from his belief. He mourned the body's
decay; he was not concerned with the soul; and no heaven less palpable
than Mohammed's could have had any reality in his imagination.

His prose is as distinguished in its manner as his verse. I think it
was Professor Saintsbury who first brought _The Little Poems in Prose_,
a selection from which is included in this volume, before the notice
of English readers in an essay written many years ago. I am writing
this in France, far from the possibility of consulting any English
books, but if my memory serves me rightly he considered the prose of
these prose poems to be as perfect as literature can be. I think he
said, "they go as far as prose can go." They need no other introduction
than themselves, for they are perfect of their kind, and not different
in thought from the more elaborately wrought poems of _The Flowers of
Evil_. Some of them, as for instance "Every Man His Chimæra," are as
classical and as universally true as the myths and symbolisms of the
Old Testament; and all of them, I think, are worthy of a place in that
book the Archangel of the Presence will consult when all is weighed
in the balance--the book written by man himself, the record of his
deep and shallow imaginings. Baudelaire wrote them, he said, because
he had dreamed, "in his days of ambition," "of a miracle of poetical
prose, musical without rhythm and without rhyme." His attitude of mind
was always so natural to him that he never thought it necessary to
make any excuse for the spirit of his art or the drear philosophy he
preached; unless a short notice printed in the first edition of his
poems, but withdrawn from the second edition, explaining that "faithful
to his dolorous programme, the author of _The Flowers of Evil_, as a
perfect comedian, has had to mould his spirit to all sophisms as to all
corruptions," can be considered as an excuse. From whatever point of
view we regard him: whether we praise his art and blame his philosophy,
or blame his art and praise his philosophy, he is as difficult to
analyse as he is difficult to give a place to, for we have none with
whom to compare him, or very few, too few to be of service to the
critic. His art is like the pearl, a beautiful product of disease, and
to blame it is like blaming the pearl.

He looked upon life very much as Poe, whom he so admired, looked upon
it: with the eye of a sensitive spectator in some gloomy vault of the
Spanish Inquisition, where beauty was upon the rack; he was horrified,
but unable to turn from a sight that fascinated him by its very terror.
His moments of inspiration are haunted by the consciousness that evil
beings, clothed with horror as with a shroud, are ever lingering about
the temple of life and awaiting an opportunity to enter. He was like
a man who awakens trembling from a nightmare, afraid of the darkness,
and unable to believe the dawn may be less hopeless than the midnight.
Perhaps he was haunted, as many artists and all mystics, by a fear of
madness and of the unseen world of evil shapes that sanity hides from
us and madness reveals. Is there a man, is there a writer, especially,
who has not at times been conscious of a vague and terrible fear that
the whole world of visible nature is but a comfortable illusion that
may fade away in a moment and leave him face to face with the horror
that has visited him in dreams? The old occult writers held that
the evil thoughts of others beget phantoms in the air that can make
themselves, bodies out of our fear, and haunt even our waking moments.
These were the shapes of terror that haunted Baudelaire. Shelley, too,
writes of them with as profound a knowledge as the magical writer of
the Middle Ages. They come to haunt his Prometheus.

    "Blackening the birth of day with countless wings,
    And hollow underneath, like death."

They are the elemental beings who dwell beside the soul of the dreamer
and the poet, "like a vain loud multitude"; turning life into death and
all beautiful thoughts into poems like _The Flowers of Evil_, or into
tales like the satanic reveries of Edgar Poe.

    "We are the ministers of pain, and fear,
    And disappointment, and mistrust, and hate,
    And clinging crime; and as lean dogs pursue
    Through wood and lake some struck and sobbing fawn,
    We track all things that weep, and bleed, and live,
    When the great King betrays them to our will."

And every man gives them of the substance of his imagination to clothe
them in prophetic shapes that are the images of his destiny:

    "From our victim's destined agony
    The shade which is our form invests us round,
    Else we are shapeless as our mother Night."

The greatest of all poets conquer their dreams; others, who are
great, but not of the greatest, are conquered by them, and Baudelaire
was one of these. There is a passage in the works of Edgar Poe that
Baudelaire may well have pondered as he laboured at his translation,
for it reveals the secret of his life: "There are moments when, even
to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume
the semblance of a hell; but the imagination of man is no Carathis
to explore with impunity its every cavern. Alas! the grim legion of
sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful; but,
like the demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the
Oxus, they must sleep or they will devour us--they must be suffered to
slumber or we perish."


Translated by Arthur Symons


The "Petits Poëmes en Prose" are experiments, and they are also
confessions. "Who of us," says Baudelaire in his dedicatory preface,
"has not dreamed, in moments of ambition, of the miracle of a poetic
prose, musical without rhythm and without rhyme, subtle and staccato
enough to follow the lyric motions of the soul, the wavering outlines
of meditation, the sudden starts of the conscience?" This miracle he
has achieved in these _bagatelles laborieuses_, to use his own words,
these astonishing trifles, in which the art is not more novel, precise
and perfect than the quality of thought and of emotion. In translating
into English a few of these little masterpieces, which have given me so
much delight for so many years, I have tried to be absolutely faithful
to the sense, the words, and the rhythm of the original. A. S.



The Moon, who is caprice itself, looked in through the window when you
lay asleep in your cradle, and said inwardly: "This is a child after my
own soul."

And she came softly down the staircase of the clouds, and passed
noiselessly through the window-pane. Then she laid herself upon you
with, the supple tenderness of a mother, and she left her colours
upon your face. That is why your eyes are green and your cheeks
extraordinarily pale. It was when you looked at her, that your pupils
widened so strangely; and she clasped her arms so tenderly about your
throat that ever since you have had the longing for tears.

Nevertheless, in the flood of her joy, the Moon filled the room like
a phosphoric atmosphere, like a luminous poison; and all this living
light thought and said: "My kiss shall be upon you for ever. You shall
be beautiful as I am beautiful. You shall love that which I love and
that by which I am loved: water and clouds, night and silence; the
vast green sea; the formless and multiform water; the place where you
shall never be; the lover whom you shall never know; unnatural flowers;
odours which make men drunk; the cats that languish upon pianos and sob
like women, with hoarse sweet voices!

"And you shall be loved by my lovers, courted by my courtiers. You
shall be the queen of men who have green eyes, and whose throats I have
clasped by night in my caresses; of those that love the sea, the vast
tumultuous green sea, formless and multiform water, the place where
they are not, the woman whom they know not, the ominous flowers that
are like the censers of an unknown rite, the odours that trouble the
will, and the savage and voluptuous beasts that are the emblems of
their folly."

And that is why, accursed dear spoilt child, I lie now at your feet,
seeking to find in you the image of the fearful goddess, the fateful
god-mother, the poisonous nurse of all the moonstruck of the world.



I knew one Benedicta who filled earth and air with the ideal; and from
whose eyes men learnt the desire of greatness, of beauty, of glory, and
of all whereby we believe in immortality.

But this miraculous child was too beautiful to live long; and she died
only a few days after I had come, to know her, and I buried her with my
own hands, one day when Spring shook out her censer in the graveyards.
I buried her with my own hands, shut down into a coffin of wood,
perfumed and incorruptible like Indian caskets.

And as I still gazed at the place where I had laid away my treasure,
I saw all at once a little person singularly like the deceased, who
trampled on the fresh soil with a strange and hysterical violence, and
said, shrieking with laughter: "Look at me! I am the real Benedicta! a
pretty sort of baggage I am! And to punish you for your blindness and
folly you shall love me just as I am!"

But I was furious, and I answered: "No! no! no!" And to add more
emphasis to my refusal I stamped on the ground so violently with my
foot that my leg sank up to the knee in the earth of the new grave; and
now, like a wolf caught in a trap, I remain fastened, perhaps for ever,
to the grave of the ideal.



There is a wonderful country, a country of Cockaigne, they say, which
I dreamed of visiting with an old friend. It is a strange country,
lost in the mists of our North, and one might call it the East of
the West, the China of Europe, so freely does a warm and capricious
fancy flourish there, and so patiently and persistently has that fancy
illustrated it with a learned and delicate vegetation.

A real country of Cockaigne, where everything is beautiful, rich,
quiet, honest; where order is the likeness and the mirror of luxury;
where life is fat, and sweet to breathe; where disorder, tumult, and
the unexpected are shut out; where happiness is wedded to silence;
where even cooking is poetic, rich and highly flavoured at once; where
all, dear love, is made in your image.

You know that feverish sickness which comes over us in our cold
miseries, that nostalgia of unknown lands, that anguish of curiosity?
There is a country made in your image, where all is beautiful, rich,
quiet and honest; where fancy has built and decorated a western China,
where life is sweet to breathe, where happiness is wedded to silence.
It is there that we should live, it is there that we should die!

Yes, it is there that we should breathe, dream, and lengthen out
the hours by the infinity of sensations. A musician has written an
"Invitation à la Valse": who will compose the "Invitation au Voyage"
that we can offer to the beloved, to the chosen sister?

Yes, it is in this atmosphere that it would be good to live; far off,
where slower hours contain more thoughts where clocks strike happiness
with a deeper and more significant solemnity.

On shining panels, or on gilded leather of a dark richness, slumbers
the discreet life of pictures, deep, calm, and devout as the souls of
the pointers who created it. The sunsets which colour so richly the
walls of dining-room and drawing-room, are sifted through beautiful
hangings or through tall wrought windows leaded into many panes. The
pieces of furniture are large, curious, and fantastic, armed with locks
and secrets like refined souls. Mirrors, metals, hangings, goldsmith's
work and pottery, play for the eyes a mute and mysterious symphony; and
from all things, from every corner, from the cracks of drawers and from
the folds of hangings, exhales a singular odour, a "forget-me-not" of
Sumatra, which is, as it were, the soul of the abode.

A real country of Cockaigne, I assure you, where all is beautiful,
clean, and shining, like a clear conscience, like a bright array of
kitchen crockery, like splendid jewellery of gold, like many-coloured
jewellery of silver! All the treasures of the world have found their
way there, as to the house of a hard-working man who has put the
whole world in his debt. Singular country, excelling others as Art
excels Nature, where Nature is refashioned by dreams, where Nature is.
corrected, embellished, remoulded.

Let the alchemists of horticulture seek and seek again, let them set
ever further and further back the limits to their happiness! Let them
offer prizes of sixty and of a hundred thousand florins to whoever will
solve their ambitious problems! For me, I have found my "black tulip"
and my "blue dahlia!"

Incomparable flower, recaptured tulip, allegoric dahlia, it is there,
is it not, in that beautiful country, so calm and so full of dreams,
that you live and flourish? There, would you not be framed within your
own analogy, and would you not see yourself again, reflected, as the
mystics say, in your own "correspondence"?

Dreams, dreams ever! and the more delicate and ambitious the soul, the
further do dreams estrange it from possible things. Every man carries
within himself his natural dose of opium, ceaselessly secreted and
renewed, and, from birth to death, how many hours can we reckon of
positive pleasure, of successful and decided action? Shall we ever live
in, shall we ever pass into, that picture which my mind has painted,
that picture made in your image?

These treasures, this furniture, this luxury, this order, these odours,
these miraculous flowers, are you. You too are the great rivers and the
quiet canals. The vast ships that drift down them, laden with riches,
from whose decks comes the sound of the monotonous songs of labouring
sailors, are my thoughts which slumber or rise and fall on your breast.
You lead them softly towards the sea, which is the infinite, mirroring
the depths of the sky in the crystal clearness of your soul; and when,
weary of the surge and heavy with the spoils of the East, they return
to the port of their birth, it is still my thoughts that come back
enriched out of the infinite to you.



Ah! you want to know why I hate you to-day. It will probably be less
easy for you to understand than for me to explain it to you; for you
are, I think, the most perfect example of feminine impenetrability that
could possibly be found.

We had spent a long day together, and it had seemed to me short. We had
promised one another that we would think the same thoughts and that our
two souls should become one soul; a dream which is not original, after
all, except that, dreamed by all men, it has been realised by none.

In the evening you were a little tired, and you sat down outside a new
café at the corner of a new boulevard, still littered with plaster
and already displaying proudly its unfinished splendours. The café
glittered. The very gas put on all the fervency of a fresh start, and
lighted up with its full force the blinding whiteness of the walls,
the dazzling sheets of glass in the mirrors, the gilt of cornices
and mouldings, the chubby-cheeked pages straining back from hounds
in leash, the ladies laughing at the falcons on their wrists, the
nymphs and goddesses carrying fruits and pies and game on their heads,
the Hebes and Ganymedes holding out at arm's-length little jars of
syrups or parti-coloured obelisks of ices; the whole of history and of
mythology brought together to make a paradise for gluttons. Exactly
opposite to us, in the roadway, stood a man of about forty years of
age, with a weary face and a greyish beard, holding a little boy by one
hand and carrying on the other arm a little fellow too weak to walk.
He was taking the nurse-maid's place, and had brought his children
out for a walk in the evening. All were in rags. The three faces were
extraordinarily serious, and the six eyes stared fixedly at the new
café with an equal admiration, differentiated in each according to age.

The father's eyes said: "How beautiful it is! how beautiful it is! One
would think that all the gold of the poor world had found its way to
these walls." The boy's eyes said: "How beautiful it is! how beautiful
it is! But that is a house which only people who are not like us can
enter." As for the little one's eyes, they were too fascinated to
express anything but stupid and utter joy.

Song-writers say that pleasure ennobles the soul and softens the heart.
The song was right that evening, so far as I was concerned. Not only
was I touched by this family of eyes, but I felt rather ashamed of
our glasses and decanters, so much too much for our thirst. I turned
to look at you, dear love, that I might read my own thought in you; I
gazed deep into your eyes, so beautiful and so strangely sweet, your
green eyes that are the home of caprice and under the sovereignty of
the Moon; and you said to me: "Those people are insupportable to me
with their staring saucer-eyes! Couldn't you tell the head waiter to
send them away?"

So hard is it to understand one another, dearest, and so incommunicable
is thought, even between people who are in love!



He who looks in through an open window never sees so many things as
he who looks at a shut window. There is nothing more profound, more
mysterious, more fertile, more gloomy, or more dazzling, than a window
lighted by a candle. What we can see in the sunlight is always less
interesting than what goes on behind the panes of a window. In that
dark or luminous hollow, life lives, life dreams, life suffers.

Across the waves of roofs, I can see a woman of middle age, wrinkled,
poor, who is always leaning over something, and who never goes out.
Out of her face, out of her dress, out of her attitude, out of nothing
almost, I have made up the woman's story, and sometimes I say it over
to myself with tears.

If it had been a poor old man, I could have made up his just as easily.

And I go to bed, proud of having lived and suffered in others.

Perhaps you will say to me: "Are you sure that it is the real story?"
What does it matter, what does any reality outside of myself matter, if
it has helped me to live, to feel that I am, and what I am?



It is not given to every man to take a bath of multitude: to play
upon crowds is an art; and he alone can plunge, at the expense of
humankind, into a debauch of vitality, to whom a fairy has bequeathed
in his cradle the love of masks and disguises, the hate of home and the
passion of travel.

Multitude, solitude: equal terms mutually convertible by the active and
begetting poet. He who does not know how to people his solitude, does
not know either how to be alone in a busy crowd.

The poet enjoys this incomparable privilege, to be at once himself and
others. Like those wandering souls that go about seeking bodies, he
enters at will the personality of every man. For him alone, every place
is vacant; and if certain places seem to be closed against him, that is
because in his eyes they are not worth the trouble of visiting.

The solitary and thoughtful walker derives a singular intoxication
from this universal communion. He who mates easily with the crowd knows
feverish joys that must be for ever unknown to the egoist, shut up like
a coffer, and to the sluggard, imprisoned like a shell-fish. He adopts
for his own all the occupations, all the joys and all the sorrows that
circumstance sets before him.

What men call love is small indeed, narrow and weak indeed, compared
with this ineffable orgie, this sacred prostitution of the soul which
gives itself up wholly (poetry and charity!) to the unexpected which
happens, to the stranger as he passes.

It is good sometimes that the happy of this world should learn, were
it only to humble their foolish pride for an instant, that there are
higher, wider, and rarer joys than theirs. The founders of colonies,
the shepherds of nations, the missionary priests, exiled to the ends of
the earth, doubtless know something of these mysterious intoxications;
and, in the midst of the vast family that their genius has raised about
them, they must sometimes laugh at the thought of those who pity them
for their chaste lives and troubled fortunes.



I was travelling. The landscape in the midst of which I was seated
was of an irresistible grandeur and sublimity. Something no doubt at
that moment passed from it into my soul. My thoughts fluttered with a
lightness like that of the atmosphere; vulgar passions, such as hate
and profane love, seemed to me now as far away as the clouds that
floated in the gulfs beneath my feet; my soul seemed to me as vast
and pure as the dome of the sky that enveloped me; the remembrance of
earthly things came as faintly to my heart as the thin tinkle of the
bells of unseen herds, browsing far, far away, on the slope of another
mountain. Across the little motionless lake, black with the darkness
of its immense depth, there passed from time to time the shadow of a
cloud, like the shadow of an airy giant's cloak, flying through heaven.
And I remember that this rare and solemn sensation, caused by a vast
and perfectly silent movement, filled me with mingled joy and fear.
In a word, thanks to the enrapturing beauty about me, I felt that I
was at perfect peace with myself and with the universe; I even believe
that, in my complete forgetfulness of all earthly evil, I had come to
think the newspapers are right after all, and man was born good; when,
incorrigible matter renewing its exigencies, I sought to refresh the
fatigue and satisfy the appetite caused by so lengthy a climb. I took
from my pocket a large piece of bread, a leathern cup, and a small
bottle of a certain elixir which the chemists at that time sold to
tourists, to be mixed, on occasion, with liquid snow.

I was quietly cutting my bread when a slight noise made me look up. I
saw in front of me a little ragged urchin, dark and dishevelled, whose
hollow eyes, wild and supplicating, devoured the piece of bread. And I
heard him gasp, in a low, hoarse voice, the word: "Cake!" I could not
help laughing at the appellation with which he thought fit to honour my
nearly white bread, and I cut off a big slice and offered it to him.
Slowly he came up to me, not taking his eyes from the coveted object;
then, snatching it out of my hand, he stepped quickly back, as if he
feared that my offer was not sincere, or that I had already repented of

But at the same instant he was knocked over by another little savage,
who had sprung from I know not where, and who was so precisely like
the first that one might have taken them for twin brothers. They
rolled over on the ground together, struggling for the possession of
the precious booty, neither willing to share it with his brother. The
first, exasperated, clutched the second by the hair; and the second
seized one of the ears of the first between his teeth, and spat out
a little bleeding morsel with a fine oath in dialect. The legitimate
proprietor of the cake tried to hook his little claws into the
usurper's eyes; the latter did his best to throttle his adversary with
one hand, while with the other he endeavoured to slip the prize of war
into his pocket. But, heartened by despair, the loser pulled himself
together, and sent the victor sprawling with a blow of the head in his
stomach. Why describe a hideous fight which indeed lasted longer than
their childish strength seemed to promise? The cake travelled from hand
to hand, and changed from pocket to pocket, at every moment; but, alas,
it changed also in size; and when at length, exhausted, panting and
bleeding, they stopped from the sheer impossibility of going on, there
was no longer any cause of feud; the slice of bread had disappeared,
and lay scattered in crumbs like the grains of sand with which it was

The sight had darkened the landscape for me, and dispelled the joyous
calm in which my soul had lain basking; I remained saddened for quite a
long time, saying over and over to myself: "There is then a wonderful
country in which bread is called cake, and is so rare a delicacy that
it is enough in itself to give rise to a war literally fratricidal!"



The day is over. A great restfulness descends into poor minds that the
day's work has wearied; and thoughts take on the tender and dim colours
of twilight.

Nevertheless from the mountain peak there comes to my balcony, through
the transparent clouds of evening, a great clamour, made up of a crowd
of discordant cries, dulled by distance into a mournful harmony, like
that of the rising tide or of a storm brewing.

Who are the hapless ones to whom evening brings no calm; to whom, as to
the owls, the coming of night is the signal for a witches' sabbat? The
sinister ululation comes to me from the hospital on the mountain; and,
in the evening, as I smoke, and look down on the quiet of the immense
valley, bristling with houses, each of whose windows seems to say,
"Here is peace, here is domestic happiness!" I can, when the wind blows
from the heights, lull my astonished thought with this imitation of the
harmonies of hell.

Twilight excites madmen. I remember I had two friends whom twilight
made quite ill. One of them lost all sense of social and friendly
amenities, and flew at the first-comer like a savage. I have seen him
throw at the waiter's head an excellent chicken, in which he imagined
he had discovered some insulting hieroglyph. Evening, harbinger of
profound delights, spoilt for him the most succulent things.

The other, a prey to disappointed ambition, turned gradually, as the
daylight dwindled, sourer, more gloomy, more nettlesome. Indulgent and
sociable during the day, he was pitiless in the evening; and it was not
only on others, but on himself, that he vented the rage of his twilight

The former died mad, unable to recognise his wife and child; the
latter still keeps the restlessness of a perpetual disquietude; and, if
all the honours that republics and princes can confer were heaped upon
him, I believe that the twilight would still quicken in him the burning
envy of imaginary distinctions. Night, which put its own darkness into
their minds, brings light to mine; and, though it is by no means rare
for the same cause to bring about opposite results, I am always as it
were perplexed and alarmed by it.

O night! O refreshing dark! for me you are the summons to an inner
feast, you are the deliverer from anguish! In the solitude of the
plains, in the stony labyrinths of a city, scintillation of stars,
outburst of gaslamps, you are the fireworks of the goddess Liberty!

Twilight, how gentle you are and how tender! The rosy lights that still
linger on the horizon, like the last agony of day under the conquering
might of its night; the flaring candle-flames that stain with dull red
the last glories of the sunset; the heavy draperies that an invisible
hand draws out of the depths of the East, mimic all those complex
feelings that war on one another in the heart of man at the solemn
moments of life.

Would you not say that it was one of those strange costumes worn by
dancers, in which the tempered splendours of a shining skirt show
through a dark and transparent gauze, as, through the darkness of the
present, pierces the delicious past? And the wavering stars of gold and
silver with which it is shot, are they not those fires of fancy which
take light never so well as under the deep mourning of the night?



Life is a hospital, in which every patient is possessed by the desire
of changing his bed. One would prefer to suffer near the fire, and
another is certain that he would get well if he were by the window. It
seems to me that I should always be happy if I were somewhere else, and
this question of moving house is one that I am continually talking over
with my soul.

"Tell me, my soul, poor chilly soul, what do you say to living in
Lisbon? It must be very warm there, and you would bask merrily, like
a lizard. It is by the sea; they say that it is built of marble, and
that the people have such a horror of vegetation that they tear up all
the trees. There is a country after your own soul; a country made up of
light and mineral, and with liquid to reflect them."

My soul makes no answer.

"Since you love rest, and to see moving things, will you come and
live in that heavenly land, Holland? Perhaps you would be happy in a
country which you have so often admired in pictures. What do you say
to Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships anchored at the
doors of houses?"

My soul remains silent.

"Or perhaps Java seems to you more attractive? Well, there we shall
find the mind of Europe married to tropical beauty."

Not a word. Can my soul be dead?

"Have you sunk then into so deep a stupor that only your own pain
gives you pleasure? If that be so, let us go to the lands that are made
in the likeness of Death. I know exactly the place for us, poor soul!
We will book our passage to Torneo. We will go still further, to the
last limits of the Baltic; and, if it be possible, further still from
life; we will make our abode at the Pole. There the sun only grazes the
earth, and the slow alternations of light and night put out variety
and bring in the half of nothingness, monotony. There we can take
great baths of darkness, while, from time to time, for our pleasure,
the Aurora Borealis shall scatter its rosy sheaves before us, like
reflections of fireworks in hell!"

At last my soul bursts into speech, and wisely she cries to me:
"Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world!"



Fancioulle was an admirable buffoon, and almost one of the friends
of the Prince. But for persons professionally devoted to the comic,
serious things have a fatal attraction, and, strange as it may seem
that ideas of patriotism and liberty should seize despotically upon the
brain of a player, one day Fancioulle joined in a conspiracy formed by
some discontented nobles.

There exist everywhere sensible men to denounce those individuals
of atrabiliar disposition who seek to depose princes, and, without
consulting it, to reconstitute society. The lords in question were
arrested, together with Fancioulle, and condemned to death.

I would readily believe that the Prince was almost sorry to find his
favourite actor among the rebels. The Prince was neither better nor
worse than any other Prince; but an excessive sensibility rendered
him, in many cases, more cruel and more despotic than all his fellows.
Passionately enamoured of the fine arts, an excellent connoisseur as
well, he was truly insatiable of pleasures. Indifferent enough in
regard to men and morals, himself a real artist, he feared no enemy but
Ennui, and the extravagant efforts that he made to fly or to vanquish
this tyrant of the world would certainly have brought upon him, on
the part of a severe historian, the epithet of "monster," had it been
permitted, in his dominions, to write anything whatever which did not
tend exclusively to pleasure, or to astonishment, which is one of the
most delicate forms of pleasure. The great misfortune of the Prince
was that he had no theatre vast enough for his genius. There are young
Neros who are stifled within too narrow limits, and whose names and
whose intentions will never be known to future ages. An unforeseeing
Providence had given to this man faculties greater than his dominions.

Suddenly the rumour spread that the sovereign had decided to pardon all
the conspirators; and the origin of this rumour was the announcement of
a special performance in which Fancioulle would play one of his best
_rôles_, and at which even the condemned nobles, it was said, were to
be present, an evident sign, added superficial minds, of the generous
tendencies of the Prince.

On the part of a man so naturally and deliberately eccentric, anything
was possible, even virtue, even mercy, especially if he could hope
to find in it unexpected pleasures. But to those who, like myself,
had succeeded in penetrating further into the depths of this sick
and curious soul, it was infinitely more probable that the Prince
was wishful to estimate the quality of the scenic talents of a man
condemned to death. He would profit by the occasion to obtain a
physiological experience of a _capital_ interest, and to verify to what
extent the habitual faculties of an artist would be altered or modified
by the extraordinary situation in which he found himself. Beyond this,
did there exist in his mind an intention, more or less defined, of
mercy? It is a point that has never been solved.

At last, the great day having come, the little court displayed all its
pomps, and it would be difficult to realise, without having seen it,
what splendour the privileged classes of a little state with limited
resources can show forth, on a really solemn occasion. This was a
doubly solemn one, both from the wonder of its display and from the
mysterious moral interest attaching to it.

The Sieur Fancioulle excelled especially in parts either silent or
little burdened with words, such as are often the principal ones in
those fairy plays whose object is to represent symbolically the mystery
of life. He came upon the stage lightly and with a perfect ease, which
in itself lent some support, in the minds of the noble public, to the
idea of kindness and forgiveness.

When we say of an actor, "This is a good actor," we make use of a
formula which implies that under the personage we can still distinguish
the actor, that is to say, art, effort, will. Now, if an actor should
succeed in being, in relation to the personage whom he is appointed to
express, precisely what the finest statues of antiquity, miraculously
animated, living, walking, seeing, would be in relation to the confused
general idea of beauty, this would be, undoubtedly, a singular and
unheard of case. Fancioulle was, that evening, a perfect idealisation,
which it was impossible not to suppose living, possible, real. The
buffoon came and went, he laughed, wept, was convulsed with an
indestructible aureole about his head, an aureole invisible to all,
but visible to me, and in which were blended, in a strange amalgam,
the rays of Art and the martyr's glory. Fancioulle brought, by I know
not what special grace, something divine and supernatural into even
the most extravagant buffooneries. My pen trembles, and the tears of
an emotion which I cannot forget rise to my eyes, as I try to describe
to you this never-to-be-forgotten evening. Fancioulle proved to me,
in a peremptory, an irrefutable way, that the intoxication of Art is
surer than all others to veil the terrors of the gulf; that genius can
act a comedy on the threshold of the grave with a joy that binders it
from seeing the grave, lost, as it is, in a Paradise shutting out all
thought, of the grave and of destruction.

The whole audience, _blasé_ and frivolous as it was, soon fell
under the all-powerful sway of the artist. Not a thought was left
of death, of mourning, or of punishment. All gave themselves up,
without disquietude, to the manifold delights caused by the sight of a
masterpiece of living art. Explosions of joy and admiration again and
again shook the dome of the edifice with the energy of a continuous
thunder. The Prince himself, in an ecstasy, joined in the applause of
his court.

Nevertheless, to a discerning eye, his emotion was not unmixed. Did
he feel himself conquered in his power as despot? humiliated in his
art as the striker of terror into hearts, of chill into souls? Such
suppositions, not exactly justified, but not absolutely unjustifiable,
passed through my mind as I contemplated the face of the Prince, on
which a new pallor gradually overspread its habitual paleness, as snow
overspreads snow. His lips compressed themselves tighter and tighter,
and his eyes lighted up with an inner fire like that of jealousy or
of spite, even while he applauded the talents of his old friend, the
strange buffoon, who played the buffoon so well in the face of death.
At a certain moment, I saw his Highness lean towards a little page,
stationed behind him, and whisper in his ear. The roguish face of the
pretty child lit up with a smile, and he briskly quitted the Prince's
box as if to execute some urgent commission.

A few minutes later a shrill and prolonged hiss interrupted Fancioulle
in one of his finest moments, and rent alike every ear and heart.
And from the part of the house from whence this unexpected note of
disapproval had sounded, a child darted into a corridor with stifled

Fancioulle, shaken, roused out of his dream, closed his eyes, then
re-opened them, almost at once, extraordinarily wide, opened his mouth
as if to breathe convulsively, staggered a little forward, a little
backward, and then fell stark dead on the boards.

Had the hiss, swift as a sword, really frustrated the hangman? Had
the Prince himself divined all the homicidal efficacy of his ruse?
It is permitted to doubt it. Did he regret his dear and inimitable
Fancioulle? It is sweet and legitimate to believe it.

The guilty nobles had enjoyed the performance of comedy for the last
time. They were effaced from life.

Since then, many mimes, justly appreciated in different countries, have
played before the court of ----; but none of them have ever been able
to recall the marvellous talents of Fancioulle, or to rise to the same



Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question.
If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your
shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.

Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will.
But be drunken.

And if sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the green side of
a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken
and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the
wind, or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the clock,
of whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what
hour it is; and the wind, wave, star, bird, clock, will answer you: "It
is the hour to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred
slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry, or with
virtue, as you will."



    With heart at rest I climbed the citadel's
    Steep height, and saw the city as from a tower,
    Hospital, brothel, prison, and such hells,

    Where evil comes up softly like a flower.
    Thou knowest, O Satan, patron of my pain,
    Not for vain tears I went up at that hour;

    But, like an old sad faithful lecher, fain
    To drink delight of that enormous trull
    Whose hellish beauty makes me young again.

    Whether thou sleep, with heavy vapours full,
    Sodden with day, or, new apparelled, stand
    In gold-laced veils of evening beautiful,

    I love thee, infamous city! Harlots and
    Hunted have pleasures of their own to give,
    The vulgar herd can never understand.


Translated by Joseph T. Shipley





I send you a little work of which it cannot be said, without injustice,
that it has neither head nor tail; since all of it, on the contrary,
is at once head and tail, alternately and reciprocally. Consider, I
pray you, what convenience this arrangement offers to all of us, to
you, to me and to the reader. We can stop where we wish, I my musing,
you your consideration, and the reader his perusal--for I do not hold
the latter's restive will by the interminable thread of a fine-spun
intrigue. Remove a vertebra, and the two parts of this tortuous fantasy
rejoin painlessly. Chop it into particles, and you will see that each
part can exist by itself. In the hope that some of these segments will
be lively enough to please and to amuse you, I venture to dedicate to
you the entire serpent.

I have a little confession to make. It was while glancing, for at
least the twentieth time, through the famous _Gaspard de la Nuit_, by
Aloysius Bertrand (a book known to you, to me, and to a few of our
friends, has it not the highest right to be called famous?), that
the idea came to me to attempt an analogous plan, and to apply to
the description of modern life, or rather of a life modern and more
abstract, the process which he applied in the depicting of ancient
life, so strangely picturesque.

Which of us has not, in his moments of ambition, dreamed the miracle
of a poetic prose, musical without rhythm or rime, sufficiently supple,
sufficiently abrupt, to adapt itself to the lyrical movements of the
soul, to the windings and turnings of the fancy, to the sudden starts
of the conscience?

It is particularly in frequenting great cities, it is from the flux
of their innumerable streams of intercourse, that this importunate
ideal is born. Have not you yourself, my dear friend, tried to convey
in a chanson the strident cry of the glazier, and to express in a
lyric prose all the grievous suggestions that cry bears even to the
house-tops, through the heaviest mists of the street? But, to speak
truth, I fear that my jealousy has not brought me good fortune. As
soon as I had begun the work, I saw that not only was I laboring far,
far, from my mysterious and brilliant model, but that I was reaching
an accomplishment (if it can be called _an accomplishment_) peculiarly
different--accident of which all others would doubtless be proud,
but which can but profoundly humiliate a mind which considers it the
highest honor of the poet to achieve exactly what he has planned.

Devotedly yours,

C. B.


It was the outburst of the New Year: chaos of mud and snow, crossed
by a thousand coaches, sparkling with baubles and gewgaws, swarming
with desires and with despairs, official folly of a great city made to
weaken the fortitude of the firmest eremite.

In the midst of this hubbub and tumult, a donkey was trotting along,
tormented by a lout with a horsewhip.

As the donkey was about to turn a corner, a fine fellow, gloved,
polished, with a merciless cravat, and imprisoned in impeccable
garments, bowed ceremoniously before the beast; said to it, removing
his hat: "I greet thee, good and happy one"; and turned towards some
companions with a fatuous air, as though requesting them to add their
approbation to his content.

The donkey did not see the clever jester, and continued steadily where
its duty called.

As for me, I was overcome by an inordinate rage against the sublime
idiot, who seemed to me to concentrate in himself the wit of France.


"My pretty dog, my good dog, my doggy dear, come and smell this
excellent perfume bought at the best scent-shop in the city."

And the dog, wagging its tail, which is, I think, the poor creature's
substitute for a laugh or a smile, approached and curiously placed its
damp nose to the opened vial; then, recoiling with sudden fright, it
growled at me in reproach.

"Ah! wretched dog, if I had offered you a mass of excrement, you would
have smelled it with delight, and probably have devoured it. So even
you, unworthy companion of my unhappy life, resemble the public, to
whom one must never offer delicate perfumes, which exasperate, but
carefully raked-up mire."


"Really, my dear, you tire me immeasurably and unpityingly; one would
say, to hear you sigh, that you suffered more than the sexagenarian
gleaners or the old beggar hags who pick up crusts at the doors of

"If at least your sighs expressed remorse, they would do you some
honor; but they convey merely the surfeit of well-being and the languor
of repose. And, too, you will not stop your constant flow of needless
words: 'Love me well! I have so much need! Comfort me thus, caress me

"Come! I shall try to cure you; perhaps we shall find a means, for two
cents, in the midst of a fair, not far away.

"Take a good look, I pray you, at this strong iron cage, within
which moves, howling like a damned soul, shaking the bars like an
ourang-outang enraged by exile, imitating to perfection, now the
circular bounds of the tiger, now the clumsy waddling of the polar
bear, that hairy monster whose form vaguely resembles your own.

"That monster is one of those beasts one usually calls 'my angel'--that
is, a woman. The other monster, he who bawls at the top of his voice,
club in his hand, is a husband. He has chained his lawful wife like
a beast, and he exhibits her in the suburbs on fair days--with the
magistrates' permission, of course.

"Pay close attention. See with what voracity (perhaps not feigned) she
tears apart the living rabbits and the cackling fowl her keeper throws
her. 'Come,' he says, 'one must not eat one's whole store in a day';
and, with that wise word, he cruelly snatches the prey, the winding
entrails of which remain a moment caught on the teeth of the ferocious
beast--I mean, the woman.

"Come! A good blow to calm her! for she darts terrible glances of lust
at the stolen food. Good God! The club is not a jester's slap stick!
Did you hear the flesh resound, right through the artificial hair? Her
eyes leap from her head now; she howls _more naturally_. In her rage
she sparkles all over, like smitten iron.

"Such are the conjugal customs of these two children of Adam and Eve,
these works of Thy hands, O my God! This woman is doubtless miserable,
though after all, perhaps, the titillating joys of glory are not
unknown to her. There are misfortunes less remediable, and with no
compensation. But in the world to which she has been thrown, she has
never been able to think that woman might deserve a different destiny.

"Now, as for us two, my fine lady! Seeing the hells of which the world
is made, what would you have me think of your pretty hell, you who rest
only on stuffs as soft as your own skin, who eat only cooked viands,
for whom a skilled domestic takes care to cut the bites?

"And what can mean to me all these soft signs which heave your perfumed
breast, my lusty coquette? And all those affectations learned from
books, and that everlasting melancholy, intended to arouse an emotion
far other than pity? Indeed, I sometimes feel like teaching you what
true misfortune means.

"Seeing you so, my beautiful dainty one, your feet in the mire and
your moist eyes turned to the sky, as though to demand a king, one
would say indeed: a young frog invoking the ideal. If you scorn the log
(which I am now, you know), beware the stork which will kill, swallow,
devour you at its caprice.

"Poet as I am, I am not such a fool as you may think, and if you tire
me too often with your whining affectations, I shall treat you as a
wild woman, or throw you through the window as an empty flask."


Everywhere the holiday crowd was parading, spread out, merry making.
It was one of those festivals on which mountebanks, tricksters, animal
trainers and itinerant merchants had long been relying, to compensate
for the dull seasons of the year.

On such days it seems to me the people forget all, sadness and work;
they become children. For the little ones, it is a day of leave, the
horror of the school put off twenty-four hours. For the grown-ups,
it is an armistice, concluded with the malevolent forces of life, a
respite in the universal contention and struggle.

The man of the world himself, and even he who is occupied with
spiritual tasks, with difficulty escape the influence of this popular
jubilee. They absorb, without volition, their part of the atmosphere
of devil-may-care. As for me, I never fail, like a true Parisian, to
inspect all the booths that flaunt themselves in these solemn epochæ.

They made, in truth, a formidable gathering: they bawled, bellowed,
howled. It was a mingling of cries, of blaring of brass and bursting of
rockets. The clowns and the simpletons convulsed the features of their
swarthy faces, hardened by wind, rain, and sun; they hurled forth,
with the assurance of comedians certain of their wares, witticisms
and pleasantries of a humor solid and heavy as that of Molière.
The Hercules, proud of the enormousness of their limbs, without
forehead, without cranium, stalked majestically about under fleshings
fresh washed for the occasion. The dancers, pretty as fairies or as
princesses, leapt and cavorted under the flare of lanterns which filled
their skirts with sparkles.

All was light, dust, shouting, joy, tumult; some spent, others gained,
the one and the other equally joyful. Children clung to their mothers'
skirts to obtain a sugar-stick, or climbed upon their fathers'
shoulders the better to see a conjurer dazzling as a god. And spread
over all, dominating every odor, was a smell of frying, which was the
incense of the festival.

At the end, at the extreme end of the row of booths, as if, ashamed, he
had exiled himself from all these splendors, I saw an old mountebank,
stooped, decrepit, emaciated, a ruin of a man, leaning against one of
the pillars of his hut, more wretched than that of the most besotted
barbarian, the distress of which two candle ends, guttering and
smoking, lighted up only too well.

Everywhere was joy, gain, revelry; everywhere certainty of the morrow's
bread; everywhere the frenetic outbursts of vitality. Here, absolute
misery, misery bedecked, to crown the horror, in comic tatters, where
necessity, rather than art, produced the contrast. He was not laughing,
the wretched one! He was not weeping, he was not dancing, he was not
gesticulating, he was not crying. He was singing no song, gay or
grievous, he was imploring no one. He was mute and immobile. He had
renounced, he had withdrawn. His destiny was accomplished.

But what a deep, unforgettable look he cast over the crowd and the
lights, the moving stream of which was stemmed a few yards from his
repulsive wretchedness! I felt my throat clutched by the terrible hand
of hysteria, and it seemed as though glances were clouded by rebellious
tears that would not fall.

What was to be done? What good was there in asking the unfortunate
what curiosity, what marvel had he to show within those barefaced
shades, behind that threadbare curtain? In truth, I dared not; and,
although the reason for my timidity will make you laugh, I confess that
I was afraid of humiliating him. At length, I had resolved to drop a
coin while passing his boards, in the hope that he would divine my
purpose, when a great backwash of people, produced by I know not what
disturbance, carried me far away.

And leaving, obsessed by the sight, I sought to analyze my sudden
sadness, and I said: "I have just seen the image of the aged man of
letters, who has survived the generation of which he was the brilliant
entertainer; of the old poet, friendless, without family, without
child, degraded by his misery and by public ingratitude, into whose
booth a forgetful world no longer wants to go!"


The Chinese tell the time in the eyes of cats. One day a missionary,
walking in the suburbs of Nanking, noticed that he had forgotten his
watch, and asked a little boy what time it was.

The youngster of the heavenly Empire hesitated at first; then, carried
away by his thought he answered: "I'll tell you." A few moments later
he reappeared, bearing in his arms an immense cat, and looking, as they
say, into the whites of its eyes, he announced without hesitation:
"It's not quite noon." Which was the fact.

As for me, if I turn toward the fair feline, to her so aptly named,
who is at once the honor of her sex, the pride of my heart and the
fragrance of my mind, be it by night or by day, in the full light or in
the opaque shadows, in the depths of her adorable eyes I always tell
the time distinctly, always the same, a vast, a solemn hour, large as
space, without division of minutes or of seconds,--an immovable hour
which is not marked on the clocks, yet is slight as a sigh, is rapid as
the lifting of a lash.

And if some intruder comes to disturb me while my glance rests upon
that charming dial, if some rude and intolerant genie, some demon of
the evil hour, comes to ask: "What are you looking at so carefully?
What are you hunting for in the eyes of that being? Do you see the time
there, mortal squanderer and do-nothing?" I shall answer, unhesitant:
"Yes, I see the time, it is Eternity!"

Is not this, madame, a really worth-while madrigal, just as affected
as yourself? Indeed, I have had so much pleasure in embroidering this
pretentious gallantry, that I shall ask you for nothing in exchange.


Let me breathe, long, long, of the odor of your hair, let me plunge my
whole face in its depth, as a thirsty man in the waters of a spring,
let me flutter it with my hand as a perfumed kerchief, to shake off
memories into the air.

If you could know all that I see! all that I feel! all that I
understand in your hair! My soul journeys on perfumes as the souls of
other men on music.

Your hair meshes a full dream, crowded with sails and masts; it holds
great seas on which monsoons bear me toward charming climes, where the
skies are bluer and deeper, where the atmosphere is perfumed with
fruits, with leaves, and with the human skin.

In the ocean of your hair I behold a port humming with melancholy
chants, with strong men of all nations and with ships of every form
carving their delicate, intricate architecture on an enormous sky where
lolls eternal heat.

In the caresses of your hair, I find again the languor of long hours
on a divan, in the cabin of a goodly ship, cradled by the unnoticed
undulation of the port, between pots of flowers and refreshing

At the glowing hearth-stone of your hair, I breathe the odor of tobacco
mixed with opium and sugar; in the night of your hair, I see shine
forth the infinite of the tropic sky; on the downy bank-sides of your
hair, I grow drunk with the mingled odors of tar and musk, and oil of

Let me bite, long, your thick black hair. When I nibble your springy,
rebellious hair, it seems that I am eating memories.


I should like to give you an idea for an innocent diversion. There are
so few amusements that are not guilty ones!

When you go out in the morning for a stroll along the highways, fill
your pockets with little penny contrivances--such as the straight
merryandrew moved by a single thread, the blacksmiths who strike the
anvil, the rider and his horse, with a whistle for a tail--and, along
the taverns, at the foot of the trees, make presents of them to the
unknown poor children whom you meet. You will see their eyes grow
beyond all measure. At first, they will not dare to take; they will
doubt their good fortune. Then their hands will eagerly seize the
gift, and they will flee as do the cats who go far off to eat the bit
you have given them, having learned to distrust man.

On a road, behind the rail of a great garden at the foot of which
appeared the glitter of a beautiful mansion struck by the sun, stood
a pretty, fresh child, clad in those country garments so full of

Luxury, freedom from care, and the habitual spectacle of wealth, make
these children so pretty that one would think them formed of other
paste than the sons of mediocrity or of poverty.

Beside him on the grass lay a splendid toy, fresh as its master,
varnished, gilt, clad in a purple robe, covered with plumes and beads
of glass. But the child was not occupied with his favored plaything,
and this is what he was watching:

On the other side of the rail, on the road, among the thistles and
the thorns, was another child, puny, dirty, fuliginous, one of those
pariah-brats the beauty of which an impartial eye might discover if,
as the eye of the connoisseur divines an ideal painting beneath the
varnish of the coach-maker, it cleansed him of the repugnant patina of

Across the symbolic bars which separate two worlds, the highway and
the mansion, the poor child was showing the rich child his own toy,
which the latter examined eagerly, as a rare and unknown object. Now,
this toy, which the ragamuffin was provoking, tormenting, tossing in a
grilled box, was a live rat! His parents, doubtless for economy, had
taken the toy from life itself.

And the two children were laughing together fraternally, with teeth of
equal _whiteness_!


It was that great assembly of the fairies, to proceed with the
repartition of gifts among the new-born who had arrived at life within
the last twenty-four hours.

All these antique and capricious sisters of destiny, all these bizarre
mothers of sadness and of joy, were most diversified: some had a
somber, crabbed air; others were wanton, mischievous; some, young, who
had always been young; others old, who had always been old.

All the fathers who believed in fairies had come, each bearing his
new-born in his arms.

Gifts, Faculties, Good Fortunes, Invincible Circumstances, were
gathered at the side of the tribunal, as prizes on the platform for
distribution. What was peculiar here was that the gifts were not the
reward of an effort, but, quite the contrary, a grace accorded him who
had not yet lived, a grace with power to determine his destiny and
become as well the source of his misfortune as of his good.

The poor fairies were kept very busy; for the crowd of solicitors
was great, and the intermediate world, placed between man and God,
is subject, like man, to the terrible law of Time and his endless
offspring, Days, Hours, Minutes, Seconds.

In truth, they were as bewildered as ministers on an audience day,
or as guards at the Mont-de-Piété when a national holiday authorizes
gratuitous liberations. I really think that from time to time they
looked at the hands of the clock with as much impatience as human
judges, who, sitting since morn, cannot help dreaming of dinner, of the
family, and of their cherished slippers. If, in supernatural justice,
there is a little of haste and of luck, we should not be surprised
sometimes to find the same in human justice. We ourselves, in that
case, would be unjust judges.

So some shams were enacted that day which might be thought bizarre,
if prudence, rather than caprice, were the distinctive, eternal
characteristic of the fairies.

For instance, the power of magnetically attracting fortune was awarded
the sole heir of a very wealthy family, who, endowed with no feeling
of charity, no more than with lust for the most visible goods of life,
must later on find himself prodigiously embarrassed by his millions.

Thus, love of the beautiful and poetic power were given to the son of
a gloomy knave, a quarry-man by trade, who could in no way develop the
faculties or satisfy the needs of his deplorable offspring.

All the fairies rose, thinking their task was through; for there
remained no gift, no bounty, to hurl at all that human fry, when one
fine fellow, a poor little tradesman, I think, rose, and grasping by
her robe of multi-colored vapors the Fairy nearest at hand, cried:

"Oh, Madam! You are forgetting us! There is still my little one!
I don't want to have come for nothing!" The fairy could have been
embarrassed, for there no longer was a thing. However, she recalled
in time a law, well known, though rarely applied, in the supernatural
world, inhabited by those impalpable deities, friends, of man and
often constrained to mold themselves to his passions, such as Fairies,
Gnomes, Salamanders, Sylphides, Sylphs, Nixies, Watersprites and
Undines--I mean the law which grants a Fairy, in a case similar to
this, namely, in case of the exhausting of the prizes, power to give
one more, supplementary and exceptional, provided always that she has
sufficient imagination to create it at once.

Accordingly the good Fairy responded, with self-possession worthy
of her rank: "I give to your son.... I give him ... _the gift of

"Pleasing? How? Pleasing? Why?" obstinately asked the little
shopkeeper, who was doubtless one of those logicians so commonly met,
incapable of rising to the logic of the Absurd.

"Because! Because!" replied the incensed Fairy, turning her back on
him; and, rejoining the train of her companions, she said to them:
"What do you think of this little vainglorious Frenchman, who wants to
know everything, and who, having secured for his son the best of gifts,
dares still to question and to dispute the indisputable?"


A philanthropic journalist once said to me that solitude is harmful to
man, and, to support his thesis, he cited--as do all unbelievers--words
of the Christian Fathers.

I know that the Demon gladly frequents parched places, and that the
spirit of murder and lechery is marvellously inflamed in solitude. But
it is possible that solitude is dangerous only to the idle, rambling
soul, who peoples it with his passions and his chimeras.

It is certain that a babbler, whose supreme pleasure consists in
speaking from a pulpit or a rostrum, would be taking great chances
of going stark mad on the island of Crusoe. I do not demand of my
journalist the courageous virtues of Robinson, but I ask that he do not
summon in accusation lovers of solitude and mystery.

There are in our chattering races individuals who would accept the
supreme agony with less reluctance, if they were permitted to deliver
a copious harangue from the height of the scaffold, without fear that
the drums of Santerre[1] would unseasonably cut short their oration.

I do not pity them, for I guess that their oratorical effusions bring
them delights equal to those which others draw from silence and
seclusion; but I despise them.

I desire above all that my accursed journalist leave me to amuse myself
as I will. "Then you never feel," he says in a very apostolic nasal
tone, "the need of sharing your joys?" Do you see the subtle jealous
one! He knows that I scorn his, and he comes to insinuate himself into
mine, the horrible killjoy!

"The great misfortune of not being able to be alone," La Bruyère says
somewhere, as though to shame those who rush to forget themselves in
the crowd, fearing, doubtless, that they will be unable to endure

"Almost all our ills come to us from inability to remain in our room,"
said another sage, Pascal, I believe, recalling thus in the cell of
meditation the frantic ones who seek happiness in animation, and in a
prostitution which I could call fraternary, if I wished to use the fine
language of my century.

[Footnote 1: Santerre is the general of the French Revolution who
ordered his drummers to play, drowning the words of Louis XVI from the


He said to himself, while strolling in the great lonely park: "How
beautiful she would be in an intricate, gorgeous court costume,
descending, through the air of a beauteous evening, the marble stairs
of a palace, opposite shallow pools and great greenswards. For she has
naturally the air of a princess."

Passing along a street somewhat later, he stopped before a print-shop,
and finding in a portfolio an engraving of a tropical scene, he said:
"No, it is not in a palace that I should like to be master of her
beloved life. We would not feel at home. Besides, walls riddled with
gold would afford no niche to hold her likeness; in those solemn
galleries there is no intimate corner. Decidedly it is _there_ I must
live to develop the dream of my life."

And, analyzing the details of the engraving, he continued mentally: "At
the edge of the sea, a little log cabin, surrounded by those shiny,
bizarre trees, the names of which I have forgotten ... in the air, an
indefinable, intoxicating perfume ... in the cabin, a potent fragrance
of rose and of musk ... farther off, behind our little domain,
mast-tops swaying with the swell ... around us, beyond the room lighted
by a roseate glow sifted through the blinds, adorned with fresh matting
and intoxicating flowers, with rare benches of Portuguese rococo, of
a heavy and shadowy wood (where she will rest, so calm, so gently
fanned, smoking tobacco tinged with opium), beyond the timbers of the
ships, the racket of the birds drunk with the light, and the chattering
of little negresses ... and, at night, to serve as accompaniment
to my musings,' the plaintive song of musical trees, of melancholy
beef-woods! Yes, in truth, there indeed is the setting that I seek.
What have I to do with palaces?"

And still farther, as he followed a great avenue, he noticed a
well-kept tavern, from a window of which, enlivened by curtains of
checkered prints, two laughing heads leaned forth. And at once: "My
fancy," he said, "must be a great vagabond to seek so far what is so
near to me. Pleasure and good fortune are in the nearest tavern, in the
chance tavern, so rich in happiness. A great fire, gaudy earthenware,
a tolerable meal, rough wine, and an enormous bed with cloths somewhat
coarse, but fresh; what more could be desired?"

And returning home, alone, at the hour when the counsels of Wisdom are
not drowned by the hum of external life, he said: "I have had to-day,
in my revery, three dwellings in which I have found equal pleasure. Why
constrain my body to move about, when my soul voyages so freely? And
to what end carry out projects, when the project itself is a sufficing


The sun pours down upon the city with its direct and terrible light;
the sand is dazzling, and the sea glistens. The stupefied world sinks
cowardly down and holds siesta, a siesta which is a sort of delightful
death, in which the sleeper, half-awake, enjoys the voluptuousness of
his annihilation.

None the less, Dorothea, strong and proud as the sun, advances along
the deserted street, alone animated at that hour, under the immense
blue sky, forming a startling black spot against the light.

She advances, lightly, balancing her slender trunk upon her so large
hips. Her close-fitting silk dress, of a clear, roseate fashion, stands
out vividly against the darkness of her skin and is exactly molded to
her long figure, her rounded back and her pointed throat.

Her red parasol, sifting the light, throws over her dark face the
bloody disguise of its reflection.

The weight of her enormous, blue-black hair draws back her delicate
head and gives her a triumphant, indolent bearing. Heavy pendants
tinkle quietly at her delicate ears.

From time to time the sea-breeze lifts the hem of her flowing skirt and
reveals her shining, superb limbs; and her foot, a match for the feet
of the marble goddesses whom Europe locks in its museums, faithfully
imprints its form in the fine sand. For Dorothea is such a wondrous
coquette, that the pleasure of being admired overcomes the pride of the
enfranchised, and, although she is free, she walks without shoes.

She advances thus, harmoniously, glad to be alive, smiling an open
smile; as if she saw, far off in space, a mirror reflecting her walk
and her beauty.

At the hour when dogs moan with pain under the tormenting sun, what
powerful motive can thus draw forth the indolent Dorothea, lovely, and
cold as bronze?

Why had she left her little cabin, so coquettishly adorned, the flowers
and mats of which make at so little cost a perfect boudoir; where she
takes such delight in combing herself, in smoking, in being fanned, or
in regarding herself in the mirror with its great fans of plumes; while
the sea, which strikes the shore a hundred steps away, shapes to her
formless reveries a mighty and monotonous accompaniment, and while the
iron pot, in which a ragout of crabs with saffron and rice is cooking,
sends after her, from the courtyard, its stimulating perfumes?

Perhaps she has a rendezvous with some young officer, who, on far
distant shores, heard his comrades talk of the renowned Dorothea.
Infallibly she will beg him, simple creature, to describe to her the
Bal de l'Opéra, and will ask him if one can go there barefoot, as to
the Sunday dances, where the old Kaffir women themselves get drunk and
mad with joy; and then, too, whether the lovely ladies of Paris are all
lovelier than she.

Dorothea is admired and pampered by all, and she would be perfectly
happy if she were not obliged to amass piastre on piastre to buy back
her little sister, who is now fully eleven, and who is already mature,
and so lovely! She will doubtless succeed, the good Dorothea; the
child's master is so miserly, too miserly to understand another beauty
than that of gold.


As we were moving away from the tobacconist's, my companion carefully
sorted his money: in the left pocket of his waistcoat he slipped little
gold pieces; in the right, little silver pieces; in the left pocket of
his trousers, a mass of coppers, and finally, in the right, a silver
two-franc pieces that he had particularly examined.

"Singular and minute distribution!" I said to myself.

We came across a pauper who, trembling, held forth his cap.--I know
nothing more disquieting than the dumb eloquence of those suppliant
eyes which hold, for the sensitive man who can read within, both
so great humility and so deep reproach. Something lies there which
approaches that depth of complex feeling in the tearful eyes of dogs
that are being flogged.

The offering of my friend was much more considerable than mine, and I
said to him: "You are right; after the pleasure of being astonished,
none is greater than that of creating a surprise."--"It was the
counterfeit," he answered tranquilly, as though to justify his

But in my miserable brain, always busied seeking noon at two p.m. (of
such a wearying faculty has nature made me a gift!), the idea suddenly
came that such conduct, on the part of my friend, was excusable only
by the desire to produce an occasion in the life of the poor devil,
perhaps even to know the diverse consequences, disastrous or otherwise,
that a counterfeit in the hands of a mendicant can engender. Could it
not multiply itself in valid pieces? Could it not also lead him to
jail? A tavern-keeper, a baker, for example, might perhaps have him
arrested as a forger or a spreader of counterfeits. Quite as well the
counterfeit coin might be, for a poor little speculator, the germ of
a several days' wealth. And so my fancy ran its course, lending wings
to the spirit of my friend and drawing all possible deductions from all
imaginable hypotheses.

But he abruptly burst my revery asunder by taking up my own words:
"Yes, you are right: there is no sweeter pleasure than to surprise a
man by giving him more than he expected."

I looked into the whites of his eyes, and I was frightened to see that
his eyes shone with an undeniable candor. I then saw clearly that he
wished to combine charity and a good stroke of business; to gain forty
sous and the heart of God; to sweep into Paradise economically; in
short, to entrap gratis the brevet of charitable man.

I would almost have pardoned in him the desire of the criminal joy
of which I had just now thought him capable! I would have thought it
curious, singular, that he found it amusing to compromise the poor;
but I shall never pardon the ineptitude of his calculation. One is
never to be forgiven for being wicked, but there is some merit in being
conscious that one is;--the most irreparable of all evils is to do
wrong through stupidity.


Yesterday, in the crowd of the boulevard, I felt myself grazed by
a mysterious Being whom I have always wished to know, and whom I
recognized at once, though I had never seen him. He doubtless had a
similar wish to make my acquaintance, for he gave me a significant
wink in passing which I hastened to obey. I followed him attentively,
and soon I descended behind him into a resplendent subterranean abode,
where sparkled a luxury that none of the better homes in Paris can
nearly approach. It seemed odd to me that I could have passed by this
enchanting den so often without divining the entrance. There reigned
an exquisite, though heady atmosphere, which made one forget almost
at once all the fastidious horrors of life; there one breathed a
somber blessedness, similar to that which the lotus-eaters experienced
when, disembarking on an enchanted isle, bright with the glimmerings
of eternal afternoon, they felt growing within them, to the drowsy
sound of melodious cascades, the desire never to see again their
hearthstones, their wives, their children, and never to remount the
high surges of the sea.

Strange visages of men and women were there, marked with a fatal
beauty, which it seemed to me I had already seen in epochs and in lands
I could not precisely recall, and which inspired me rather with a
fraternal sympathy than with that fear which is usually born at sight
of the unknown. If I wished to try to define in any way the singular
expression of these visages, I should say that I had never seen eyes
burning more feverishly with dread of ennui and with the immortal
desire of feeling themselves alive.

My host and I were already, when we sat down, old and perfect friends.
We ate, we drank beyond measure of all sorts of extraordinary wines,
and--what was no less extraordinary--it seemed to me, after several
hours, that I was no more drunken than he. Play, that superhuman
pleasure, had meanwhile irregularly interrupted our frequent libations,
and I must say that I staked and lost my soul, at the rubber, with
heroic heedlessness and lightness. The soul is so impalpable a thing,
so often useless and sometimes so annoying, that I experienced, at its
loss, a little less emotion than if, on a walk, I had misplaced my
visiting card. For a long time we smoked some cigars the incomparable
savor and perfume of which gave the soul nostalgia for unknown lands
and joys, and, intoxicated with all these delights, I dared, in an
access of familiarity which seemed not to displease him, to cry, while
mastering a cup full to the brim: "To your immortal health, old Buck!"

We talked, also, of the universe, of its creation and of its future
destruction; of the great idea of the century, namely, progress and
perfectibility; and, in general, of all forms of human infatuation.
On this subject, His Highness never exhausted his fund of light and
irrefutable pleasantries, and he expressed himself with an easy flow of
speech and a quietness in his drollery that I have found in none of the
most celebrated causeurs of humanity. He explained to me the absurdity
of the different philosophies which have hitherto taken possession of
the human brain, and deigned even to confide to me certain fundamental
principles, the property and the benefits of which it does not suit
me to share with the casual comer. He did not in any way be-moan the
bad deputation which he enjoys in all parts of the world, assured me
that he himself was the person most interested in the destruction
of _superstition_, and confessed that he had never feared for his
own power save once, on the day when he had heard a preacher, more
subtle than his colleagues, cry from the pulpit: "My dear brethren,
never forget, when you hear the progress of wisdom vaunted, that the
cleverest ruse of the Devil is to persuade you he does not exist!"

The memory of this celebrated orator led us naturally to the subject of
the academies, and my strange companion stated that he did not disdain,
in many cases, to inspire the pen, the word, and the conscience of
pedagogs, and that he was almost always present, though invisible, at
the academic sessions.

Encouraged by so many kindnesses, I asked him for news of God, and
whether he had recently seen Him. He answered, with a carelessness
shaded with a certain sadness: "We greet one another when we meet, but
as two old gentlemen, in whom an innate politeness cannot extinguish
the memory of ancient bitterness."

It is doubtful that His Highness had ever granted so long an audience
to a plain mortal, and I was afraid of abusing it. Finally, as the
shivering dawn whitened the panes, this famous personage, sung by
so many poets and served by so many philosophers who have worked
unknowingly for his glory, said to me: "I want to leave you with a
pleasant memory of me, and to prove that I, of whom so much ill is
said, I can sometimes be a _good devil_, to make use of one of your
common phrases. In order to compensate for the irremediable loss of
your soul, I shall give you the stakes you would have won had fate
been with you, namely, the possibility of relieving and of conquering,
all through your life, that odd affection of ennui which is the source
of all your maladies and of all your wretched progress. Never shall a
desire be framed by you which I will not aid you to realize; you shall
reign over your vulgar fellow-men; you shall be stocked with flattery,
even with adoration; silver, gold, diamonds, fairylike palaces, shall
come seeking you and shall pray you to accept them, without your having
made an effort to attain them; you shall change fatherland and country
as often as your fancy may dictate; you shall riot in pleasures,
unwearying, in charming countries where it is always warm and where the
women are fragrant as the flowers--et cetera, et cetera ..." he added,
rising and taking leave of me with a pleasant smile.

If I had not been afraid of humiliating myself before so vast an
assemblage, I should gladly have fallen at the feet of this generous
player to thank him for his unheard of munificence. But little by
little, after I had left him, incurable distrust reentered my breast;
I dared no longer believe in such prodigious good fortune, and, on
going to bed, still saying my prayers through silly force of habit, I
repeated in semi-slumber: "My God! Lord, my God! Let it be that the
Devil keep his word!"


To Edward Manet

Illusions, my friend told me, are perhaps as numberless as the
relations of men with one another, or of men to things. And when the
illusion disappears, that is, when we see the being or the fact as it
exists outside of us, we undergo a strange feeling, a complex half of
regret for the vanished phantom, half of agreeable surprise before
the novelty, before the real fact. If one phenomenon exists that is
trite, evident, always the same, concerning, the nature of which it is
impossible to be deceived, it is maternal love. It is as difficult to
imagine a mother without maternal love as a light without heat; is it
not then perfectly legitimate to attribute to maternal love all the
words and actions of a mother, relating to her child? None the less
hear this little story, in which I was singularly mystified by the most
natural illusion.

"My profession of painter drives me to regard attentively the visages,
the physiognomies, which present themselves on my way, and you know
what joy we derive from this faculty which renders life more vivid
and significant in our eyes than for other men. In the secluded
section where I live, and where great grassy spaces still separate
the buildings, I often observed a child whose ardent and roguish
countenance, more than all the rest, won me straightway. He posed for
me more than once, and I transformed him, now into a little gypsy, now
into an angel, now into mythological Love. I made him bear the violin
of the vagabond, the Crown of Thorns and the Nails of the Passion,
and the Torch of Eros. At length, I took so lively a pleasure in all
the drollery of the youngster, that one day I begged his parents,
poor folk, to be kind enough to yield him to me, promising to clothe
him well, to give him money and not to impose on him any task beyond
cleaning my brushes and running my errands. The child, with his face
washed, became charming, and the life he led with me seemed a paradise,
compared to that he had undergone in the parental hovel. Only I must
say that the little fellow astonished me at times by singular spells
of precocious sadness, and that he soon manifested an immoderate taste
for sugar and for liqueurs; so much so that one day when I found that,
despite my numerous warnings, he had again been doing some pilfering of
that sort, I threatened to send him back to his parents. Then I went
out, and my business kept me away for quite some time.

"What was my surprise and horror when, reëntering the house, the first
object that met my eyes was my little fellow, the frolicsome companion
of my life, hanging from the panel of the closet! His feet almost
touched the floor; a chair, which he had doubtless thrust back with his
foot, was overturned beside him; his head was bent convulsively over
one shoulder; his bloated face, and his eyes, quite wide open with a
fearful fixity, gave at first the illusion of life. To take him down
was not so easy a business as you might think. He was already quite
stiff, and I had an inexplicable repugnance to letting him fall heavily
to the floor. It was necessary to bear his whole weight on one arm,
and, with the free hand, to cut the rope. But that accomplished, all
was not yet done; the little monster had made use of a very slender
twine which had entered deep into his flesh, and I must now, with
delicate scissors, seek the cord between the two cushions of the
swelling, to disengage the neck.

"I have neglected to tell you that I called vigorously for help; but
all my neighbors refused to come to my assistance, faithful in that to
the habits of civilized man, who never wishes, I know not why, to mix
in the affairs of one that has been hanged. Finally a physician came,
who said that the child had been dead several hours. When, later, we
had to disrobe him for burial, the cadaverous rigidity was such that,
despairing of bending his limbs, we had to tear and cut the garments to
remove them."

"The commissioner, to whom, naturally, I had to announce the casualty,
looked at me askew and said to me: 'Here's something suspicious,'
moved doubtless by an inveterate desire and a professional habit of
frightening, at all events, the innocent as well as the guilty.

"There remained a supreme task to perform, the thought of which alone
gave me a terrible anguish: I had to notify the parents. My feet
refused to guide me to them. Finally, I had the courage. But, to my
great astonishment, the mother was unmoved, not a tear oozed from the
corner of her eye. I attributed that strangeness to the very horror
she must feel, and I recalled the well-known maxim: 'The most terrible
sorrows are silent ones.' As to the father, he contented himself with
saying with an air half brutalized, half pensive: 'After all, it is
perhaps for the best; he would always have come to a bad end!'

"However, the body was stretched out on my couch, and, assisted by a
servant, I was busying myself with the final preparations, when the
mother entered my studio. She wished, she said, to see the body of
her son. I could not, in truth, deny her the intoxication of her grief
and refuse her that supreme and somber consolation. Then she begged me
to show her the place where her little one had hanged himself. 'Oh no,
madam' I answered, 'that would be bad for you.' And as my eyes turned
involuntarily toward the fatal cupboard, I perceived, with disgust
mingled with horror and wrath, that the nail had remained driven in the
casing, with a long rope-end still hanging. I leapt rapidly to snatch
away the last traces of the misfortune, and as I was going to hurl them
out through the open window, the poor woman seized my arm and said in
an irresistible tone: 'Oh! sir! leave that for me! I beg you! I beseech
you.' Her despair had doubtless become, it seemed to me, so frantic
that she was now overcome with tenderness toward that which had served
her son as the instrument of death, and she wished to preserve it as a
dear and horrible relic.--And she took possession of the nail and of
the twine.

"At last! At last! all was accomplished. There remained only to set
myself back at work, even more strenuously than usual, to drive out
gradually the little corpse that haunted the recesses of my brain, the
phantom of which wore me out with its great fixed eyes. But the next
day I received a bundle of letters: some from lodgers in the house,
several others from neighboring houses; one from the first floor,
another from the second, another from the third, and so throughout!
some in semi-humorous style, as though seeking to disguise beneath
an apparent jocularity the sincerity of the request; others, grossly
shameless and without spelling; but all tending to the same goal,
namely, to securing from me a bit of the fatal and beatific rope. Among
the signers were, I must say, more women than men; but not all, I
assure you, belonged to the lowest class. I have kept the letters.

"And then, suddenly, a light glowed in my brain, and I understood why
the mother was so very anxious to wrest the twine from me, and by what
traffic she meant to be consoled."


In a beautiful garden where the rays of the autumnal sun seemed to
linger with delight, under a sky already greenish, in which golden
clouds floated like voyaging continents, four fine children, four boys,
doubtless tired of playing, were chatting away.

One said: "Yesterday I was taken to the theatre. In great, sad palaces,
where in the background spread the sea and the sky, men and women, also
serious and sad, but much more beautiful and much better dressed than
any we see about, were talking with musical voices. They threatened one
another, they entreated, they were disconsolate, and often they rested
a hand on a dagger sunk within the sash. Ah! that is beautiful indeed!
The women are much more beautiful and much greater than those that come
to the house to visit us, and although with their great hollow eyes and
their fiery cheeks they have a terrible look, you can not help loving
them. You are afraid, you want to cry, and still you are content....
And then, what is stranger still, it all makes you want to be dressed
the same, to say and to do the same things, to speak with the same

One of the four children, who for several moments had no longer been
listening to his comrade's talk, and had been watching with surprising
fixity some point or other in the sky, said all at once: "Look, look
down there! Do you see _Him_? He is sitting on that little isolated
cloud, that little fiery cloud, which is moving slowly. _He_ too, they
say, He watches us."

"Who? Who?" asked the others.

"God!" he answered, with the accent of perfect conviction.--"Ah! He
is already quite far away; by and by you will not be able to see Him.
Doubtless He is traveling to visit every land. Look, He is going to
pass in back of that line of trees near the horizon..., and now He is
going down behind the steeple.... Ah! you can't see Him any longer!"
And the child remained for some time turned in the same direction,
fixing on the line which separates earth from the sky eyes in which
burned an inexpressible glow of ecstasy and regret.

"He is a fool, that one, with his good God, whom he alone can see!"
then said the third, whose whole person was marked with a singular
vivacity and life. "_I_ am going to tell you how something happened
to me which has never happened to you, and which is a little more
interesting than your theatre and your clouds.... Several days ago my
parents took me on a trip with them, and as the inn where we stopped
didn't have enough beds for all of us, it was decided that I should
sleep in the same bed as my nursery maid." He drew his comrades quite
close and spoke in a lower tone. "That was a strange performance, now!
not to sleep alone, and to be in bed with your maid, in the dark. As I
couldn't sleep, I amused myself, while she was sleeping, by passing my
hand over her arms, her neck, and her shoulders. She has a much thicker
neck and arm than all other women, and her skin is so soft, so soft,
that you might call it note-paper or silver paper. I liked it so much
that I should have kept on for a long time, if I hadn't been afraid,
afraid at first of waking her, and then still afraid of I don't know
what. Then I buried my head in the hair which lay down her back, thick
as a mane, and it smelled just as good, I assure you, as the flowers in
the garden, right now. Try, when you can, to do as much, and you will

The young author of this prodigious revelation, in telling his story,
had his eyes wide open in a sort of stupefaction at what he still felt,
and the rays of the setting sun, slipping across the sandy locks of his
ruffled hair, illumined it like a sulphurous aureole of passion. It
was easy to guess that this youngster would not lose his life seeking
Divinity in the clouds, and that he would frequently discover it

At last the fourth spoke: "You know that I seldom find amusement at
home. I am never taken to a play; my tutor is too stingy; God doesn't
bother about me and my ennui, and I haven't a pretty nurse to fondle
me. It has often seemed to me that I should just like to go forever
straight ahead, without knowing where, without any one's being worried,
always to see new lands. I am never well off anywhere, and I always
think I shall be better somewhere else. Oh well! I saw, at the last
fair at the nearby village, three men who lived as I should like to.
You paid no attention to them, you others. They were large, almost
black, and very proud, although in rags, looking as though they had
need of no one. Their great gloomy eyes became quite brilliant while
they played their music; a music so astonishing that it made you want
now to dance, now to cry, or to do both together, and it would almost
make you go mad if you listened too long. One, drawing his bow across
his violin, seemed to be whispering sorrow; another, making his hammer
skip over the keys of a little piano hung by a strap about his neck,
appeared to be mocking the plaint of his neighbor; while from time
to time the third clashed his cymbals with extraordinary violence.
They were so pleased with themselves that they went on playing their
wild music even after the crowd had gone away. Finally they gathered
together their sous, piled their luggage on their back, and left. I
wanted to know where they lived, and I followed them from afar, right
to the edge of the forest, and only then, I understood that they lived

"Then one said: 'Must we pitch the tent?'

"'Goodness! No!' answered the other. 'It's such a pleasant night!'

"The third spoke, while figuring up the collection: 'These folks do not
appreciate music, and their wives dance like bears. Fortunately, within
a month we shall be in Austria, where we shall find more amiable folk.'

"'Perhaps we'd do better to go toward Spain, for the season is forward;
let us flee before the rains, and moisten nothing but our gullets,'
said one of the others.

"I remember everything, as you see. Then each one drank a cup of brandy
and went to sleep, with his forehead toward the stars. At first I
wanted to beg them to take me along with them and to teach me to play
their instruments; but I didn't dare, doubtless because it is always
very difficult to come to a decision about anything, and also because I
was afraid of being recaptured before we were out of France."

The slightly interested air of the three other comrades made me realize
that this fellow was already _misunderstood_. I looked at him closely;
there was in in his eye and on his brow that indescribable fatal
precocity which generally repells sympathy, and which, I know not why,
aroused my own to the point that for a moment I had the queer notion
that I might have a brother unknown to me.

The sun had set. The solemn night was come. The children separated,
each going in ignorance, according to circumstance and chance, to reap
his destiny, scandalize his relatives, and gravitate toward glory or
toward dishonor.


She is quite ill-favored. None the less she is delightful! Time and
Love have scarred her with their claws, and have cruelly taught her
that every moment and every kiss bears away youth and freshness.

She is indeed ugly; she is an ant, a spider, if you insist, a very
carcass; but she is, as well, a potion, a magistral, an enchantment! in
short, she is exquisite!

Time could not break the sparkling harmony of her walk, nor the
indestructible elegance of her stays. Love has not changed the
sweetness of her childlike breath; Time has plucked nothing of her
abundant mane, from which is breathed in tawny perfumes all the
devilish vitality of Southern France: Nîmes, Aix, Arles, Avignon,
Narbonne, Toulouse, towns blessed by the sun, amorous and charming!

Time and Love have vainly nibbled with sharp teeth; they have in no way
lessened the vague but eternal charm of her hoyden breast.

Worn perhaps, but not wearied, and always heroic, she brings thoughts
of those full-blooded horses which the eye of the true amateur will
recognize, even hitched to a hackney or to a heavy truck.

And then she is so sweet and so fervent! She loves as one loves in the
autumn; you would say that the approach of winter lights a new fire in
her heart, and the servility of her tenderness is never wearying.


A frightful man enters, and looks at himself in a glass.

"Why do you look at yourself in the mirror, since you can view yourself
only with displeasure?"

The frightful man answers me: "Sir, in accordance with the immortal
principles of '89, all men have equal rights; therefore I have the
right to behold myself; with pleasure or displeasure, that concerns
only my conscience."

In the name of common sense, I was surely right; but, from a legal
standpoint, he was not wrong.


A harbor is a charming abode for a soul weary of the struggles of
life. The amplitude of the sky, the mobile architecture of the
clouds, the changing colorations of the sea, the scintillating of the
beacon-lights, form a prism marvellously adapted to entertain the
eyes without tiring them. The slender forms of the ships, with their
complicated rigging, to which the billows give harmonious oscillations,
serve to maintain the taste for rhythm and for beauty. And, above all,
there is a sort of mysterious and aristocratic pleasure for him who
no longer has curiosity or ambition, in contemplating, couched in the
turret or leaning on the pier, all the movements of those who depart
and those who return, of those who still have the strength to will, the
desire to travel or to acquire wealth.


In a men's boudoir, that is, in a smoking room adjoining a fashionable
brothel, four men were smoking and drinking. They were not exactly
either young or old, either handsome or ugly; but, old or young,
they bore that unmistakable distinction of veterans of joy, that
indescribable something-or-other, that cold and scoffing sadness that
so clearly says: "We have lived forcefully, and we seek what we can
love and prize."

One of them drew the talk to the subject of women. It would have been
more philosophical not to have spoken of them at all; but there are men
of parts who, after drinking, do not disdain commonplace conversations.
One listens, then, to the one that speaks as to the music of a dance.

"All men," said this one, "have passed through the age of the Cherub:
that is the period when, in default of dryads, one embraces, without
disgust, the trunks of oaks. It is the first degree of love. At the
second degree, one begins to choose. To be able to deliberate is
already decadence. Then it is that one makes a decided search for
beauty. As for me, gentlemen, I take pride in having long ago reached
the climactic period of the third degree, when beauty itself no longer
suffices, unless it be seasoned with perfume, with finery, et cetera. I
will even confess that I sometimes aspire, as to an unknown happiness,
to a certain fourth degree which is marked by absolute calm. But, all
through my life, except at the Cherub age, I have been more sensible
than all others of the enervating folly, of the irritating mediocrity,
of women. What I like above all in animals is their candor. Judge then
how much I suffered at the hands of my last mistress.

"She was a prince's bastard. Beautiful, that goes without saying;
otherwise, why should I have taken her? But she spoiled that great
quality by an unseemly, deformed ambition. She was a woman who wanted
always to play the man. 'You're not a man!' 'Of the two, it is I who am
the man! 'Such were the unbearable refrains that came from her mouth
when I wished to see nothing but songs take wing.

"In regard to a book, a poem, an opera, for which I let my admiration
escape: 'So you think this is rather powerful?' she would say at once;
'since when are you a judge of power?' and she would argue on.

"One fine day she took to chemistry; so that between her mouth and mine
I found thenceforth-a mask of glass. With all that, quite squeamish. If
now and then I jostled her with too amorous a gesture, she raved like a
ravished virgin."

"How did it end?" asked one of the three others. "I never knew you so

"God," he replied, "found the remedy in the ill. One day I found this
Minerva, craving for ideal force, alone with my servant, and in a
situation which forced me to retire discreetly, so as not to make them
blush. That evening, I dismissed them both, giving them the arrears of
their wages."

"As for me," continued the interrupter, "I have only myself to complain
of. Happiness came to dwell with me, and I did not know her. Fate once
granted me the enjoyment of a woman who was indeed the sweetest, the
most submissive, the most devoted of creatures, and always ready, and
without enthusiasm. 'I am quite willing, since it's agreeable to you.'
That was her usual response. You might give a bastinado to this wall
or this couch and draw from it as many sighs as the most infuriate
transports of love would draw from the breast of my mistress. After a
year of life together, she confessed to me that she had never known
pleasure. I lost taste in the unequal duel, and that incomparable girl
got married. Later I had a fancy to see her, and she said, showing me
six fine children: 'Well, my dear friend, the wife is still as much a
_virgin_ as was your mistress.' Nothing had changed. Sometimes I regret
her; I should have married her."

The others burst into laughter, and a third spoke in turn:

"Gentlemen, I have known joys which you have perhaps neglected. I mean
the comical in love, and a comical which does not bar admiration. I
admired my last mistress, I think, more than you could have loved or
hated yours. And every one admired her as much as I. When we entered
a restaurant, after a few minutes every one forgot to eat in watching
her. The barmaid and the waiters themselves felt the contagious ecstasy
so far as to neglect their duties. In short, I lived for some time face
to face with a living _phenomenon_. She ate, chewed, ground, devoured,
swallowed up, but with the lightest and most careless air imaginable.
In this way she kept me for a long time in ecstasy. She had a soft,
dreamy, English and romantic way of saying: 'I am hungry.' And she
repeated these words day and night, revealing the prettiest teeth in
the world, which would soften and enliven you together.--I could have
made my fortune exhibiting her at fairs, as a _polyphagous monster_. I
nourished her well, but none the less she left me...."

"For a purveyor of provisions, undoubtedly?"

"Something of the sort, a kind of employee in the commissariat who, by
some by-profit unknown to her, perhaps furnished the poor child with
the rations of several soldiers. At least, so I imagine."

"As for me," said the fourth, "I have endured grievous, sufferings
through the opposite of that with which we usually reproach the female
egoist. You are quite unjustified, too happy mortals, in complaining of
the imperfections of your mistresses!"

This was said in a very serious tone, by a man of pleasant and sedate
appearance, of an almost clerical countenance, unhappily lighted by
clear grey eyes, those eyes whose glances spoke: "I wish it!" or "It is
necessary!" or indeed "I never forgive!"

"If, nervous as I know you to be, you, G----, slothful and trifling
as you are, you two, K---- and J----, if you had been matched with a
certain woman I know, either you would have fled, or you would have
died. I survived, as you see. Imagine a person incapable of making an
error, from feeling or from design; imagine a provoking serenity of
mind, a devotion without sham and without parade, a softness without
weakness, an energy without violence. The story of my love is like
an endless voyage on a surface as pure and polished as a mirror,
dizzily monotonous, reflecting all my feelings and my movements with
the ironic exactness of my own conscience, so that I could not allow
myself an unreasonable move or emotion without immediately beholding
the dumb reproach of my inseparable spectre. Love seemed to me like a
protectorate. How much nonsense she stopped me from committing, which
I regret not having done! How many debts I paid despite myself! She
deprived me of all the benefits I could have reaped from my personal
folly. With a cold and impassable rule, she barred all my caprices.
To crown the horror, she demanded no gratitude when the danger was
passed. How many times have I not held myself from leaping at her
throat, crying: 'Be imperfect, wretch! so that I can love you without
uneasiness and wrath!' For several years I wondered at her, my heart
full of hate. Finally, it was not I that died of it!"

"Ah!" said the others, "then she is dead?"

"Yes. Things could not go on like that. Love had become an overwhelming
nightmare to me. Victory or death, as the Politics says, such was the
alternative which destiny imposed. One evening, in a wood..., at the
edge of a pond..., after a melancholy walk in which her eyes reflected
the gentleness of heaven, and my heart was thrilling with hell...."


"What's that?"

"What do you mean?"

"It was inevitable. I had too great a sense of justice to beat, to
insult, or to dismiss an irreproachable servant. But I had to reconcile
that feeling to the horror which that being inspired in me; rid myself
of that being without losing her respect. What would you want me to do
with her, _since she was perfect?_"

The three others looked at him with an uncertain and somewhat stupefied
gaze, as though feigning not to understand and as though tacitly
avowing that they did not feel themselves capable of so rigorous an
act, however sufficiently accounted for in another.

Then they ordered fresh bottles, to kill time whose life is so sturdy,
and to speed life, whose movement is so slow.


My well-beloved little madcap was dining with me, and through the open
window of the dining-room I was contemplating the moving architecture
which God formed from the vapors, the marvellous constructions of the
impalpable. And I was saying to myself, in my reflection: "All these
phantasmagoria are almost as beautiful as the eyes of my beautiful
well-beloved, the little prodigious madcap with green eyes."

And all at once I received a violent punch in the back, and I heard a
hoarse and charming voice, a voice hysterical and husky as with brandy,
which said to me: "Are you going to eat your soup, s..., b... of a
dealer in clouds?"


"Eh! What! You here, my dear? You, in a place of ill! You, the drinker
of quintessences! you, the eater of ambrosia! Indeed, this is something
surprising!" "My dear, you know my dread of horses and carriages.
Just now, as I was crossing the boulevard, in great haste, and as I
was hopping about in the mud, in the midst of that moving chaos where
death arrives at a gallop from all sides at once, my halo, in a sudden
start, slipped from my head into the mire of the macadam. I did not
have the courage to pick it up. I thought it less disagreeable to
lose my insignia than to have my bones broken. And then, I reflected,
it's an ill wind that blows, no good. I can now go about incognito,
perform base actions, and give myself over to debauchery, like ordinary
mortals. And here I am, quite like you, as you see!"

"You ought at least have the halo advertised, or asked for at the

"Heavens, no! I am quite well off here. You alone have recognized me.
Besides, dignity was boring. Then, too, I think with joy that some
poor poet will pick it up, and will impudently deck himself out. To
make some one happy, what joy! and especially a happy one that makes me
laugh! Think of X----, or of Z----! Oh! that would be comical!"


When I had reached the heart of the slums, under the gaslights, I
felt an arm which slid softly under mine, and I heard a voice which
whispered: "You are a doctor, sir?"

I looked: it was a big girl, robust, slightly rouged, her eyes wide
open, her hair floating in the wind with her bonnet strings.

"No, I am not a doctor. Let me pass."

"Oh yes! you are a doctor. I can see it well. Come to my house. You
will be quite satisfied, I assure you. I shall doubtless go to see you,
but later, _after the doctor, goodness me!_... Ha! Ha!" she exclaimed,
still clinging to my arm and bursting into laughter. "You are a
physician jokester. I have known several of that sort. Come."

I am passionately in love with mystery, because I always hope to
unravel it. So I let myself be led by my companion, or rather, by the
unlooked-for enigma.

I omit description of the hovel; it can be found in several well known
old French poets. Only, detail unnoticed by Regnier, two or three
portraits of renowned physicians were hung upon the wall.

How I was pampered! A great fire, warm wine, cigars; and while offering
me these fine things and lighting a cigar for herself the comical
creature said to me: "Make yourself at home; be quite at ease. This
will bring back the hospital and the happy days of your youth.... Oh
look! where did you win those white hairs? You were not like that, not
so long ago, when you were interne at L----. I remember it was you that
helped at the major operations. _There_ was a man that loved to cut,
hew, lop off! It was you that handed him the instruments, the threads
and the sponges.... And how proudly, the operation performed, he used
to say, looking at his watch, 'Five minutes, gentlemen!' Oh! I, I go
everywhere! I know these people well!"

A few moments later, in more familiar tone, harping on the same theme,
she said: "You are a doctor, aren't you, darling?"

That unintelligible refrain brought me to my feet "No!" I cried,

"Surgeon, then?"

"No! No! unless it be to cut off your head!"

"Wait," she continued, "you shall see."

And she drew from a closet a file of papers which was nothing else
than the collection of illustrious doctors of the day, lithographed by
Maurin, that was displayed for several years on the Quay Voltaire.

"Look, do you recognize this one?"

"Yes, it's X----. The name is at the bottom, besides; but I know him

"I should say so! Look! Here is Z----, the one who said in his course,
speaking of X----, 'this monster, bearing on his face the blackness of
his soul!' all because the other did not agree with him in a certain
case! How they laughed at that in the school, at the time! Do you
remember?... Look! here is K----, who denounced to the authorities the
rebels he was caring for at his hospital. That was at the time of the
riots. How is it possible so handsome a man can have so little heart?
... This one is W----, a famous Englishman; I captured him on his visit
to Paris. He looks like a girl, doesn't he?"

And as I touched a little tied-up parcel, also on the table: "Wait a
while," she said, "In this one are the internes; and that package has
the dressers."

And she spread out, fanlike, a mass of photographs, picturing much
younger faces.

"When we see each other again, you will give me your portrait, won't
you, deary?"

"But," I said to her, I also following my fixed idea, "what makes you
think I am a doctor?"

"It's because you are so amiable and good to women!" "Peculiar logic,"
I said to myself.

"Oh! I am hardly ever mistaken; I have known quite a number. I love
them so much that, even though I am not sick, I sometimes go to see
them, only to see them. There are some who say coldly: 'You are not
sick at all!' But there are others who understand me, because I ogle

"And when they do not understand?"

"Well, since I have disturbed them _fruitlessly_, I leave ten francs on
the mantel.... They are so good and so kind, these folk! I discovered
a little interne at the Pieté, pretty as an angel, and so refined! and
a worker, the poor boy! His comrades told me he didn't have a sou,
because his parents were poor folks who couldn't send him anything.
That gave me confidence. After all, I am a fairly good looking woman,
although not too young. I said to him: 'Come to see me, come to see
me often. With me you needn't bother: I have no need of money.' But
you know that I made him understand that in a host of ways, I didn't
tell it to him bluntly; I was so afraid of humiliating him, the dear
child!... Oh well! would you believe that I had a queer fancy I didn't
dare to tell him?... I should have liked him to come to see me with
his instrument case and his apron, even with a little blood on it."

She said this in the most candid manner, as a feeling man would say to
an actress that he loved: "I want to see you dressed in the costume you
wore in this famous _rôle_ that you created...."

I, persisting, continued: "Can you remember the time and the occasion
when this so special passion was born in you?"

I made her understand with difficulty; finally I succeeded. But then
she answered in a very sad tone, and even, as well as I can recall,
lowering her eyes: "I don't know..., I can't remember."

What oddities can be found in a great city, if one knows how to walk
about and watch. Life swarms with innocent monsters.--

Lord, my God! You, the Creator, You the Master, You who have created
Law and Liberty; You, the Sovereign that doth not interfere; You, the
Judge that pardoneth; You who are full of motives and causes, and who
perhaps have planted a taste for horror in my mind in order to convert
my soul, as the recovery after a sword; Lord, have pity, have pity on
madmen and mad women! O Creator, can monsters exist in the eyes of Him
who alone knows why they exist, how they are made, and how they need
not have been made?


For a fortnight I was confined to my room, and I surrounded myself
with the books of the day (sixteen or seventeen years ago); I mean
those volumes which treat of the art of making people happy, wise and
rich, in twenty-four hours. I had thus digested--swallowed, I should
say--all the lucubrations of all those master-builders of the public
weal, of those who advise all the poor to enslave themselves, and of
those who persuade them they are all dethroned kings. There is, then,
naught surprising in the fact that I was in a state of mind bordering
on intoxication or stupidity.

It seemed to me merely that I felt, imprisoned in the depths of my
intelligence, the obscure germ of an idea superior to all the old
wives' formulæ the cyclopedia of which I had just run through. But it
was only the thought of a thought, a something infinitely vague.

And I went forth with a great thirst, for the impassioned taste of poor
reading engenders a proportionate need of open air and of refreshment.

As I was about to enter a tavern, a beggar held out his hat to me, with
one of those unforgettable glances that would tumble down thrones, if
the mental moved the material, and if a mesmerist's glance could ripen

At the same time, I heard a voice which whispered at my ear, a voice
that I knew well: it was that of a good angel, or a good Demon, who is
with me everywhere. Since Socrates had his good Demon, why may not I
have my good Angel, and why may not I have the honor, like Socrates,
of securing my brevet in folly, signed by the subtle Lélut and the
well-advised Baillar get?[1]

There is this difference between the Demon of Socrates and my own,
that his manifested itself only to warn, to forbid, to prevent, and
that mine deigns to counsel, suggest, persuade. Poor Socrates had only
a Demon prohibitor; mine is a great affirmator, mine is a Demon of
action, or a Demon of combat.

Now, his voice whispered to me thus: "He alone is the equal of
another, that proves it; and he alone is worthy of liberty, that can
secure it."

Immediately I leapt upon the beggar. With one punch, I stopped an eye,
which became in a moment large as a ball. I broke one of my nails
shattering two of his teeth, and as I did not feel strong enough,
having been born delicate and having had but little practice in boxing,
to beat the old fellow to death right away, I grasped him by one hand
by the collar of his coat, and with the other I throttled him, and I
set to work dashing his head against a wall. I must avow that I had
first inspected the surroundings in a glance, and had made sure that
in that deserted suburb I should be long enough out of the reach of a

Having then, with a kick in the back, hard enough to break his
shoulderblade, felled the enfeebled sexagenarian, I seized a great
branch of a tree which lay along the ground, and I beat him with the
determined energy of cooks trying to make a beefsteak tender.

All at once,--O miracle! O joy of the philosopher who proves the
excellence of his theory!--I saw that antique carcass turn about,
straighten up with an energy I should never have suspected in so
strangely disordered a machine--and, with a glance of hate that seemed
to me _good omen_, the decrepit ruffian hurled himself upon me,
blackened both my eyes, broke four teeth, and with the same branch beat
me stiff as a jelly. By my energetic medication, I had restored to him
pride and life.

Then I made any number of signs to him to make him understand that I
considered the matter closed, and, rising with the satisfaction of a
philosopher of the Porch, I said to him: "Sir, _you are my equal!_
Kindly do me the honor of sharing my purse; and remember, if you are
truly philanthropic, that you must apply to all your colleagues, when
they ask for alms, the theory that I have had the _sorrow_ of trying on
your back."

He swore to me that he understood my theory, and that he would obey my

[Footnote 1: Famous Parisian alienists of the time.]



I have never, even before the young writers of my century, been ashamed
of my admiration for Buffon; but to-day it is not the spirit of that
painter of lofty nature that I would call to my assistance. No.

Much more willingly I call to Sterne, and I say to him: "Descend from
heaven, or climb to me from the Elysian Fields, to inspire me in behalf
of good dogs, of poor dogs, with a song worthy of thee, sentimental
farceur, farceur incomparable. Come back astraddle that famous ass
which will always accompany you in the memory of the future; and
especially do not let that ass forget to carry, delicately hung between
his lips, his immortal macaroons."

Away with the academic muse! I have no business with that old prude. I
invoke the familiar muse, the citizen, the boon companion, to aid me to
sing the good dogs, the poor dogs, the dirty dogs, those whom every one
drives away, pestiferous and lousy, except the poor, whose associates
they are, and the poet, who sees them with fraternal eye.

Fie upon the foppish dog, upon the coxcomb quadruped, Dane, King
Charles, pugdog or lapdog, so enamoured of himself that he darts
inconsiderately between the legs or on the knees of the visitor, as
if he were certain of pleasing, wild as a youngster, foolish as a
flirt, often surly and insolent as a servant! Fie especially upon those
four-pawed serpents, idle and shivering, that are called greyhounds,
and that do not harbor in their pointed muzzle enough scent to follow
the track of a friend, nor in their flattened head enough intelligence
to play at dominoes!

To the kennel with all these plaguy parasites!

Let them slink to the kennel stuffed and sulky! I sing the dirty dog,
the poor dog, the homeless dog, the stroller dog; the dog buffoon,
the dog whose instinct, like that of the poor, the gypsy and the
mountebank, is marvellously sharpened by necessity, that excellent
mother, that true patron of intelligence!

I sing the distressful dogs, be they those that wander, alone, in the
winding gullies of the great cities or those who have said to the
forsaken man, with blinking spiritual eyes: "Take me with you, and of
two miseries we shall make a sort of joy!"

"Whither go the dogs?" Nestor Roquepelan once said in an immortal
leaflet which he has doubtless forgotten, and which I alone, and
perhaps Saint-Beuve, recall today.

Where do the dogs go, you ask, heedless men? They go about their

Business engagements, affairs of love. Through the fog, through the
snow, through the mire, under the biting dogstar, under the streaming
rain, they come, they go, they hurry, they move along under carriages,
excited by fleas, by passion, by duty or by need. Like us, they have
risen bright and early, and they seek their livelihood or run to their

There are some who sleep in a ruin in the suburbs and who come every
day at a stated hour, to beg alms at the door of a Palais-Royal cook;
others who run in troops, for more than five leagues, to partake of
the repast which has been prepared for them through the charity of
certain sexagenarian maids, whose unoccupied hearts are given over to
beasts, since imbecile man wants them no more; others who, like runaway
negroes, frantic with love, leave their province on certain days, to
come to the city and romp for an hour with a handsome bitch, a little
careless in her toilet, but proud and thankful.

And they are all very precise, without notebooks, without memoranda,
without portfolios.

Do you know slothful Belgium, and have you, like me, admired all those
vigorous dogs hitched to the cart of the butcher, of the milkmaid, of
the baker, who give evidence in their triumphant barks, of the proud
pleasure they feel in rivalling the horse?

And here are two that belong to a still more civilized order! Permit
me to introduce you into the room of an absent mountebank. A bed, of
painted wood, without curtains, with dragging covers stained with bugs;
two cane chairs, a cast-iron stove, one or two disordered musical
instruments. Oh, what sad furniture! But look, I pray you, at these two
intelligent personages, clad in garments at once sumptuous and frayed,
hooded like troubadours' or soldiers, who are guarding, with the close
watch of a sorcerer, _the nameless something_ which simmers on the
lighted stove, and from the center of which a long spoon stands forth,
planted as one of those aerial masts which announce that the masonry is

Is it not just that such zealous comedians should not set out without
having well lined their stomachs with a strong, sound soup? And will
you not forgive a little sensuality in these poor devils who all day
have to face the indifference of the public and the injustice of a
director who deems himself the whole show and who alone eats more soup
than four actors?

How often have I contemplated, touched and smiling, all these
four-footed philosophers, compliant, submissive or devoted slaves,
whom the republican dictionary might well call "fellows,"[1] if the
republic, too busied with the _happiness_ of men, had time to respect
the _honor_ of dogs!

And how many times have I thought that perhaps there is somewhere (who
knows, after all?), to reward so much courage, so much of patience and
of labor, a special paradise for good dogs, for poor dogs, for dirty
and afflicted dogs. Swedenborg affirms that there is one for the Turks
and one for the Dutchmen!

The shepherds of Virgil and of Theocritus expected, as prize for their
alternate songs, a good cheese, a flute from the best maker, or a
she-goat with swelling udders. The poet who has sung the good dogs has
received for reward a fine vest, of a color both faded and rich, which
brings thoughts of the autumn suns, of the beauty of matured women and
of the summers of Saint-Martin.

None of those who were present in the tavern of Rue Villa-Hermosa will
forget with what petulance the painter was despoiled of his vest for
the poet, so well had he understood that it is good and seemly to sing
of poor dogs.

Thus a magnificent Italian tyrant, in the good old days, offered
the divine Aretine a dagger rich with jewels, or a courtly gown, in
exchange for a precious sonnet or a rare satiric poem.

And whenever the poet dons the painter's vest, he is forced to think of
the good dogs, of the dog philosophers, of the summers of Saint-Martin
and of the beauty of full-blown women.

[Footnote 1: "Officieux" was the term adopted by the Republic, to
replace "domestique" and "valet," and to indicate the equality of
all--even master and man.]


Translated by F. P. Sturm


Beneath a broad grey sky, upon a vast and dusty plain devoid of grass,
and where not even a nettle or a thistle was to be seen, I met several
men who walked bowed down to the ground.

Each one carried upon his back an enormous Chimæra as heavy as a sack
of flour or coal, or as the equipment of a Roman foot-soldier.

But the monstrous beast was not a dead weight, rather she enveloped and
oppressed the men with her powerful and elastic muscles, and clawed
with her two vast talons at the breast of her mount. Her fabulous head
reposed upon the brow of the man like one of those horrible casques by
which ancient warriors hoped to add to the terrors of the enemy.

I questioned one of the men, asking him why they went so. He replied
that he knew nothing, neither he nor the others, but that evidently
they went somewhere, since they were urged on by an unconquerable
desire to walk.

Very curiously, none of the wayfarers seemed to be irritated by the
ferocious beast hanging at his neck and cleaving to his back: one had
said that he considered it as a part of himself. These grave and weary
faces bore witness to no despair. Beneath the splenetic cupola of the
heavens, their feet trudging through the dust of an earth as desolate
as the sky, they journeyed onwards with the resigned faces of men
condemned to hope for ever. So the train passed me and faded into the
atmosphere of the horizon at the place where the planet unveils herself
to the curiosity of the human eye.

During several moments I obstinately endeavoured to comprehend this
mystery; but irresistible Indifference soon threw herself upon me,
nor was I more heavily dejected thereby than they by their crushing


How admirable the day! The vast park swoons beneath the burning eye of
the sun, as youth beneath the lordship of love.

There is no rumour of the universal ecstasy of all things. The waters
themselves are as though drifting into sleep. Very different from the
festivals of humanity, here is a silent revel.

It seems as though an ever-waning light makes all objects glimmer more
and more, as though the excited flowers bum with a desire to rival the
blue of the sky by the vividness of their colours; as though the heat,
making perfumes visible, drives them in vapour towards their star.

Yet, in the midst of this universal joy, I have perceived one afflicted

At the feet of a colossal Venus, one of those motley fools, those
willing clowns whose business it is to bring laughter upon kings when
weariness or remorse possesses them, lies wrapped in his gaudy and
ridiculous garments, coiffed with his cap and bells, huddled against
the pedestal, and raises towards the goddess his eyes filled with tears.

And his eyes say: "I am the last and most alone of all mortals,
inferior to the meanest of animals in that I am denied either love or
friendship. Yet I am made, even I, for the understanding and enjoyment
of immortal Beauty. O Goddess, have pity upon my sadness and my frenzy."

The implacable Venus gazed into I know not what distances with her
marble eyes.


A hundred times already the sun had leaped, radiant or saddened, from
the immense cup of the sea whose rim could scarcely be seen; a hundred
times it had again sunk, glittering or morose, into its mighty bath
of twilight. For many days we had contemplated the other side of the
firmament, and deciphered the celestial alphabet of the antipodes. And
each of the passengers sighed and complained. One had said that the
approach of land only exasperated their sufferings. "When, then," they
said, "shall we cease to sleep a sleep broken by the surge, troubled by
a wind that snores louder than we? When shall we be able to eat at an
unmoving table?"

There were those who thought of their own firesides, who regretted
their sullen, faithless wives, and their noisy progeny. All so doted
upon the image of the absent land, that I believe they would have eaten
grass with as much enthusiasm as the beasts.

At length a coast was signalled, and on approaching we saw a
magnificent and dazzling land. It seemed as though the music of life
flowed therefrom in a vague murmur; and the banks, rich with all kinds
of growths, breathed, for leagues around, a delicious odour of flowers
and fruits.

Each one therefore was joyful; his evil humour left him. Quarrels were
forgotten, reciprocal wrongs forgiven, the thought of duels was blotted
out of the memory, and rancour fled away like smoke.

I alone was sad, inconceivably sad. Like a priest from whom one has
torn his divinity, I could not, without heartbreaking bitterness, leave
this so monstrously seductive ocean, this sea so infinitely various
in its terrifying simplicity, which seemed to contain in itself and
represent by its joys, and attractions, and angers, and smiles, the
moods and agonies and ecstasies of all souls that have lived, that
live, and that shall yet live.

In saying good-bye to this incomparable beauty I felt as though I had
been smitten to death; and that is why when each of my companions said:
"At last!" I could only cry "_Already!_"

Here meanwhile was the land, the land with its noises, its passions,
its commodities, its festivals: a land rich and magnificent, full of
promises, that sent to us a mysterious perfume of rose and musk, and
from whence the music of life flowed in an amorous murmuring.


A chamber that is like a reverie; a chamber truly _spiritual_, where
the stagnant atmosphere is lightly touched with rose and blue.

There the soul bathes itself in indolence made odorous with regret and
desire. There is some sense of the twilight, of things tinged with
blue and rose: a dream of delight during an eclipse. The shape of the
furniture is elongated, low, languishing; one would think it endowed
with the somnambulistic vitality of plants and minerals.

The tapestries speak an inarticulate language, like the flowers, the
skies, the dropping suns.

There are no artistic abominations upon the walls. Compared with the
pure dream, with an impression unanalyzed, definite art, positive art,
is a blasphemy. Here all has the sufficing lucidity and the delicious
obscurity of music.

An infinitesimal odour of the most exquisite choice, mingled with a
floating humidity, swims in this atmosphere where the drowsing spirit
is lulled by the sensations one feels in a hothouse.

The abundant muslin flows before the windows and the couch, and
spreads out in snowy cascades. Upon the couch lies the Idol, ruler of
my dreams. But why is she here?--who has brought her?--what magical
power has installed her upon this throne of delight and reverie? What
matter--she is there; and I recognize her.

These indeed are the eyes whose flame pierces the twilight; the subtle
and terrible mirrors that I recognize by their horrifying malice.
They attract, they dominate, they devour the sight of whomsoever is
imprudent enough to look at them. I have often studied them; these
Black Stars that compel curiosity and admiration.

To what benevolent demon, then, do I owe being thus surrounded with
mystery, with silence, with peace, and sweet odours? O beatitude! the
thing we name life, even in its most fortunate amplitude, has nothing
in common with this supreme life with which I am now acquainted, which
I taste minute by minute, second by second.

Not so! Minutes are no more; seconds are no more. Time has vanished,
and Eternity reigns--an Eternity of delight.

A heavy and terrible knocking reverberates upon the door, and, as in a
hellish dream, it seems to me as though I had received a blow from a

Then a Spectre enters: it is an usher who comes to torture me in the
name of the Law; an infamous concubine who comes to cry misery and to
add the trivialities of her life to the sorrow of mine; or it may be
the errand-boy of an editor who comes to implore the remainder of a

The Chamber of paradise, the Idol, the ruler of dreams, the Sylphide,
as the great René said; all this magic has vanished at the brutal
knocking of the Spectre.

Horror; I remember, I remember! Yes, this kennel, this habitation of
eternal weariness, is indeed my own. There is my senseless furniture,
dusty and tattered; the dirty fireplace without a flame or an ember;
the sad windows where the raindrops have traced runnels in the dust;
the manuscripts, erased or unfinished; the almanac with the sinister
days marked off with a pencil!

And this perfume of another world, whereof I intoxicated myself with
a so perfected sensitiveness; alas, Its place is taken by an odour of
stale tobacco smoke, mingled with I know not what nauseating mustiness.
Now one breathes here the rankness of desolation.

In this narrow world, narrow and yet full of disgust, a single familiar
object smiles at me: the phial of laudanum: old and terrible love; like
all loves, alas! fruitful in caresses and treacheries.

Yes, Time has reappeared; Time reigns a monarch now; and with the
hideous Ancient has returned all his demoniacal following of Memories,
Regrets, Tremors, Fears, Dolours, Nightmares, and twittering nerves.

I assure you that the seconds are strongly and solemnly accentuated
now; and each, as it drips from the pendulum, says: "I am Life:
intolerable, implacable Life!"

There is not a second in mortal life whose mission it is to bear good
news: the good news that brings the inexplicable tear to the eye.

Yes, Time reigns; Time has regained his brutal mastery. And he goads
me, as though I were a steer, with his double goad: "Whoa, thou fool!
Sweat, then, thou slave! Live on, thou damnèd!"


Alone at last! Nothing is to be heard but the rattle of a few tardy
and tired-out cabs. There will be silence now, if not repose, for
several hours at least. At last the tyranny of the human face has
disappeared--I shall not suffer except alone. At last it is permitted
me to refresh myself in a bath of shadows. But first a double turn of
the key in the lock. It seems to me that this turn of the key will
deepen my solitude and strengthen the barriers which actually separate
me from the world.

A horrible life and a horrible city! Let us run over the events of the
day. I have seen several literary men; one of them wished to know if
he could get to Russia by land (he seemed to have an idea that Russia
was an island); I have disputed generously enough with the editor of a
review, who to each objection replied: "We take the part of respectable
people," which implies that every other paper but his own is edited by
a knave; I have saluted some twenty people, fifteen of them unknown
to me; and shaken hands with a like number, without having taken the
precaution of first buying gloves; I have been driven to kill time,
during a shower, with a mountebank, who wanted me to design for her
a costume as Venusta; I have made my bow to a theatre manager, who
said: "You will do well, perhaps, to interview Z; he is the heaviest,
foolishest, and most celebrated of all my authors; with him perhaps
you will be able to come to something. See him, and then we'll see."
I have boasted (why?) of several villainous deeds I never committed,
and indignantly denied certain shameful things I accomplished with
joy, certain misdeeds of fanfaronade, crimes of human respect; I have
refused an easy favour to a friend and given a written recommendation
to a perfect fool. Heavens! it's well ended.

Discontented with myself and with everything and everybody else, I
should be glad enough to redeem myself and regain my self-respect in
the silence and solitude.

Souls of those whom I have loved, whom I have sung, fortify me;
sustain me; drive away the lies and the corrupting vapours of this
world; and Thou, Lord my God, accord me so much grace as shall produce
some beautiful verse to prove to myself that I am not the last of men,
that I am not inferior to those I despise.


How penetrating is the end of an autumn day! Ah, yes, penetrating
enough to be painful even; for there are certain delicious sensations
whose vagueness does not prevent them from being intense; and none more
keen than the perception of the Infinite. He has a great delight who
drowns his gaze in the immensity of sky and sea. Solitude, silence, the
incomparable chastity of the azure--a little sail trembling upon the
horizon, by its very littleness and isolation imitating my irremediable
existence--the melodious monotone of the surge--all these things
thinking through me and I through them (for in the grandeur of the
reverie the Ego is swiftly lost); they think, I say, but musically and
picturesquely, without quibbles, without syllogisms, without deductions.

These thoughts, as they arise in me or spring forth from external
objects, soon become always too intense. The energy working within
pleasure creates an uneasiness, a positive suffering: My nerves are too
tense to give other than clamouring and dolorous vibrations.

And now the profundity of the sky dismays me; its limpidity exasperates
me. The insensibility of the sea, the immutability of the spectacle,
revolt me. Ah, must one eternally suffer, for ever be a fugitive from

Nature, pitiless enchantress, ever-victorious rival, leave me! Tempt
my desires and my pride no more. The contemplation of Beauty is a duel
where the artist screams with terror before being vanquished.



What is a thyrsus? According to the moral and poetical sense, it is a
sacerdotal emblem in the hand of the priests or priestesses celebrating
the divinity of whom they are the interpreters and servants. But
physically it is no more than a baton, a pure staff, a hop-pole, a
vineprop; dry, straight, and hard. Around this baton, in capricious
meanderings, stems and flowers twine and wanton; these, sinuous
and fugitive; those, hanging like bells or inverted cups. And an
astonishing complexity disengages itself from this complexity of tender
or brilliant lines and colours. Would not one suppose that the curved
line and the spiral pay their court to the straight line, and twine
about in a mute adoration? Would not one say that all these delicate
corollæ, all these calices, explosions of odours and colours, execute
a mystical dance around the hieratic staff? And what imprudent mortal
will dare to decide whether the flowers and the vine branches have been
made for the baton, or whether the baton is not but a pretext to set
forth the beauty of the vine branches and the flowers?

The thyrsus is the symbol of your astonishing duality, O powerful
and venerated master, dear bacchanal of a mysterious and impassioned
Beauty. Never a nymph excited by the mysterious Dionysius shook her
thyrsus over the heads of her companions with as much energy as your
genius trembles in the hearts of your brothers. The baton is your
will: erect, firm, unshakeable; the flowers are the wanderings of
your fancy around it: the feminine element encircling the masculine
with her illusive dance. Straight line and arabesque--intention
and expression--the rigidity of the will and the suppleness of the
word--a variety of means united for a single purpose--the all-powerful
and indivisible amalgam that is genius--what analyst will have the
detestable courage to divide or to separate you?

Dear Liszt, across the fogs, beyond the flowers, in towns where the
pianos chant your glory, where the printing-house translates your
wisdom; in whatever place you be, in the splendour of the Eternal
City or among the fogs of the dreamy towns that Cambrinus consoles;
improvising rituals of delight or ineffable pain, or giving to
paper your abstruse meditations; singer of eternal pleasure and
pain, philosopher, poet, and artist, I offer you the salutation of


As the carriage traversed the wood he bade the driver draw up in the
neighbourhood of a shooting gallery, saying that he would like to
have a few shots to kill time. Is not the slaying of the monster Time
the most ordinary and legitimate occupation of man?--So he gallantly
offered his hand to his dear, adorable, and execrable wife; the
mysterious woman to whom he owed so many pleasures, so many pains, and
perhaps also a great part of his genius.

Several bullets went wide of the proposed mark, one of them flew far
into the heavens, and as the charming creature laughed deliriously,
mocking the clumsiness of her husband, he turned to her brusquely and
said: "Observe that doll yonder, to the right, with its nose in the
air, and with so haughty an appearance. Very well, dear angel, _I will
imagine to myself that it is you!_"

He closed both eyes and pulled the trigger. The doll was neatly

Then, bending towards his dear, adorable, and execrable wife, his
inevitable and pitiless muse, he kissed her respectfully upon the hand,
and added, "Ah, dear angel, how I thank you for my skill!"


"CEMETERY VIEW INN"--"A queer sign,", said our traveller to himself;
"but it raises a thirst! Certainly the keeper of this inn appreciates
Horace and the poet pupils of Epicurus. Perhaps he even apprehends the
profound philosophy of those old Egyptians who had no feast without its
skeleton, or some emblem of life's brevity."

He entered: drank a glass of beer in presence of the tombs; and slowly
smoked a cigar. Then, his phantasy driving him, he went down into the
cemetery, where the grass was so tall and inviting; so brilliant in the

The light and heat, indeed, were so furiously intense that one had said
the drunken sun wallowed upon a carpet of flowers that had fattened
upon the corruption beneath.

The air was heavy with vivid rumours of life--the life of things
infinitely small--and broken at intervals by the crackling of shots
from a neighbouring shooting-range, that exploded with a sound as of
champagne corks to the burden of a hollow symphony.

And then, beneath a sun which scorched the brain, and in that
atmosphere charged with the ardent perfume of death, he heard a voice
whispering out of the tomb where he sat. And this voice said: "Accursed
be your rifles and targets, you turbulent living ones, who care so
little for the dead in their divine repose! Accursed be your ambitions
and calculations, importunate mortals who study the arts of slaughter
near the sanctuary of Death himself! Did you but know how easy the
prize to win, how facile the end to reach, and how all save Death is
naught, not so greatly would you fatigue yourselves, O ye laborious
alive; nor would you so often vex the slumber of them that long ago
reached the End--the only true end of life detestable!"


Unhappy perhaps is the man, but happy the artist, who is tom with this

I burn to paint a certain woman who has appeared to me so rarely,
and so swiftly fled away, like some beautiful, regrettable thing the
traveller must leave behind him in the night. It is already long since
I saw her.

She is beautiful, and more than beautiful: she is overpowering. The
colour black preponderates in her; all that she inspires is nocturnal
and profound. Her eyes are two caverns where mystery vaguely stirs and
gleams; her glance illuminates like a ray of light; it is an explosion
in the darkness.

I would compare her to a black sun if one could conceive of a dark star
overthrowing light and happiness. But it is the moon that she makes
one dream of most readily; the moon, who has without doubt touched her
with her own influence; not the white moon of the idylls, who resembles
a cold bride, but the sinister and intoxicating moon suspended in the
depths of a stormy night, among the driven clouds; not the discreet
peaceful moon who visits the dreams of pure men, but the moon torn from
the sky, conquered and revolted, that the witches of Thessaly hardly
constrain to dance upon the terrified grass.

Her small brow is the habitation of a tenacious will and the love of
prey. And below this inquiet face, whose mobile nostrils breathe in the
unknown and the impossible, glitters, with an unspeakable grace, the
smile of a large mouth; white, red, and delicious; a mouth that makes
one dream of the miracle of some superb flower unclosing in a volcanic

There are women who inspire one with the desire to woo them and win
them; but she makes one wish to die slowly beneath her steady gaze.


There are some natures purely contemplative and antipathetic to
action, who nevertheless, under a mysterious and inexplicable impulse,
sometimes act with a rapidity of which they would have believed
themselves incapable. Such a one is he who, fearing to find some new
vexation awaiting him at his lodgings, prowls about in a cowardly
fashion before the door without daring to enter; such a one is he who
keeps a letter fifteen days without opening it, or only makes up his
mind at the end of six months to undertake a journey that has been
a necessity for a year past. Such beings sometimes feel themselves
precipitately thrust towards action, like an arrow from a bow.

The novelist and the physician, who profess to know all things, yet
cannot explain whence comes this sudden and delirious energy to
indolent and voluptuous souls; nor how, incapable of accomplishing the
simplest and most necessary things, they are at some certain moment
of time possessed by a superabundant hardihood which enables them to
execute the most absurd and even the most dangerous acts.

One of my friends, the most harmless dreamer that ever lived, at one
time set fire to a forest, in order to ascertain, as he said, whether
the flames take hold with the easiness that is commonly affirmed. His
experiment failed ten times running, on the eleventh it succeeded only
too well.

Another lit a cigar by the side of a powder barrel, _in order to
see, to know, to tempt Destiny_, for a jest, to have the pleasure of
suspense, for no reason at all, out of caprice, out of idleness. This
is a kind of energy that springs from weariness and reverie; and those
in whom it manifests so stubbornly are in general, as I have said, the
most indolent and dreamy beings.

Another so timid that he must cast down his eyes before the gaze of any
man, and summon all his poor will before he dare enter a café or pass
the pay-box of a theatre, where the ticket-seller seems, in his eyes,
invested with all the majesty of Minos, Æcus, and Rhadamanthus, will
at times throw himself upon the neck of some old man whom he sees in
the street, and embrace him with enthusiasm in sight of an astonished
crowd. Why? Because--because this countenance is irresistibly
attractive to him? Perhaps; but it is more legitimate to suppose that
he himself does not know why.

I have been more than once a victim to these crises and outbreaks which
give us cause to believe that evil-meaning demons slip into us, to make
us the ignorant accomplices of their most absurd desires. One morning
I arose in a sullen mood, very sad, and tired of idleness, and thrust
as it seemed to me to the doing of some great thing, some brilliant
act--and then, alas, I opened the window.

(I beg you to observe that in some people the spirit of mystification
is not the result of labour or combination, but rather of a fortuitous
inspiration which would partake, were it not for the strength of the
feeling, of the mood called hysterical by the physician and satanic
by those who think a little more profoundly than the physician; the
mood which thrusts us unresisting to a multitude of dangerous and
inconvenient acts.)

The first person I noticed in the street was a glass-vendor whose
shrill and discordant cry mounted up to me through the heavy, dull
atmosphere of Paris. It would have been else impossible to account for
the sudden and despotic hatred of this poor man that came upon me.

"Hello, there!" I cried, and bade him ascend. Meanwhile I reflected,
not without gaiety, that as my room was on the sixth landing, and the
stairway very narrow, the man would have some difficulty in ascending,
and in many a place would break off the corners of his fragile

At length he appeared. I examined all his glasses with curiosity, and
then said to him: "What, have you no coloured glasses? Glasses of rose
and crimson and blue, magical glasses, glasses of Paradise? You are
insolent. You dare to walk in mean streets when you have no glasses
that would make one see beauty in life?" And I hurried him briskly to
the staircase, which he staggered down, grumbling.

I went on to the balcony and caught up a little flower-pot, and when
the man appeared in the doorway beneath I let fall my engine of war
perpendicularly upon the edge of his pack, so that it was upset by the
shock and all his poor walking fortune broken to bits. It made a noise
like a palace of crystal shattered by lightning. Mad with my folly, I
cried furiously after him: "The life beautiful! the life beautiful!"

Such nervous pleasantries are not without peril; often enough one pays
dearly for them. But what matters an eternity of damnation to him who
has found in one second an eternity of enjoyment?


Vauvenargues says that in public gardens there are alleys haunted
principally by thwarted ambition, by unfortunate inventors, by aborted
glories and broken hearts, and by all those tumultuous and contracted
souls in whom the last sighs of the storm mutter yet again, and who
thus betake themselves far from the insolent and joyous eyes of the
well-to-do. These shadowy retreats are the rendezvous of life's

To such places above all others do the poet and philosopher direct
their avid conjectures. They find there an unfailing pasturage, for
if there is one place they disdain to visit it is, as I have already
hinted, the place of the joy of the rich. A turmoil in the void
has no attractions for them. On the contrary, they feel themselves
irresistibly drawn towards all that is feeble, ruined, sorrowing, and

An experienced eye is never deceived. In these rigid and dejected
lineaments; in these eyes, wan and hollow, or bright with the last
fading gleams of the combat against fate; in these numerous profound
wrinkles and in the slow and troubled gait, the eye of experience
deciphers unnumbered legends of mistaken devotion, of unrewarded
effort, of hunger and cold humbly and silently supported.

Have you not at times seen widows sitting on the deserted benches? Poor
widows, I mean. Whether in mourning or not they are easily recognised.
Moreover, there is always something wanting in the mourning of the
poor; a lack of harmony which but renders it the more heart-breaking.
It is forced to be niggardly in its show of grief. They are the rich
who exhibit a full complement of sorrow.

Who is the saddest and most saddening of widows: she who leads by
the hand a child who cannot share her reveries, or she who is quite
alone? I do not know.... It happened that I once followed for several
long hours an aged and afflicted woman of this kind: rigid and erect,
wrapped in a little worn shawl, she carried in all her being the pride
of stoicism.

She was evidently condemned by her absolute loneliness to the habits of
an ancient celibacy; and the masculine characters of her habits added
to their austerity a piquant mysteriousness. In what miserable café she
dines I know not, nor in what manner. I followed her to a reading-room,
and for a long time watched her reading the papers, her active eyes,
that once burned with tears, seeking for news of a powerful and
personal interest.

At length, in the afternoon, under a charming autumnal sky, one of
those skies that let fall hosts of memories and regrets, she seated
herself remotely in a garden, to listen, far from the crowd, to one of
the regimental bands whose music gratifies the people of Paris. This
was without doubt the small debauch of the innocent old woman (or the
purified old woman), the well-earned consolation for another of the
burdensome days without a friend, without conversation, without joy,
without a confidant, that God had allowed to fall upon her perhaps for
many years past--three hundred and sixty-five times a year!

Yet one more:

I can never prevent myself from throwing a glance, if not sympathetic
at least full of curiosity, over the crowd of outcasts who press around
the enclosure of a public concert. From the orchestra, across the
night, float songs of fête, of triumph, or of pleasure. The dresses of
the women sweep and shimmer; glances pass; the well-to-do, tired with
doing nothing, saunter about and make indolent pretence of listening to
the music. Here are only the rich, the happy; here is nothing that does
not inspire or exhale the pleasure of being alive, except the aspect of
the mob that presses against the outer barrier yonder, catching gratis,
at the will of the wind, a tatter of music, and watching the glittering
furnace within.

There is a reflection of the joy of the rich deep in the eyes of
the poor that is always interesting. But to-day, beyond this people
dressed in blouses and calico, I saw one whose nobility was in striking
contrast with all the surrounding triviality. She was a tall, majestic
woman, and so imperious in all her air that I cannot remember having
seen the like in the collections of the aristocratic beauties of the
past. A perfume of exalted virtue emanated from all her being. Her
face, sad and worn, was in perfect keeping with the deep mourning in
which she was dressed. She also, like the plebeians she mingled with
and did not see, looked upon the luminous world with a profound eye,
and listened with a toss of her head.

It was a strange vision. "Most certainly," I said to myself, "this
poverty, if poverty it be, ought not to admit of any sordid economy; so
noble a face answers for that. Why then does she remain in surroundings
with which she is so strikingly in contrast?"

But in curiously passing near her I was able to divine the reason. The
tall widow held by the hand a child dressed like herself in black.
Modest as was the price of entry, this price perhaps sufficed to
pay for some of the needs of the little being, or even more, for a
superfluity, a toy.

She will return on foot, dreaming and meditating--and alone, always
alone, for the child is turbulent and selfish, without gentleness or
patience, and cannot become, anymore than another animal, a dog or a
cat, the confidant of solitary griefs.


Last night two superb Satans and a She-devil not less extraordinary
ascended the mysterious stairway by which Hell gains access to the
frailty of sleeping man, and communes with him in secret. These
three postured gloriously before me, as though they had been upon a
stage--and a sulphurous splendour emanated from these beings who so
disengaged themselves from the opaque heart of the night. They bore
with them so proud a presence, and so full of mastery, that at first I
took them for three of the true Gods.

The first Satan, by his face, was a creature of doubtful sex. The
softness of an ancient Bacchus shone in the lines of his body. His
beautiful languorous eyes, of a tenebrous and indefinite colour,
were like violets still laden with the heavy tears of the storm; his
slightly-parted lips were like heated censers, from whence exhaled
the sweet savour of many perfumes; and each time he breathed, exotic
insects drew, as they fluttered, strength from the ardours of his

Twined about his tunic of purple stuff, in the manner of a cincture,
was an iridescent Serpent with lifted head and eyes like embers turned
sleepily towards him. Phials full of sinister fluids, alternating
with shining knives and instruments of surgery, hung from this living
girdle. He held in his right hand a flagon containing a luminous red
fluid, and inscribed with a legend in these singular words:


and in his left hand held a violin that without doubt served to sing
his pleasures and pains, and to spread abroad the contagion of his
folly upon the nights of the Sabbath.

From rings upon his delicate ankles trailed a broken chain of gold, and
when the burden of this caused him to bend his eyes towards the earth,
he would contemplate with vanity the nails of his feet, as brilliant
and polished as well-wrought jewels.

He looked at me with eyes inconsolably heart-broken and giving forth
an insidious intoxication, and cried in a chanting voice: "If thou
wilt, if thou wilt, I will make thee an overlord of souls; thou shalt
be master of living matter more perfectly than the sculptor is master
of his clay; thou shalt taste the pleasure, reborn without end, of
obliterating thyself in the self of another, and of luring other souls
to lose themselves in thine."

But I replied to him: "I thank thee. I only gain from this venture,
then, beings of no more worth than my poor self? Though remembrance
brings me shame indeed, I would forget nothing; and even before I
recognised thee, thou ancient monster, thy mysterious cutlery, thy
equivocal phials, and the chain that imprisons thy feet, were symbols
showing clearly enough the inconvenience of thy friendship. Keep thy

The second Satan had neither the air at once tragical and smiling, the
lovely insinuating ways, nor the delicate and scented beauty of the
first. A gigantic man, with a coarse, eyeless face, his heavy paunch
overhung his hips and was gilded and pictured, like a tattooing, with
a crowd of little moving figures which represented the unnumbered
forms of universal misery. There were little sinew-shrunken men who
hung themselves willingly from nails; there were meagre gnomes,
deformed and undersized, whose beseeching eyes begged an alms even
more eloquently than their trembling hands; there were old mothers who
nursed clinging abortions at their pendent breasts. And many others,
even more surprising.

This heavy Satan beat with his fist upon his immense belly, from
whence came a loud and resounding metallic clangour, which died away
in a sighing made by many human voices. And he smiled unrestrainedly,
showing his broken teeth--the imbecile smile of a man who has dined too
freely. Then the creature said to me:

"I can give thee that which gets all, which is worth all, which takes
the place of all." And he tapped his monstrous paunch, whence came
a sonorous echo as the commentary to his obscene speech. I turned
away with disgust and replied: "I need no man's misery to bring me
happiness; nor will I have the sad wealth of all the misfortunes
pictured upon thy skin as upon a tapestry."

As for the She-devil, I should lie if I denied that at first I found
in her a certain strange charm, which to define I can but compare to
the charm of certain beautiful women past their first youth, who yet
seem to age no more, whose beauty keeps something of the penetrating
magic of ruins. She had an air at once imperious and sordid, and
her eyes, though heavy, held a certain power of fascination. I was
struck most by her voice, wherein I found the remembrance of the most
delicious contralti, as well as a little of the hoarseness of a throat
continually laved with brandy.

"Wouldst thou know my power?" said the charming and paradoxical voice
of the false goddess. "Then listen." And she put to her mouth a
gigantic trumpet, enribboned, like a _mirliton_, with the titles of all
the newspapers in the world; and through this trumpet she cried my name
so that it rolled through space with the sound of a hundred thousand
thunders, and came re-echoing back to me from the farthest planet.

"Devil!" cried I, half tempted, "that at least is worth something."
But it vaguely struck me, upon examining the seductive virago more
attentively, that I had seen her clinking glasses with certain drolls
of my acquaintance, and her blare of brass carried to my ears I know
not what memory of a fanfare prostituted.

So I replied, with all disdain: "Get thee hence! I know better than wed
the light o' love of them that I will not name."

Truly, I had the right to be proud of a so courageous renunciation. But
unfortunately I awoke, and all my courage left me. "In truth," I said,
"I must have been very deeply asleep indeed to have had such scruples.
Ah, if they, would but return while I am awake, I would not be so

So I invoked the three in a loud voice, offering to dishonour myself as
often as necessary to obtain their favours; but I had without doubt too
deeply offended them, for they have never returned.


Translated by F. P. Sturm


    Carrying bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,
    Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves
    With all the careless and high-stepping grace,
    And the extravagant courtesan's thin face.

    Was slimmer waist e'er in a ball-room wooed?
    Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,
    Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod
    With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.

    The swarms that hum about her collar-bones
    As the lascivious streams caress the stones,
    Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,
    Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes

    Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays
    Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,
    Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebræ.
    O charm of nothing decked in folly! they

    Who laugh and name you a Caricature,
    They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,
    The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,
    That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!

    Come you to trouble with your potent sneer
    The feast of Life! or are you driven here,
    To Pleasure's Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir
    And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?

    Or do you hope, when sing the violins,
    And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,
    To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,
    And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?

    Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!
    Eternal alembic of antique distress!
    Still o'er the curved, white trellis of your sides
    The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.

    And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,
    Among us here, no lover to your mind;
    Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?
    The charms of horror please none but the brave.

    Your eyes' black gulf, where awful broodings stir,
    Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller
    Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,
    The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.

    For he who has not folded in his arms
    A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,
    Reeks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,
    When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.

    O irresistible, with fleshless face,
    Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:
    "Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,
    Ye shall taste death, musk-scented skeletons!

    Withered Antinoüs, dandies with plump faces,
    Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,
    Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,
    Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.

    From Seine's cold quays to Ganges' burning stream,
    The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;
    They do not see, within the opened sky,
    The Angel's sinister trumpet raised on high.

    In every clime and under every sun,
    Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;
    And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye;
    And mingles with your madness, irony!"


    RUBENS, oblivious garden of indolence,
      Pillow of cool flesh where no man dreams of love,
    Where life flows forth in troubled opulence,
      As airs in heaven and seas in ocean move.

    LEONARD DA VINCI, sombre and fathomless glass,
      Where lovely angels with calm lips that smile,
    Heavy with mystery, in the shadow pass,
      Among the ice and pines that guard some isle.

    REMBRANDT, sad hospital that a murmuring fills,
      Where one tall crucifix hangs on the walls,
    Where every tear-drowned prayer some woe distils,
      And one cold, wintry ray obliquely falls.

    Strong MICHELANGELO, a vague far place
      Where mingle Christs with pagan Hercules;
    Thin phantoms of the great through twilight pace,
      And tear their Shroud with clenched hands void of ease.

    The fighter's anger, the faun's impudence,
      Thou makest of all these a lovely thing;
    Proud heart, sick body, mind's magnificence:
      PUGET, the convict's melancholy king.

    WATTEAU, the carnival of illustrious hearts,
      Fluttering like moths upon the wings of chance;
    Bright lustres light the silk that flames and darts,
      And pour down folly on the whirling dance.

    GOYA, a nightmare full of things unknown;
      The fœtus witches broil on Sabbath night;
    Old women at the mirror; children lone
      Who tempt old demons with their limbs delight.

    DELACROIX, lake of blood ill angels haunt,
      Where ever-green, o'ershadowing woods arise;
    Under the surly heaven strange fanfares chaunt
      And pass, like one of Weber's strangled sighs.

    And malediction, blasphemy and groan,
      Ecstasies, cries, Te Deums, and tears of brine,
    Are echoes through a thousand labyrinths flown;
      For mortal hearts an opiate divine;

    A shout cried by a thousand sentinels,
      An order from a thousand bugles tossed,
    A beacon o'er a thousand citadels,
      A call to huntsmen in deep woodlands lost.

    It is the mightiest witness that could rise
      To prove our dignity, O Lord, to Thee;
    This sob that rolls from age to age, and dies
      Upon the verge of Thy Eternity!


    The Moon more indolently dreams to-night
    Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,
    Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,
    Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.

    Upon her silken avalanche of down,
    Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;
    And watches the white visions past her flown,
    Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.

    And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,
    Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,
    Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,

    Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow
    Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,
    And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart.


    Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses,
      O thou, my pleasure, thou, all my desire,
    Thou shalt recall the beauty of caresses,
      The charm of evenings by the gentle fire,
    Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!

    The eves illumined by the burning coal,
      The balcony where veiled rose-vapour clings--
    How soft your breast was then, how sweet your soul!
      Ah, and we said imperishable things,
    Those eves illumined by the burning coal.

    Lovely the suns were in those twilights warm,
      And space profound, and strong life's pulsing flood,
    In bending o'er you, queen of every charm,
      I thought I breathed the perfume in your blood.
    The suns were beauteous in those twilights warm.

    The film of night flowed round and over us,
      And my eyes in the dark did your eyes meet;
    I drank your breath, ah! sweet and poisonous,
      And in my hands fraternal slept your feet--
    Night, like a film, flowed round and over us.

    I can recall those happy days forgot,
      And see, with head bowed on your knees, my past.
    Your languid beauties now would move me not
      Did not your gentle heart and body cast
    The old spell of those happy days forgot.

    Can vows and perfumes, kisses infinite,
      Be reborn from the gulf we cannot sound;
    As rise to heaven suns once again made bright
      After being plunged in deep seas and profound?
    Ah, vows and perfumes, kisses infinite!


    Poor Muse, alas, what ail's thee, then, to-day?
    Thy hollow eyes with midnight visions burn,
    Upon thy brow in alternation play,
    Folly and Horror, cold and taciturn.

    Have the green lemure and the goblin red,
    Poured on thee love and terror from their urn?
    Or with despotic hand the nightmare dread
    Deep plunged thee in some fabulous Mintume?

    Would that thy breast where so deep thoughts arise,
    Breathed forth a healthful perfume with thy sighs;
    Would that thy Christian blood ran wave by wave

    In rhythmic sounds the antique numbers gave,
    When Phœbus shared his alternating reign
    With mighty Pan, lord of the ripening grain.


    Muse of my heart, lover of palaces,
      When January comes with wind and sleet,
    During the snowy eve's long wearinesses,
      Will there be fire to warm thy violet feet?

    Wilt thou reanimate thy marble shoulders
      In the moon-beams that through the window fly?
    Or when thy purse dries up, thy palace moulders,
      Reap the far star-gold of the vaulted sky?

    For thou, to keep thy body to thy soul,
    Must swing a censer, wear a holy stole,
      And chaunt Te Deums with unbelief between.

    Or, like a starving mountebank, expose
    Thy beauty and thy tear-drowned smile to those
      Who wait thy jests to drive away thy spleen.


    The ancient cloisters on their lofty walls
      Had holy Truth in painted frescoes shown,
    And, seeing these, the pious in those halls
      Felt their cold, lone austereness less alone.

    At that time when Christ's seed flowered all around,
      More than one monk, forgotten in his hour,
    Taking for studio the burial-ground,
      Glorified Death with simple faith and power.

    And my soul is a sepulchre where I,
    Ill cenobite, have spent eternity:
      On the vile cloister walls no pictures rise.

    O when may I cast off this weariness,
    And make the pageant of my old distress
      For these hands labour, pleasure for these eyes?


    The Demon, in my chamber high,
      This morning came to visit me,
    And, thinking he would find some fault,
      He whispered: "I would know of thee

    Among the many lovely things
      That make the magic of her face,
    Among the beauties, black and rose,
      That make her body's charm and grace,

    Which is most fair?" Thou didst reply
      To the Abhorred, O soul of mine:
    "No single beauty is the best
      When she is all one flower divine.

    When all things charm me I ignore
      Which one alone brings most delight;
    She shines before me like the dawn,
      And she consoles me like the night.

    The harmony is far too great,
      That governs all her body fair.
    For impotence to analyse
      And say which note is sweetest there.

    O mystic metamorphosis!
      My senses into one sense flow--
    Her voice makes perfume when she speaks,
      Her breath is music faint and low!"


    Can we suppress the old Remorse
      Who bends our heart beneath his stroke,
    Who feeds, as worms feed on the corse,
      Or as the acorn on the oak?
    Can we suppress the old Remorse?

    Ah, in what philtre, wine, or spell,
      May we drown this our ancient foe,
    Destructive glutton, gorging well,
      Patient as the ants, and slow?
    What wine, what philtre, or what spell?

    Tell it, enchantress, if you can,
      Tell me, with anguish overcast,
    Wounded, as a dying man,
      Beneath the swift hoofs hurrying past.
    Tell it, enchantress, if you can,

    To him the wolf already tears
      Who sees the carrion pinions wave
    This broken warrior who despairs
      To have a cross above his grave--
    This wretch the wolf already tears.

    Can one illume a leaden sky,
      Or tear apart the shadowy veil
    Thicker than pitch, no star on high,
      Not one funereal glimmer pale?
    Can one illume a leaden sky?

    Hope lit the windows of the Inn,
      But now that shining flame is dead;
    And how shall martyred pilgrims win
      Along the moonless road they tread?
    Satan has darkened all the Inn!

    Witch, do you love accursèd hearts?
      Say, do you know the reprobate?
    Know you Remorse, whose venomed darts
      Make souls the targets for their hate?
    Witch, do you know accursèd hearts?

    The Might-have-been with tooth accursed
      Gnaws at the piteous souls of men,
    The deep foundations suffer first,
      And all the structure crumbles then
    Beneath the bitter tooth accursed.


    Often, when seated at the play,
      And sonorous music lights the stage,
    I see the frail hand of a Fay
      With magic dawn illume the rage
    Of the dark sky. Oft at the play

    A being made of gauze and fire
      Casts to the earth a Demon great.
    And my heart, whence all hopes expire,
      Is like a stage where I await,
    In vain, the Fay with wings of fire!


    Long since, I lived beneath vast porticoes,
    By many ocean-sunsets tinged and fired,
    Where mighty pillars, in majestic rows,
    Seemed like basaltic caves when day expired.

    The rolling surge that mirrored all the skies
    Mingled its music, turbulent and rich,
    Solemn and mystic, with the colours which
    The setting sun reflected in my eyes.

    And there I lived amid voluptuous calms,
    In splendours of blue sky and wandering wave,
    Tended by many a naked, perfumed slave,

    Who fanned my languid brow with waving palms.
    They were my slaves--the only care they had
    To know what secret grief had made me sad.


    When Juan sought the subterranean flood,
      And paid his obolus on the Stygian shore,
    Charon, the proud and sombre beggar, stood
      With one strong, vengeful hand on either oar.

    With open robes and bodies agonised,
      Lost women writhed beneath that darkling sky;
    There were sounds as of victims sacrificed:
      Behind him all the dark was one long cry.

    And Sganarelle, with laughter, claimed his pledge;
      Don Luis, with trembling finger in the air,
    Showed to the souls who wandered in the sedge
      The evil son who scorned his hoary hair.

    Shivering with woe, chaste Elvira the while,
      Near him untrue to all but her till now,
    Seemed to beseech him for one farewell smile
      Lit with the sweetness of the first soft vow.

    And clad in armour, a tall man of stone
      Held firm the helm, and clove the gloomy flood;
    But, staring at the vessel's track alone,
      Bent on his sword the unmoved hero stood.


    They pass before me, these Eyes full of light,
    Eyes made magnetic by some angel wise;
    The holy brothers pass before my sight,
    And cast their diamond fires in my dim eyes.

    They keep me from all sin and error grave,
    They set me in the path whence Beauty came;
    They are my servants, and I am their slave,
    And all my soul obeys the living flame.

    Beautiful Eyes that gleam with mystic light
    As candles lighted at full noon; the sun
    Dims not your flame phantastical and bright.

    You sing the dawn; they celebrate life done;
    Marching you chaunt my soul's awakening hymn,
    Stars that no sun has ever made grow dim!


    In Nature's temple living pillars rise,
      And words are murmured none have understood,
      And man must wander through a tangled wood
    Of symbols watching him with friendly eyes.

    As long-drawn echoes heard far-off and dim
      Mingle to one deep sound and fade away;
      Vast as the night and brilliant as the day,
    Colour and sound and perfume speak to him.

    Some perfumes are as fragrant as a child,
      Sweet as the sound of hautboys, meadow-green;
    Others, corrupted, rich, exultant, wild,

    Have all the expansion of things infinite:
      As amber, incense, musk, and benzoin,
    Which sing the sense's and the soul's delight.


    There are some powerful odours that can pass
    Out of the stoppered flagon; even glass
    To them is porous. Oft when some old box
    Brought from the East is opened and the locks
    And hinges creak and cry; or in a press
    In some deserted house, where the sharp stress
    Of odours old and dusty fills the brain;
    An ancient flask is brought to light again,
    And forth the ghosts of long-dead odours creep.
    There, softly trembling in the shadows, sleep
    A thousand thoughts, funereal chrysalides,
    Phantoms of old the folding darkness hides,
    Who make faint flutterings as their wings unfold,
    Rose-washed and azure-tinted, shot with gold.

    A memory that brings languor flutters here:
    The fainting eyelids droop, and giddy Fear
    Thrusts with both hands the soul towards the pit
    Where, like a Lazarus from his winding-sheet,
    Arises from the gulf of sleep a ghost
    Of an old passion, long since loved and lost.
    So I, when vanished from man's memory
    Deep in some dark and sombre chest I lie,
    An empty flagon they have cast aside,
    Broken and soiled, the dust upon my pride,
    Will be your shroud, beloved pestilence!
    The witness of your might and virulence,
    Sweet poison mixed by angels; bitter cup
    Of life and death my heart has drunken up!


    Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief?
      Shame and remorse and sobs and weary spite,
      And the vague terrors of the fearful night
    That crush the heart up like a crumpled leaf?
    Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief?

    Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate?
      With hands clenched in the shade and tears of gall,
      When Vengeance beats her hellish battle-call,
    And makes herself the captain of our fate,
    Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate?

    Angel of health, did ever you know pain,
      Which like an exile trails his tired footfalls
      The cold length of the white infirmary walls,
    With lips compressed, seeking the sun in vain?
    Angel of health, did ever you know pain?

    Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know?
      Know you the fear of age, the torment vile
      Of reading secret horror in the smile
    Of eyes your eyes have loved since long ago?
    Angel of beauty, do you crinkles know?

    Angel of happiness, and joy, and light,
      Old David would have asked for youth afresh
      From the pure touch of your enchanted flesh;
    I but implore your prayers to aid my plight,
    Angel of happiness, and joy, and light.


    You are a sky of autumn, pale and rose;
    But all the sea of sadness in my blood
    Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lips morose,
    Salt with the memory of the bitter flood.

    In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o'er,
    That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate
    By woman's tooth and talon; ah, no more
    Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate.

    It is a ruin where the jackals rest,
    And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay--
    A perfume swims about your naked breast!

    Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way!
    With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared
    Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared!


    They say to me, thy clear and crystal eyes:
      "Why dost thou love me so, strange lover mine?"
    Be sweet, be still! My heart and soul despise
      All save that antique brute-like faith of thine;

    And will not bare the secret of their shame
      To thee whose hand soothes me to slumbers long,
    Nor their black legend write for thee in flame!
      Passion I hate, a spirit does me wrong.

    Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat,
    Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow,
    And I too well his ancient arrows know:

    Crime, horror, folly. O pale Marguerite,
    Thou art as I, a bright sun fallen low,
    O my so white, my so cold Marguerite.


    O shadowy Beauty mine, when thou shalt sleep
      In the deep heart of a black marble tomb;
    When thou for mansion and for bower shalt keep
      Only one rainy cave of hollow gloom;

    And when the stone upon thy trembling breast,
      And on thy straight sweet body's supple grace,
    Crushes thy will and keeps thy heart at rest,
      And holds those feet from their adventurous race;

    Then the deep grave, who shares my reverie,
    (For the deep grave is aye the poet's friend)
    During long nights when sleep is far from thee,

    Shall whisper: "Ah, thou didst not comprehend
    The dead wept thus, thou woman frail and weak"--
    And like remorse the worm shall gnaw thy cheek.


    Softly as brown-eyed Angels rove
    I will return to thy alcove,
    And glide upon the night to thee,
    Treading the shadows silently.

    And I will give to thee, my own,
    Kisses as icy as the moon,
    And the caresses of a snake
    Cold gliding in the thorny brake.

    And when returns the livid morn
    Thou shalt find all my place forlorn
    And chilly, till the falling night.

    Others would rule by tenderness
    Over thy life and youthfulness,
    But I would conquer thee by fright!


    (An Ex-Voto in the Spanish taste.)

    Madonna, mistress, I would build for thee
    An altar deep in the sad soul of me;
    And in the darkest corner of my heart,
    From mortal hopes and mocking eyes apart,
    Carve of enamelled blue and gold a shrine
    For thee to stand erect in, Image divine!
    And with a mighty Crown thou shalt be crowned
    Wrought of the gold of my smooth Verse, set round
    With starry crystal rhymes; and I will make,
    O mortal maid, a Mantle for thy sake!
    And weave it of my jealousy, a gown
    Heavy, barbaric, stiff, and weighted down
    With my distrust, and broider round the hem
    Not pearls, but all my tears in place of them.
    And then thy wavering, trembling robe shall be
    All the desires that rise and fall in me
    From mountain-peaks to valleys of repose,
    Kissing thy lovely body's white and rose.
    For thy humiliated feet divine,
    Of my Respect I'll make thee Slippers fine
    Which, prisoning them within a gentle fold,
    Shall keep their imprint like a faithful mould.
    And if my art, unwearying and discreet,
    Can make no Moon of Silver for thy feet
    To have for Footstool, then thy heel shall rest
    Upon the snake that gnaws within my breast,
    Victorious Queen of whom our hope is born!
    And thou shalt trample down and make a scorn
    Of the vile reptile swollen up with hate.
    And thou shalt see my thoughts, all consecrate,
    Like candles set before thy flower-strewn shrine,
    O Queen of Virgins, and the taper-shine
    Shall glimmer star-like in the vault of blue,
    With eyes of flame for ever watching you.
    While all the love and worship in my sense
    Will be sweet smoke of myrrh and frankincense.
    Ceaselessly up to thee, white peak of snow,
    My stormy spirit will in vapours go!

    And last, to make thy drama all complete,
    That love and cruelty may mix and meet,
    I, thy remorseful-torturer, will take
    All the Seven Deadly Sins, and from them make
    In darkest joy, Seven Knives, cruel-edged and keen,
    And like a juggler choosing, O my Queen,
    That spot profound whence love and mercy start,
    I'll plunge them all within thy panting heart!


    Where'er he be, on water or on land,
      Under pale suns or climes that flames enfold;
    One of Christ's own, or of Cythera's band,
      Shadowy beggar or Crœsus rich with gold;

    Citizen, peasant, student, tramp; whate'er
      His little brain may be, alive or dead;
    Man knows the fear of mystery everywhere,
      And peeps, with trembling glances, overhead.

    The heaven above? A strangling cavern wall;
    The lighted ceiling of a music-hall
      Where every actor treads a bloody soil--

    The hermit's hope; the terror of the sot;
    The sky: the black lid of the mighty pot
      Where the vast human generations boil!


    I'm like some king in whose corrupted veins
    Flows agèd blood; who rules a land of rains;
    Who, young in years, is old in all distress;
    Who flees good counsel to find weariness
    Among his dogs and playthings, who is stirred
    Neither by hunting-hound nor hunting-bird;
    Whose weary face emotion moves no more
    E'en when his people die before his door.
    His favourite Jester's most fantastic wile
    Upon that sick, cruel face can raise no smile;
    The courtly dames, to whom all kings are good,
    Can lighten this young skeleton's dull mood
    No more with shameless toilets. In his gloom
    Even his lilied bed becomes a tomb.
    The sage who takes his gold essays in vain
    To purge away the old corrupted strain,
    His baths of blood, that in the days of old
    The Romans used when their hot blood grew cold,
    Will never warm this dead man's bloodless pains,
    For green Lethean water fills his veins.


    Under the overhanging yews,
    The dark owls sit in solemn state,
    Like stranger gods; by twos and twos
    Their red eyes gleam. They meditate.

    Motionless thus they sit and dream
    Until that melancholy hour
    When, with the sun's last fading gleam,
    The nightly shades assume their power.

    From their still attitude the wise
    Will learn with terror to despise
    All tumult, movement, and unrest;

    For he who follows every shade,
    Carries the memory in his breast,
    Of each unhappy journey made.


    Here is the chamber consecrate,
    Wherein this maiden delicate,
    And enigmatically sedate,

    Fans herself while the moments creep,
    Upon her cushions half-asleep,
    And hears the fountains plash and weep.

    Dorothy's chamber undefiled.
    The winds and waters sing afar
    Their song of sighing strange and wild
    To lull to sleep the petted child.

    From head to foot with subtle care,
    Slaves have perfumed her delicate skin
    With odorous oils and benzoin.
    And flowers faint in a corner there.


    Thou, O my Grief, be wise and tranquil still,
    The eve is thine which even now drops down,
    To carry peace or care to human will,
    And in a misty veil enfolds the town.

    While the vile mortals of the multitude,
    By pleasure, cruel tormentor, goaded on,
    Gather remorseful blossoms in light mood--
    Grief, place thy hand in mine, let us be gone

    Far from them. Lo, see how the vanished years,
    In robes outworn lean over heaven's rim;
    And from the water, smiling through her tears,

    Remorse arises, and the sun grows dim;
    And in the east, her long shroud trailing light,
    List, O my grief, the gentle steps of Night.


    White maiden with the russet hair,
    Whose garments, through their holes, declare
    That poverty is part of you,
      And beauty too.

    To me, a sorry bard and mean,
    Your youthful beauty, frail and lean,
    With summer freckles here and there,
      Is sweet and fair.

    Your sabots tread the roads of chance,
    And not one queen of old romance
    Carried her velvet shoes and lace
      With half your grace.

    In place of tatters far too short
    Let the proud garments worn at Court
    Fall down with rustling fold and pleat
      About your feet;

    In place of stockings, worn and old,
    Let a keen dagger all of gold
    Gleam in your garter for the eyes
      Of roués wise;

    Let ribbons carelessly untied
    Reveal to us the radiant pride
    Of your white bosom purer far
      Than any star;

    Let your white arms uncovered shine,
    Polished and smooth and half divine;
    And let your elfish fingers chase
      With riotous grace

    The purest pearls that softly glow,
    The sweetest sonnets of Belleau,
    Offered by gallants ere they fight
      For your delight;

    And many fawning rhymers who
    Inscribe their first thin book to you
    Will contemplate upon the stair
      Your slipper fair;

    And many a page who plays at cards,
    And many lords and many bards,
    Will watch your going forth, and burn
      For your return;

    And you will count before your glass
    More kisses than the lily has;
    And more than one Valois will sigh
      When you pass by.

    But meanwhile you are on the tramp,
    Begging your living in the damp,
    Wandering mean streets and alleys o'er,
      From door to door;

    And shilling bangles in a shop
    Cause you with eager eyes to stop,
    And I, alas, have not a sou
      To give to you.

    Then go, with no more ornament,
    Pearl, diamond, or subtle scent,
    Than your own fragile naked grace
      And lovely face.



    Andromache, I think of you! The stream,
    The poor, sad mirror where in bygone days
    Shone all the majesty of your widowed grief,
    The lying Simoïs flooded by your tears,
    Made all my fertile memory blossom forth
    As I passed by the new-built Carrousel.
    Old Paris is no more (a town, alas,
    Changes more quickly than man's heart may change);
    Yet in my mind I still can see the booths;
    The heaps of brick and rough-hewn capitals;
    The grass; the stones all over-green with moss;
    The _débris_, and the square-set heaps of tiles.

    There a menagerie was once outspread;
    And there I saw, one morning at the hour
    When toil awakes beneath the cold, clear sky,
    And the road roars upon the silent air,
    A swan who had escaped his cage, and walked
    On the dry pavement with his webby feet,
    And trailed his spotless plumage on the ground.
    And near a waterless stream the piteous swan
    Opened his beak, and bathing in the dust
    His nervous wings, he cried (his heart the while
    Filled with a vision of his own fair lake):
    "O water, when then wilt thou come in rain?
    Lightning, when wilt thou glitter?"
                                     Sometimes yet
    I see the hapless bird--strange, fatal myth--
    Like him that Ovid writes of, lifting up
    Unto the cruelly blue, ironic heavens,
    With stretched, convulsive neck a thirsty face,
    As though he sent reproaches up to God!


    Paris may change; my melancholy is fixed.
    New palaces, and scaffoldings, and blocks,
    And suburbs old, are symbols all to me
    Whose memories are as heavy as a stone.
    And so, before the Louvre, to vex my soul,
    The image came of my majestic swan
    With his mad gestures, foolish and sublime,
    As of an exile whom one great desire
    Gnaws with no truce. And then I thought of you,
    Andromache! torn from your hero's arms;
    Beneath the hand of Pyrrhus in his pride;
    Bent o'er an empty tomb in ecstasy;
    Widow of Hector--wife of Helenus!
    And of the negress, wan and phthisical,
    Tramping the mud, and with her haggard eyes
    Seeking beyond the mighty walls of fog
    The absent palm-trees of proud Africa;
    Of all who lose that which they never find;
    Of all who drink of tears; all whom grey grief
    Gives suck to as the kindly wolf gave suck;
    Of meagre orphans who like blossoms fade.
    And one old Memory like a crying horn
    Sounds through the forest where my soul is lost....
    I think of sailors on some isle forgotten;
    Of captives; vanquished ... and of many more.


    O swarming city, city full of dreams,
    Where in full day the spectre walks and speaks;
    Mighty colossus, in your narrow veins
    My story flows as flows the rising sap.

    One morn, disputing with my tired soul,
    And like a hero stiffening all my nerves,
    I trod a suburb shaken by the jar
    Of rolling wheels, where the fog magnified
    The houses either side of that sad street,
    So they seemed like two wharves the ebbing flood
    Leaves desolate by the river-side. A mist,
    Unclean and yellow, inundated space--
    A scene that would have pleased an actor's soul.
    Then suddenly an aged man, whose rags
    Were yellow as the rainy sky, whose looks
    Should have brought alms in floods upon his head.
    Without the misery gleaming in his eye,
    Appeared before me; and his pupils seemed
    To have been washed with gall; the bitter frost
    Sharpened his glance; and from his chin a beard
    Sword-stiff and ragged, Judas-like stuck forth.
    He was not bent but broken: his backbone
    Made a so true right angle with his legs,
    That, as he walked, the tapping stick which gave
    The finish to the picture, made him seem
    Like some infirm and stumbling quadruped
    Or a three-legged Jew. Through snow and mud
    He walked with troubled and uncertain gait,
    As though his sabots trod upon the dead,
    Indifferent and hostile to the world.

    His double followed him: tatters and stick
    And back and eye and beard, all were the same;
    Out of the same Hell, indistinguishable,
    These centenarian twins, these spectres odd,
    Trod the same pace toward some end unknown.
    To what fell complot was I then exposed?
    Humiliated by what evil chance?
    For as the minutes one by one went by
    Seven times I saw this sinister old man
    Repeat his image there before my eyes!

    Let him who smiles at my inquietude,
    Who never trembled at a fear like mine,
    Know that in their decrepitude's despite
    These seven old hideous monsters had the mien
    Of beings immortal.

                     Then, I thought, must I,
    Undying, contemplate the awful eighth;
    Inexorable, fatal, and ironic double;
    Disgusting Phœnix, father of himself
    And his own son? In terror then I turned
    My back upon the infernal band, and fled
    To my own place, and closed my door; distraught
    And like a drunkard who sees all things twice,
    With feverish troubled spirit, chilly and sick,
    Wounded by mystery and absurdity!

    In vain my reason tried to cross the bar,
    The whirling storm but drove her back again;
    And my soul tossed, and tossed, an outworn wreck,
    Mastless, upon a monstrous, shoreless sea.



    Deep in the tortuous folds of ancient towns,
    Where all, even horror, to enchantment turns,
    I watch, obedient to my fatal mood,
    For the decrepit, strange and charming beings,
    The dislocated monsters that of old
    Were lovely women--Lais or Eponine!
    Hunchbacked and broken, crooked though they be,
    Let us still love them, for they still have souls.
    They creep along wrapped in their chilly rags,
    Beneath the whipping of the wicked wind,
    They tremble when an omnibus rolls by,
    And at their sides, a relic of the past,
    A little flower-embroidered satchel hangs.
    They trot about, most like to marionettes;
    They drag themselves, as does a wounded beast;
    Or dance unwillingly as a clapping bell
    Where hangs and swings a demon without pity.
    Though they be broken they have piercing eyes,
    That shine like pools where water sleeps at night;
    The astonished and divine eyes of a child
    who laughs at all that glitters in the world.
    Have you not seen that most old women's shrouds
    Are little like the shroud of a dead child?
    Wise Death, in token of his happy whim,
    Wraps old and young in one enfolding sheet.
    And when I see a phantom, frail and wan,
    Traverse the swarming picture that is Paris,
    It ever seems as though the delicate thing
    Trod with soft steps towards a cradle new.
    And then I wonder, seeing the twisted form,
    How many times must workmen change the shape
    Of boxes where at length such limbs are laid?
    These eyes are wells brimmed with a million tears;
    Crucibles where the cooling metal pales--
    Mysterious eyes that are strong charms to him
    Whose life-long nurse has been austere Disaster.


    The love-sick vestal of the old "Frasciti";
    Priestess of Thalia, alas! whose name
    Only the prompter knows and he is dead;
    Bygone celebrities that in bygone days
    The Tivoli o'ershadowed in their bloom;
    All charm me; yet among these beings frail
    Three, turning pain to honey-sweetness, said
    To the Devotion that had lent them wings:
    "Lift me, O powerful Hippogriffe, to the skies"--
    One by her country to despair was driven;
    One by her husband overwhelmed with grief;
    One wounded by her child, Madonna-like;
    Each could have made a river with her tears.


    Oft have I followed one of these old women,
    One among others, when the falling sun
    Reddened the heavens with a crimson wound--
    Pensive, apart, she rested on a bench
    To hear the brazen music of the band,
    Played by the soldiers in the public park
    To pour some courage into citizens' hearts,
    On golden eves when all the world revives.
    Proud and erect she drank the music in,
    The lively and the warlike call to arms;
    Her eyes blinked like an ancient eagle's eyes;
    Her forehead seemed to await the laurel crown!


    Thus you do wander, uncomplaining Stoics,
    Through all the chaos of the living town:
    Mothers with bleeding hearts, saints, courtesans,
    Whose names of yore were on the lips of all;
    Who were all glory and all grace, and now
    None know you; and the brutish drunkard stops,
    Insulting you with his derisive love;
    And cowardly urchins call behind your back.
    Ashamed of living, withered shadows all,
    With fear-bowed backs you creep beside the walls,
    And none salute you, destined to loneliness!
    Refuse of Time ripe for Eternity!
    But I, who watch you tenderly afar,
    With unquiet eyes on your uncertain steps,
    As though I were your father, I--O wonder!--
    Unknown to you taste secret, hidden joy.
    I see your maiden passions bud and bloom,
    Sombre or luminous, and your lost days
    Unroll before me while my heart enjoys
    All your old vices, and my soul expands
    To all the virtues that have once been yours.
    Ruined! and my sisters! O congenerate hearts,
    Octogenarian Eves o'er whom is stretched
    God's awful claw, where will you be to-morrow?


    What do I care though you be wise?
      Be sad, be beautiful; your tears
    But add one more charm to your eyes,
    As streams to valleys where they rise;
      And fairer every flower appears

    After the storm. I love you most
      When joy has fled your brow downcast;
    When your heart is in horror lost,
    And o'er your present like a ghost
      Floats the dark shadow of the past.

    I love you when the teardrop flows,
      Hotter than blood, from your large eye;
    When I would hush you to repose
    Your heavy pain breaks forth and grows
      Into a loud and tortured cry.

    And then, voluptuousness divine!
      Delicious ritual and profound!
    I drink in every sob like wine,
    And dream that in your deep heart shine
      The pearls wherein your eyes were drowned.

    I know your heart, which overflows
      With outworn loves long cast aside,
    Still like a furnace flames and glows,
    And you within your breast enclose
      A damnèd soul's unbending pride;

    But till your dreams without release
      Reflect the leaping flames of hell;
    Till in a nightmare without cease
    You dream of poison to bring peace,
      And love cold steel and powder well;

    And tremble at each opened door,
      And feel for every man distrust,
    And shudder at the striking hour--
    Till then you have not felt the power
      Of Irresistible Disgust.

    My queen, my slave, whose love is fear,
      When you awaken shuddering,
    Until that awful hour be here,
    You cannot say at midnight drear:
      "I am your equal, O my King!"


    Autumns and winters, springs of mire and rain,
    Seasons of sleep, I sing your praises loud,
    For thus I love to wrap my heart and brain
    In some dim tomb beneath a vapoury shroud

    In the wide plain where revels the cold wind,
    Through long nights when the weathercock whirls round,
    More free than in warm summer day my mind
    Lifts wide her raven pinions from the ground.

    Unto a heart filled with funereal things
    That since old days hoar frosts have gathered on,
    Naught is more sweet, O pallid, queenly springs,

    Than the long pageant of your shadows wan,
    Unless it be on moonless eves to weep
    On some chance bed and rock our griefs to sleep.


    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.


    Remember, my Beloved, what thing we met
      By the roadside on that sweet summer day;
    There on a grassy couch with pebbles set,
        A loathsome body lay.

    The wanton limbs stiff-stretched into the air,
      Steaming with exhalations vile and dank,
    In ruthless cynic fashion had laid bare
        The swollen side and flank.

    On this decay the sun shone hot from heaven
      As though with chemic heat to broil and bum,
    And unto Nature all that she had given
        A hundredfold return.

    The sky smiled down upon the horror there
      As on a flower that opens to the day;
    So awful an infection smote the air,
        Almost you swooned away.

    The swarming flies hummed on the putrid side,
      Whence poured the maggots in a darkling stream,
    That ran along these tatters of life's pride
        With a liquescent gleam.

    And like a wave the maggots rose and fell,
      The murmuring flies swirled round in busy strife:
    It seemed as though a vague breath came to swell
        And multiply with life

    The hideous corpse. From all this living world
      A music as of wind and water ran,
    Or as of grain in rhythmic motion swirled
        By the swift winnower's fan.

    And then the vague forms like a dream died out,
      Or like some distant scene that slowly falls
    Upon the artist's canvas, that with doubt
        He only half recalls.

    A homeless dog behind the boulders lay
      And watched us both with angry eyes forlorn,
    Waiting a chance to come and take away
        The morsel she had torn.

    And you, even you, will be like this drear thing,
      A vile infection man may not endure;
    Star that I yearn to! Sun that lights my spring!
        O passionate and pure!

    Yes, such will you be, Queen of every grace!
      When the last sacramental words are said;
    And beneath grass and flowers that lovely face
        Moulders among the dead.

    Then, O Belovèd, whisper to the worm
      That crawls up to devour you with a kiss,
    That I still guard in memory the dear form
        Of love that comes to this!


    Here is a woman, richly clad and fair,
    Who in her wine dips her long, heavy hair;
    Love's claws, and that sharp poison which is sin,
    Are dulled against the granite of her skin.
    Death she defies, Debauch she smiles upon,
    For their sharp scythe-like talons every one
    Pass by her in their all-destructive play;
    Leaving her beauty till a later day.
    Goddess she walks; sultana in her leisure;
    She has Mohammed's faith that heaven is pleasure,
    And bids all men forget the world's alarms
    Upon her breast, between her open arms.
    She knows, and she believes, this sterile maid,
    Without whom the world's onward dream would fade,
    That bodily beauty is the supreme gift
    Which may from every sin the terror lift.
    Hell she ignores, and Purgatory defies;
    And when black Night shall roll before her eyes,
    She will look straight in Death's grim face forlorn,
    Without remorse or hate--as one new-born.


    Like pensive herds at rest upon the sands,
      These to the sea-horizons turn their eyes;
    Out of their folded feet and clinging hands
      Bitter sharp tremblings and soft languors rise.

    Some tread the thicket by the babbling stream,
      Their hearts with untold secrets ill at ease;
    Calling the lover of their childhood's dream,
      They wound the green bark of the shooting trees.

    Others like sisters wander, grave and slow,
      Among the rocks haunted by spectres thin,
    Where Antony saw as larvæ surge and flow
      The veined bare breasts that tempted him to sin.

    Some, when the resinous torch of burning wood
      Flares in lost pagan caverns dark and deep,
    Call thee to quench the fever in their blood,
      Bacchus, who singest old remorse to sleep!

    Then there are those the scapular bedights,
      Whose long white vestments hide the whip's red stain,
    Who mix, in sombre woods on lonely nights,
      The foam of pleasure with the tears of pain.

    O virgins, demons, monsters, martyrs! ye
      Who scorn whatever actual appears;
    Saints, satyrs, seekers of Infinity,
      So full of cries, so full of bitter tears;

    Ye whom my soul has followed into hell,
      I love and pity, O sad sisters mine,
    Your thirsts unquenched, your pains no tongue can tell,
      And your great hearts, those urns of love divine!


    In a burnt, ashen land, where no herb grew,
    I to the winds my cries of anguish threw;
    And in my thoughts, in that sad place apart,
    Pricked gently with the poignard o'er my heart.
    Then in full noon above my head a cloud
    Descended tempest-swollen, and a crowd
    Of wild, lascivious spirits huddled there,
    The cruel and curious demons of the air,
    Who coldly to consider me began;
    Then, as a crowd jeers some unhappy man,
    Exchanging gestures, winking with their eyes--
    I heard a laughing and a whispering rise:

    "Let us at leisure contemplate this clown,
    This shadow of Hamlet aping Hamlet's frown,
    With wandering eyes and hair upon the wind.
    Is't not a pity that this empty mind,
    This tramp, this actor out of work, this droll,
    Because he knows how to assume a rôle
    Should dream that eagles and insects, streams and woods,
    Stand still to hear him chaunt his dolorous moods?
    Even unto us, who made these ancient things,
    The fool his public lamentation sings."
    With pride as lofty as the towering cloud,
    I would have stilled these clamouring demons loud,
    And turned in scorn my sovereign head away
    Had I not seen--O sight to dim the day!--
    There in the middle of the troupe obscene
    The proud and peerless beauty of my Queen!
    She laughed with them at all my dark distress,
    And gave to each in turn a vile caress.


    One eve in the bottle sang the soul of wine:
      "Man, unto thee, dear disinherited,
    I sing a song of love and light divine--
      Prisoned in glass beneath my seals of red.

    "I know thou labourest on the hill of fire,
      In sweat and pain beneath a flaming sun,
    To give the life and soul my vines desire,
      And I am grateful for thy labours done.

    "For I find joys unnumbered when I lave
      The throat of man by travail long outworn,
    And his hot bosom is a sweeter grave
      Of sounder sleep than my cold caves forlorn.

    "Hearest thou not the echoing Sabbath sound?
      The hope that whispers in my trembling breast?
    Thy elbows on the table! gaze around;
      Glorify me with joy and be at rest.

    "To thy wife's eyes I'll bring their long-lost gleam,
      I'll bring back to thy child his strength and light,
    To him, life's fragile athlete I will seem
      Rare oil that firms his muscles for the fight.

    "I flow in man's heart as ambrosia flows;
      The grain the eternal Sower casts in the sod--
    From our first loves the first fair verse arose,
      Flower-like aspiring to the heavens and God!"


    Space rolls to-day her splendour round!
    Unbridled, spurless, without bound,
    Mount we upon the wings of wine
    For skies fantastic and divine!

    Let us, like angels tortured by
    Some wild delirious phantasy,
    Follow the far-off mirage born
    In the blue crystal of the morn.

    And gently balanced on the wing
    Of the wild whirlwind we will, ride,
    Rejoicing with the joyous thing.

    My sister, floating side by side,
    Fly we unceasing whither gleams
    The distant heaven of my dreams.


    There shall be couches whence faint odours rise,
    Divans like sepulchres, deep and profound;
    Strange flowers that bloomed beneath diviner skies
    The death-bed of our love shall breathe around.

    And guarding their last embers till the end,
    Our hearts shall be the torches of the shrine,
    And their two leaping flames shall fade and blend
    In the twin mirrors of your soul and mine.

    And through the eve of rose and mystic blue
    A beam of love shall pass from me to you,
    Like a long sigh charged with a last farewell;

    And later still an angel, flinging wide
    The gates, shall bring to life with joyful spell
    The tarnished mirrors and the flames that died.


    Death is consoler and Death brings to life;
      The end of all, the solitary hope;
    We, drunk with Death's elixir, face the strife,
      Take heart, and mount till eve the weary slope.

    Across the storm, the hoar-frost, and the snow,
      Death on our dark horizon pulses clear;
    Death is the famous hostel we all know,
      Where we may rest and sleep and have good cheer.

    Death is an angel whose magnetic palms
    Bring dreams of ecstasy and slumberous calms
    To smooth the beds of naked men and poor.

    Death is the mystic granary of God;
    The poor man's purse; his fatherland of yore;
    The Gate that opens into heavens untrod!


    The tribe prophetic with the eyes of fire
    Went forth last night; their little ones at rest
    Each on his mother's back, with his desire
    Set on the ready treasure of her breast.

    Laden with shining arms the men-folk tread
    By the long wagons where their goods lie hidden;
    They watch the heaven with eyes grown weariëd
    Of hopeless dreams that come to them unbidden.

    The grasshopper, from out his sandy screen,
    Watching them pass redoubles his shrill song;
    Dian, who loves them, makes the grass more green,

    And makes the rock run water for this throng
    Of ever-wandering ones Whose calm eyes see
    Familiar realms of darkness yet to be.


    Novis te cantabo chordis,
    O novelletum quod ludis
    In solitudine cordis.

    Esto sertis implicata,
    O fœmina delicata
    Per quam solvuntur peccata

    Sicut beneficum Lethe,
    Hauriam oscula de te,
    Quæ imbuta es magnete.

    Quum vitiorum tempestas
    Turbabat omnes semitas,
    Apparuisti, Deitas,

    Velut stella salutaris
    In naufragiis amaris....
    Suspendam cor tuis aris!

    Piscina plena virtutis,
    Fons æternæ juventutis,
    Labris vocem redde mutis!

    Quod erat spurcum, cremasti;
    Quod rudius, exæquasti;
    Quod debile, confirmasti!

    In fame mea tabema,
    In nocte mea lucerna,
    Recte me semper gubema.

    Adde nunc vires viribus,
    Dulce balneum suavibus,
    Unguentatum odoribus!

    Meos circa lumbos mica,
    O castitatis lorica,
    Aqua tincta seraphica;

    Patera gemmis corusca,
    Panis salsus, mollis esca,
    Divinum vinum, Francisca!


    I would, when I compose my solemn verse,
    Sleep near the heaven as do astrologers,
    Near the high bells, and with a dreaming mind
    Hear their calm hymns blown to me on the wind.

    Out of my tower, with chin upon my hands,
    I'll watch the singing, babbling human bands;
    And see clock-towers like spars against the sky,
    And heavens that bring thoughts of eternity;

    And softly, through the mist, will watch the birth
    Of stars in heaven and lamplight on the earth;
    The threads of smoke that rise above the town;
    The moon that pours her pale enchantment down.

    Seasons will pass till Autumn fades the rose;
    And when comes Winter with his weary snows,
    I'll shut the doors and window-casements tight,
    And build my faery palace in the night.

    Then I will dream of blue horizons deep;
    Of gardens where the marble fountains weep;
    Of kisses, and of ever-singing birds--
    A sinless Idyll built of innocent words.

    And Trouble, knocking at my window-pane
    And at my closet door, shall knock in vain;
    I will not heed him with his stealthy tread,
    Nor from my reverie uplift my head;

    For I will plunge deep in the pleasure still
    Of summoning the spring-time with my will,
    Drawing the sun out of my heart, and there
    With burning thoughts making a summer air.



    The world is equal to the child's desire
    Who plays with pictures by his nursery fire--
    How vast the world by lamplight seems! How small
    When memory's eyes look back, remembering all!--

    One morning we set forth with thoughts aflame,
    Or heart o'erladen with desire or shame;
    And cradle, to the song of surge and breeze,
    Our own infinity on the finite seas.

    Some flee the memory of their childhood's home;
    And others flee their fatherland; and some,
    Star-gazers drowned within a woman's eyes,
    Flee from the tyrant Circe's witcheries;

    And, lest they still be changed to beasts, take flight
    For the embrasured heavens, and space, and light,
    Till one by one the stains her kisses made
    In biting cold and burning sunlight fade.

    But the true voyagers are they who part
    From all they love because a wandering heart
    Drives them to fly the Fate they cannot fly;
    Whose call is ever "On!"--they know not why.

    Their thoughts are like the clouds that veil a star
    They dream of change as warriors dream of war;
    And strange wild wishes never twice the same:
    Desires no mortal man can give a name.


    We are like whirling tops and rolling balls--
    For even when the sleepy night-time falls,
    Old Curiosity still thrusts us on,
    Like the cruel Angel who goads forth the sun.

    The end of fate fades ever through the air,
    And, being nowhere, may be anywhere
    Where a man runs, hope waking in his breast,
    For ever like a madman, seeking rest.

    Our souls are wandering ships outweariëd;
    And one upon the bridge asks: "What's ahead?"
    The topman's voice with an exultant sound
    Cries: "Love and Glory!"--then we run aground.

    Each isle the pilot signals when 'tis late,
    Is El Dorado, promised us by fate--
    Imagination, spite of her belief,
    Finds, in the light of dawn, a barren reef.

    Oh the poor seeker after lands that flee!
    Shall we not bind and cast into the sea
    This drunken sailor whose ecstatic mood
    Makes bitterer still the water's weary flood?

    Such is an old tramp wandering in the mire,
    Dreaming the paradise of his own desire,
    Discovering cities of enchanted sleep
    Where'er the light shines on a rubbish heap.


    Strange voyagers, what tales of noble deeds
    Deep in your dim sea-weary eyes one reads!
    Open the casket where your memories are,
    And show each jewel, fashioned from a star;

    For I would travel without sail or wind,
    And so, to lift the sorrow from my mind,
    Let your long memories of sea-days far fled
    Pass o'er my spirit like a sail outspread.

    What have you seen?


                          "We have seen waves and stars,
    And lost sea-beaches, and known many wars,
    And notwithstanding war and hope and fear,
    We were as weary there as we are here.

    "The lights that on the violet sea poured down,
    The suns that set behind some far-off town,
    Lit in our hearts the unquiet wish to fly
    Deep in the glimmering distance of the sky;

    "The loveliest countries that rich cities bless,
    Never contained the strange wild loveliness
    By fate and chance shaped from the floating cloud--
    And we were always sorrowful and proud!

    "Desire from joy gains strength in weightier measure.
    Desire, old tree who draw'st thy sap from pleasure,
    Though thy bark thickens as the years pass by,
    Thine arduous branches rise towards the sky;

    "And wilt thou still grow taller, tree more fair
    Than the tall cypress?
                           --Thus have we, with care,
    "Gathered some flowers to please your eager mood,
    Brothers who dream that distant things are good!

    "We have seen many a jewel-glimmering throne;
    And bowed to Idols when wild horns were blown
    In palaces whose faery pomp and gleam
    To your rich men would be a ruinous dream;

    "And robes that were a madness to the eyes;
    Women whose teeth and nails were stained with dyes;
    Wise jugglers round whose neck the serpent winds----"


    And then, and then what more?


                                  "O childish minds!

    "Forget not that which we found everywhere,
    From top to bottom of the fatal stair,
    Above, beneath, around us and within,
    The weary pageant of immortal sin.

    "We have seen woman, stupid slave and proud,
    Before her own frail, foolish beauty bowed;
    And man, a greedy, cruel, lascivious fool,
    Slave of the slave, a ripple in a pool;

    "The martyrs groan, the headsman's merry mood;
    And banquets seasoned and perfumed with blood;
    Poison, that gives the tyrant's power the slip;
    And nations amorous of the brutal whip;

    "Many religions not unlike our own,
    All in full flight for heaven's resplendent throne;
    And Sanctity, seeking delight in pain,
    Like a sick man of his own sickness vain;

    "And mad mortality, drunk with its own power,
    As foolish now as in a bygone hour,
    Shouting, in presence of the tortured Christ:
    'I curse thee, mine own Image sacrificed.'

    "And silly monks in love with Lunacy,
    Fleeing the troops herded by destiny,
    Who seek for peace in opiate slumber furled--
    Such is the pageant of the rolling world!"


    O bitter knowledge that the wanderers gain!
    The world says our own age is little and vain;
    For ever, yesterday, to-day, to-morrow,
    'Tis horror's oasis in the sands of sorrow.

    Must we depart? If you can rest, remain;
    Part, if you must. Some fly, some cower in vain,
    Hoping that Time, the grim and eager foe,
    Will pass them by; and some run to and fro

    Like the Apostles or the Wandering Jew;
    Go where they will, the Slayer goes there too!
    And there are some, and these are of the wise,
    Who die as soon as birth has lit their eyes.

    But when at length the Slayer treads us low,
    We will have hope and cry, "'Tis time to go!"
    As when of old we parted for Cathay
    With wind-blown hair and eyes upon the bay.

    We will embark upon the Shadowy Sea,
    Like youthful wanderers for the first time free--
    Hear you the lovely and funereal voice
    That sings: _O come all ye whose wandering joys_
    _Are set upon the scented Lotus flower,_
    _For here we sell the fruit's miraculous boon;_
    _Come ye and drink the sweet and sleepy power_
    _Of the enchanted, endless afternoon._


    O Death, old Captain, it is time, put forth!
    We have grown weary of the gloomy north;
    Though sea and sky are black as ink, lift sail!
    Our hearts are full of light and will not fail.

    O pour thy sleepy poison in the cup!
    The fire within the heart so burns us up
    That we would wander Hell and Heaven through,
    Deep in the Unknown seeking something _new_!


Translated by W. J. Robertson


    When, by the sovran will of Powers Eternal,
      The poet passed into this weary world,
    His mother, filled with fears and doubts infernal,
      Clenching her hands towards Heaven these curses hurled.

    --"Why rather did I not within me treasure
      "A knot of serpents than this thing of scorn?
    "Accursed be the night of fleeting pleasure
      "Whence in my womb this chastisement was borne!

    "Since thou hast chosen me to be the woman
      "Whose loathsome fruitfulness her husband shames,
    "Who may not cast aside this birth inhuman,
      "As one that flings love-tokens to the flames,

    "The hatred that on me thy vengeance launches
      "On this thwart creature I will pour in flood:
    "So twist the sapling that its withered branches
      "Shall never once put forth a cankered bud!"

    Regorging thus the venom of her malice,
      And misconceiving thy decrees sublime,
    In deep Gehenna's gulf she fills the chalice
      Of torments destined to maternal crime.

    Yet, safely sheltered by his viewless angel,
      The Childe forsaken revels in the Sun;
    And all his food and drink is an evangel
      Of nectared sweets, sent by the Heavenly One.

    He communes with the clouds, knows the wind's voices,
      And on his pilgrimage enchanted sings;
    Seeing how like the wild bird he rejoices
      The hovering Spirit weeps and folds his wings.

    All those he fain would love shrink back in terror,
      Or, boldened by his fearlessness elate,
    Seek to seduce him into sin and error,
      And flesh on him the fierceness of their hate.

    In bread and wine, wherewith his soul is nourished,
      They mix their ashes and foul spume impure;
    Lying they cast aside the things he cherished,
      And curse the chance that made his steps their lure.

    His spouse goes crying in the public places:
      "Since he doth choose my beauty to adore,
    "Aping those ancient idols Time defaces
      "I would regild my glory as of yore.

    "Nard, balm and myrrh shall tempt till he desires me
      "With blandishments, with dainties and with wine,
    "Laughing if in a heart that so admires me
      "I may usurp the sovranty divine!

    "Until aweary of love's impious orgies,
      "Fastening on him my fingers firm and frail,
    "These claws, keen as the harpy's when she gorges,
      "Shall in the secret of his heart prevail.

    "Then, thrilled and trembling like a young bird captured,
      "The bleeding heart shall from his breast be torn;
    "To glut his maw my wanton hound, enraptured,
      "Shall see me fling it to the earth in scorn."

    Heavenward, where he beholds a throne resplendent,
      The poet lifts his hands, devout and proud,
    And the vast lightnings of a soul transcendent
      Veil from his gaze awhile the furious crowd:--

    "Blessed be thou, my God, that givest sorrow,
      "Sole remedy divine for things unclean,
    "Whence souls robust a healing virtue borrow,
      "That tempers them for sacred joys serene!

    "I know thou hast ordained in blissful regions
      "A place, a welcome in the festal bowers,
    "To call the poet with thy holy Legions,
      "Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers.

    "I know that Sorrow is the strength of Heaven,
      "'Gainst which in vain strive ravenous Earth and Hell,
    "And that his crown must be of mysteries woven
      "Whereof all worlds and ages hold the spell.

    "But not antique Palmyra's buried treasure,
      "Pearls of the sea, rare metal, precious gem,
    "Though set by thine own hand could fill the measure
      "Of beauty for his radiant diadem;

    "For this thy light alone, intense and tender,
      "Flows from the primal source of effluence pure,
    "Whereof all mortal eyes, though bright their splendour,
      "Are but the broken glass and glimpse obscure."
                                       SPLEEN ET IDEAL.


    To bear so vast a load of grief
      Thy courage, Sisyphus, I crave!
      My heart against the task is brave,
    But Art is long and Time is brief.

    For from Fame's proud sepulchral arches,
      Towards a graveyard lone and dumb,
      My sad heart, like a muffled drum,
    Goes beating slow funereal marches.

    --Full many a shrouded jewel sleeps
    In dark oblivion, lost in deeps
        Unknown to pick or plummet's sound:

    Full many a weeping blossom flings
    Her perfume, sweet as secret things,
        In silent solitudes profound.
                                     LE GUIGNON.


    My face is a marmoreal dream, O mortals!
      And on my breast all men are bruised in turn,
      So moulded that the poet's love may burn
    Mute and eternal as the earth's cold portals.

    Throned like a Sphinx unveiled in the blue deep,
      A heart of snow my swan-white beauty muffles;
      I hate the line that undulates and ruffles:
    And never do I laugh and never weep.

    The poets, prone beneath my presence towering
    With stately port of proudest obelisks,
    Worship with rites austere, their days devouring;

    For I have charms to keep their love, pure disks
    That make all things more beautiful and tender:
    My large eyes, radiant with eternal splendour!
                                      LA BEAUTÉ.


    No, never can these frail ephemeral creatures,
      The withered offspring of a worthless age,
    These buskined limbs, these false and painted features,
      The hunger of a heart like mine assuage.

    Leave to the laureate of sickly posies
      Gavami's hospital sylphs, a simpering choir!
    Vainly I seek among those pallid roses
      One blossom that allures my red desire.

    Thou with my soul's abysmal dreams be blended,
    Lady Macbeth, in crime superb and splendid,
      A dream of Æschylus flowered in cold eclipse

    Of Northern suns! Thou, Night, inspire my passion,
    Calm child of Angelo, coiling in strange fashion
      Thy large limbs moulded for a Titan's lips!


    Be thou from Hell upsprung or Heaven descended,
      Beauty! thy look demoniac and divine
    Pours good and evil things confusedly blended,
      And therefore art thou likened unto wine.

    Thine eye with dawn is filled, with twilight dwindles,
      Like winds of night thou sprinklest perfumes mild;
    Thy kiss, that is a spell, the child's heart kindles,
      Thy mouth, a chalice, makes the man a child.

    Fallen from the stars or risen from gulfs of error,
      Fate dogs thy glamoured garments like a slave;
    With wanton hands thou scatterest joy and terror,
      And rulest over all, cold as the grave.

    Thou tramplest on the dead, scornful and cruel,
      Horror coils like an amulet round thine arms,
    Crime on thy superb bosom is a jewel
      That dances amorously among its charms.

    The dazzled moth that flies to thee, the candle,
      Shrivels and burns, blessing thy fatal flame;
    The lover that dies fawning o'er thy sandal
      Fondles his tomb and breathes the adored name.

    What if from Heaven or Hell thou com'st, immortal
      Beauty? O sphinx-like monster, since alone
    Thine eye, thy smile, thy hand opens the portal
      Of the Infinite I love and have not known.

    What if from God or Satan be the evangel?
      Thou my sole Queen! Witch of the velvet eyes!
    Since with thy fragrance, rhythm and light, O Angel!
      In a less hideous world time swiftlier flies.
                                       HYMNE À LA BEAUTÉ.


    When, with closed eyes in the warm autumn night,
      I breathe the fragrance of thy bosom bare,
      My dream unfurls a clime of loveliest air,
    Drenched in the fiery sun's unclouded light.

    An indolent island dowered with heaven's delight,
      Trees singular and fruits of savour rare,
      Men having sinewy frames robust and spare,
    And women whose clear eyes are wondrous bright.

    Led by thy fragrance to those shores I hail
      A charmed harbour thronged with mast and sail,
    Still wearied with the quivering sea's unrest;

    What time the scent of the green tamarinds
      That thrills the air and fills my swelling breast
    Blends with the mariners' song and the sea-winds.
                                       PARFUM EXOTIQUE.


    In undulant robes with nacreous sheen impearled
      She walks as in some stately saraband;
    Or like lithe snakes by sacred charmers curled
      In cadence wreathing on the slender wand.

    Calm as blue wastes of sky and desert sand
      That watch unmoved the sorrows of this world;
    With slow regardless sweep as on the strand
      The long swell of the woven sea-waves swirled.

    Her polished orbs are like a mystic gem,
      And, while this strange and symbolled being links
      The inviolate angel and the antique sphinx,

    Insphered in gold, steel, light and diadem
      The splendour of a lifeless star endows
      With clear cold majesty the barren spouse.


    Launch me, O music, whither on the soundless
             Sea my star gleams pale!
    I beneath cloudy cope or rapt in boundless
             Æther set my sail;

    With breast outblown, swollen by the wind that urges
             Swelling sheets, I scale
    The summit of the wave whose vexed surges
             Night from me doth veil;

    A labouring vessel's passions in my pulses
             Thrill the shuddering sense;
    The wind that wafts, the tempest that convulses,
             O'er the gulf immense
    Swing me.--Anon flat calm and clearer air
             Glass my soul's despair!
                                       LA MUSIQUE.


    When on some wallowing soul the roseate East
      Dawns with the Ideal that awakes and gnaws,
      By vengeful working of mysterious laws
    An angel rises in the drowsed beast.

    The inaccessible blue of the soul-sphere
      To him whose grovelling dream remorse doth gall
      Yawns wide as when the gulfs of space enthral.
    So, heavenly Goddess, Spirit pure and clear,

    Even on the reeking ruins of vile shame
      Thy rosy vision, beautiful and bright,
      For ever floats on my enlargëd sight.

    Thus sunlight blackens the pale taper-flame;
      And thus is thy victorious phantom one,
      O soul of splendour, with the immortal Sun!
                                       L'AUBE SPIRITUELLE.


    Bitter and sweet it is, in winter night,
      Hard by the flickering fire that smokes, to list
    While far-off memories rise in sad slow flight,
      With chimes that echo singing through the mist.

    O blessëd be the bell whose vigorous throat,
      In spite of age alert, with strength unspent,
    Utters religiously his faithful note,
      Like an old warrior watching near the tent!

    My soul, alas! is flawed, and when despair
    Would people with her songs the chill night-air
      Too oft they faint in hoarse enfeebled tones,

      As when a wounded man forgotten moans
    By the red pool, beneath a heap of dead,
    And dying writhes in frenzy on his bed.
                                       LA CLOCHE FÉLÉE.


Translated by Richard Herne Shepherd



    Recall to mind the sight we saw, my soul,
        That soft, sweet summer day:
    Upon a bed of flints a carrion foul,
        Just as we turn'd the way

    Its legs erected, wanton-like, in air,
        Burning and sweating past,
    In unconcern'd and cynic sort laid bare
        To view its noisome breast.

    The sun lit up the rottenness with gold,
        To bake it well inclined,
    And give great Nature back a hundredfold
        All she together join'd.

    The sky regarded as the carcass proud
        Oped flower-like to the day;
    So strong the odour, on the grass you vow'd
        You thought to faint away.

    The flies the putrid belly buzz'd about,
        Whence black battalions throng
    Of maggots, like thick liquid flowing out
        The living rags along.

    And as a wave they mounted and went down,
        Or darted sparkling wide:
    As if the body, by a wild breath blown,
        Lived as it multiplied.

    From all this life a music strange there ran,
        Like wind and running burns:
    Or like the wheat a winnower in his fan
        With rhythmic movement turns.

    The forms wore off, and as a dream grew faint,
        An outline dimly shown,
    And which the artist finishes to paint
        From memory alone.

    Behind the rocks watch'd us with angry eye
        A bitch disturb'd in theft,
    Waiting to take, till we had pass'd her by
        The morsel she had left.

    Yet you will be like that corruption too,
        Like that infection prove--
    Star of my eyes, sun of my nature, you,
        My angel and my love!

    Queen of the graces, you will even be so,
        When, the last ritual said,
    Beneath the grass and the fat flowers you go,
        To mould among the dead.

    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!



    Say, Agatha, if at times your spirit turns
    Far from the black sea of the city's mud,
    To another ocean, where the splendour burns
    All blue, and clear, and deep as maidenhood?
    Say, Agatha, if your spirit thither turns?

    The boundless sea consoles the weary mind!
    What demon gave the sea--that chantress hoarse
    To the huge organ of the chiding wind--
    The function grand to rock us like a nurse?
    The boundless ocean soothes the jaded mind!

    O car and frigate, bear me far away,
    For here our tears moisten the very clay.
    Is't true that Agatha's sad heart at times
    Says, far from sorrows, from remorse, from crimes,
    Remove me, car, and, frigate, bear away?

    O perfumed paradise, how far removed,
    Where 'neath a clear sky all is love and joy,
    Where all we love is worthy to be loved,
    And pleasure drowns the heart, but does not cloy.
    O perfumed paradise, so far removed!

    But the green paradise of childlike loves,
    The walks, the songs, the kisses, and the flowers,
    The violins dying behind the hills, the hours
    Of evening and the wine-flasks in the groves.
    But the green paradise of early loves,

    The innocent paradise, full of stolen joys,
    Is't farther off than ev'n the Indian main?
    Can we recall it with our plaintive cries,
    Or give it life, with silvery voice, again,
    The innocent paradise, full of furtive joys?



    Mother of Latin sports and Greek delights,
      Where kisses languishing or pleasureful,
      Warm as the suns, as the water-melons cool,
    Adorn the glorious days and sleepless nights,
    Mother of Latin sports and Greek delights.

    Lesbos, where kisses are as waterfalls
      That fearless into gulfs unfathom'd leap,
    Now run with sobs, now slip with gentle brawls,
      Stormy and secret, manifold and deep;
    Lesbos, where kisses are as waterfalls!

    Lesbos, where Phryne Phryne to her draws,
      Where ne'er a sigh did echoless expire,
      As Paphos' equal thee the stars admire,
    Nor Venus envies Sappho without cause!
    Lesbos, where Phryne Phryne to her draws,

    Lesbos, the land of warm and languorous nights,
      Where by their mirrors seeking sterile good,
    The girls with hollow eyes, in soft delights,
      Caress the ripe fruits of their womanhood,
    Lesbos, the land of warm and languorous nights.

    Leave, leave old Plato's austere eye to frown;
      Pardon is thine for kisses' sweet excess,
    Queen of the land of amiable renown,
      And for exhaustless subtleties of bliss,
    Leave, leave old Plato's austere eye to frown.

    Pardon is thine for the eternal pain
      That on the ambitious hearts for ever lies,
    Whom far from us the radiant smile could gain,
      Seen dimly on the verge of other skies;
    Pardon is thine for the eternal pain!

    Which of the gods will dare thy judge to be,
      And to condemn thy brow with labour pale,
      Not having balanced in his golden scale
    The flood of tears thy brooks pour'd in the sea?
    Which of the gods will dare thy judge to be?

    What boot the laws of just and of unjust?
      Great-hearted virgins, honour of the isles,
    Lo, your religion also is august,
      And love at hell and heaven together smiles!
    What boot the laws of just and of unjust?

    For Lesbos chose me out from all my peers,
      To sing the secret of her maids in flower,
      Opening the mystery dark from childhood's hour
    Of frantic laughters, mix'd with sombre tears;
    For Lesbos chose me out from all my peers.

    And since I from Leucate's top survey,
      Like a sentinel with piercing eye and true,
    Watching for brig and frigate night and day,
      Whose distant outlines quiver in the blue,
    And since I from Leucate's top survey,

    To learn if kind and merciful the sea,
      And midst the sobs that make the rock resound,
    Brings back some eve to pardoning Lesbos, free
      The worshipp'd corpse of Sappho, who made her bound
    To learn if kind and merciful the sea!

    Of her the man-like lover-poetess,
      In her sad pallor more than Venus fair!
      The azure eye yields to that black eye, where
    The cloudy circle tells of the distress
    Of her the man-like lover-poetess!

    Fairer than Venus risen on the world,
      Pouring the treasures of her aspect mild,
    The radiance of her fair white youth unfurl'd
      On Ocean old enchanted with his child;
    Fairer than Venus risen on the world.

    Of Sappho, who, blaspheming, died that day
      When trampling on the rite and sacred creed,
    She made her body fair the supreme prey
      Of one whose pride punish'd the impious deed
    Of Sappho who, blaspheming, died that day.

    And since that time it is that Lesbos moans,
      And, spite the homage which the whole world pays,
    Is drunk each night with cries of pain and groans,
      Her desert shores unto the heavens do raise,
    And since that time it is that Lesbos moans!


Translated by Joseph T. Shipley



The following pages (not included in the "complete" French edition)
contain notes found after the death of Baudelaire; disconnected
fragments; echoes; pistils of ideas, promising wondrous blossom, to
which no pollen came. They epitomize the moral and intellectual life of
the artist. In his own art, Baudelaire is the creator of a new mood, in
which Maeterlinck and Verlaine are among his disciples, where Swinburne
and Wilde have followed him; in painting and in music, his criticism
was seeking in 1850 all that the later development of these arts has
brought forth. The reflection of that brilliant mind glows in these
intimate pages.

In the almost absolute isolation in which he confined himself more and
more, Baudelaire, who had so loved to expand in conversation, felt the
need of a confidant that would not importune him with useless counsels,
nor with expressions of sympathy he would have repulsed, if only
through dandyism. Paper alone could be that confidant.

The poet is wholly within these journals, with his religious,
political, moral and literary theories, above all, with the explicit
evidence of his weaknesses and his griefs. What skilled theologian has
made a more haughty confession than this: "There are none great among
men save the poet, the priest and the soldier; the man who sings, the
man who blesses, the man who sacrifices others and himself. The rest is
made for the whip"? What political economist has made a more absolute
declaration of principles than this: "There is no reasonable, stable
government save the aristocratic. Monarchy and republic, based on
democracy, are equally weak and absurd"?

His ideal of the greatness of the individual is derived logically from
his conception of an aristocratic society under the triumvirate of the
poet, the priest and the soldier. "Before all, to be a great man and
a saint for one's self;" that, for Baudelaire, is the one ambition
worthy of a superior nature. He has indicated the principal traits of
the ideal "dandy" that he has sought unceasingly. The dandy is not
only the most elegant of men, of the most original and discriminating
tastes, which he exercises in his habits, in the choice of his books
or his mistress; he is armed with a will superior to all obstacles,
opposing caprice with invincible energy, and correcting in himself the
inevitable faults of nature with all the resources of art.

The two manuscripts in which these ideals are scattered differ so
slightly that it might seem impossible to decide which should be read
first. A closer examination, however, indicates that _Rockets_ is of
the period about ten years before the author's death, while _My Heart
Laid Bare_ belongs entirely to the days when he felt the first attacks
of the illness that was to bear him off. No effort has been made to
group the paragraphs according to topic; they are printed as they
appear in the manuscript (the page divisions of which are indicated
by the successive numbers). The documents furnish an interesting
supplement to the more formal works of the poet, and a valuable
contribution to literature.




Even if God did not exist, religion would still be holy and divine.

God is the only being who, to govern, need not even exist.

That which is created by the mind lives more truly than matter.

Love is the desire of prostitution. There is not even one noble
pleasure which cannot be reduced to prostitution.

At a play, at a ball, each one finds pleasure in all. What is art?

The pleasure of being in a crowd is a mysterious expression of joy in
the multiplication of number.

_All_ is number. Number is in _all_. Number is in the individual.
Intoxication is a number.

The desire of productive concentration ought to replace, in a mature
being, the desire of deperdition.

Love may spring from a generous emotion: desire of prostitution; but it
is soon corrupted by the desire of possession.

Love would like to come out of itself, to merge itself in its victim,
as the victor in the vanquished, while still preserving the privileges
of the conqueror.

The delights of whoso keeps a mistress partake at once of the angel and
of the proprietor. Charity and ferocity. They are even independent of
sex, of beauty, of the animal kind.

Immense depth of thought in popular phrases, hollowed out by
generations of ants.


Of the femininity of the Church, as the reason for its omnipotence.

Of the color violet (restrained, mysterious, veiled love, color of

The priest is immense, because he makes one believe in a host of
astounding matters. That the Church wants to do all and to be all, is
a law of the human mind. Mankind worships authority. Priests are the
servants and sectaries of the imagination. The throne and the altar,
revolutionary maxim. Religious intoxication of great cities. Pantheism.
I, that is all; all, that is I. Vortex.


I think I have already written in my notes that love is very like
torture or a surgical operation. But that idea can be developed in the
bitterest way. Even though two lovers are deeply smitten and filled
with reciprocal desire, one of the two will always be more calm, or
less enraptured than the other. He or she is the surgeon, or the
hangman; the other is the patient, the victim. Do you hear those sighs,
preludes of a tragedy of shame, those groanings, those cries, those
throat-rattlings? Who has not breathed them, who has not irresistibly
summoned them forth? And what worse do you find in the torments applied
by painstaking torturers? Those faraway eyes of the somnambulist, those
limbs the muscles of which twitch and grow taut as under the action
of a galvanic battery; drunkenness, delirium, opium, in their most
infuriate consequences, surely yield no such frightful, no such curious
examples. And the human countenance, which Ovid thought fashioned to
reflect the stars, behold! it speaks only of insane ferocity, or is
spread in a species of death. For, certainly, I believe it would be
sacrilege to apply the word "ecstasy" to that sort of decomposition.

Frightful play, in which one of the players must lose control of

Once, in my presence, it was asked in what lay the greatest pleasure
of love. Some one answered naturally: in receiving, and another: in
giving one's self. The former said: pleasure of pride; and the latter:
delight of humility! All these blackguards spoke like the Imitation of
Christ.--Finally, an impudent Utopian came forward to affirm that the
greatest pleasure of love is to create citizens for the fatherland.

As for me, I said: The one and the supreme bliss of love rests in the
certainty of doing _evil_. Both man and woman know, from birth, that in
evil lies all bliss.


When a man takes to his bed, almost all his friends have a secret
desire to see him die; some, to establish the fact that his health is
inferior to theirs; others, in the disinterested hope of studying an

The arabesque is the most spiritual of designs..


The man of letters rouses the capitals and conveys a taste for
intellectual gymnastics.

We love women in proportion as they are strangers to us. To love
intelligent women is a pleasure of the pederast. Thus bestiality
excludes pederasty.

The spirit of buffoonery need not exclude charity; but that's rare.

Enthusiasm applied to other things than abstractions is a sign of
weakness and disease.

The thin is more naked, more indecent, than the fat.


_Tragic sky_. Term of an abstract order applied to a material thing.

Man drinks light with the atmosphere. Thus they are right who say that
the night air is not healthful for labor.

Man is born a fireworshipper.

Fireworks, conflagrations, incendiaries.

If one imagine a born fireworshipper born a Parsee, one could create a


Misunderstanding of a countenance is the result of the eclipse of the
real image by the hallucination born of it.

Know then the joys of a bitter life, and pray, pray ceaselessly. Prayer
is a store-house of energy. (Altar of the will. Moral dynamics. The
sorcery of the sacraments. Hygiene of the soul.)

Music deepens the sky.

Jean Jacques said that he could not enter a restaurant without a
certain emotion. For a timid nature, a ticket office somewhat resembles
the tribunal of hell.

Life has but one true attraction: the attraction of play. But if we
care not whether we win or lose?


Nations have great men only in spite of themselves--like families.
They make every effort not to have them. Therefore, the great man must,
in order to exist, possess an offensive force greater than the power of
resistance developed by millions of individuals.

Apropos of sleep, that sinister adventure of all our nights, we
might say that men go to bed daily with an audacity that would be
incomprehensible if we did not know that it is the result of ignorance
of the danger.


There are tortoise-shell hides against which scorn is no longer a

Many friends, many gloves.[1] Those who have admired me were despised,
I might even say were despicable, if I sought to flatter honest men.

Girardin talk Latin! _Pecudesque locutae_.

He belongs to an infidel Society to send Robert Houdin to the Arabs to
convert them from the miracles.

[Footnote 1: 'for fear of the itch' is added elsewhere.]


These great, beautiful vessels, imperceptibly swaying (rocking) on the
tranquil waters, these sturdy ships, with their idle, homesick air, do
they not ask us, in a silent tongue: When do we sail for happiness?

Not to forget the marvellous in drama, sorcery, romance.

The background, the atmosphere in which a whole tale should be steeped.
(See the Fall of the House of Usher, and refer this to the profound
sensations of hashish and of opium.)


Are there mathematical insanities, and idiots who think that two and
two make three? In other words, can hallucination, if the words do not
cry out (at being coupled), invade the affairs of pure reason? If, when
a man is sunk in habits of sloth, of revery, of idleness, to the point
of constantly deferring the important thing to the morrow, another
man were to wake him in the morning with biting lash, and were to
whip him pitilessly until, unable to work for pleasure, he worked for
fear, that man, that flogger, would he not be truly the friend, the
benefactor? Besides, one might declare that pleasure would follow, much
more justly than is said "Love comes after marriage."

Similarly, in politics, the true saint is he who lashes and destroys
the people, for the people's good.

That which is not slightly deformed seems to lack feeling; whence
it follows that irregularity, that is, the un-foreseen, surprise,
astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.


Theodore de Banville is not exactly materialistic; he is luminous. His
poetry represents happy hours.

For each letter from a creditor, write fifty lines on an abstract
subject, and you are saved.


Translation and paraphrase of the _Passion_. To refer everything to

Spiritual and physical joys born of the storm, thunder and lightning,
tocsin of loving, shadowy memories, of years gone by.


I have found the definition of Beauty, of my Beauty. It is something
ardent and sad, something slightly vague, giving conjecture wing. I
will, if you please, apply my idea to a palpable object, for instance,
to the most interesting object in society, to a woman's countenance.
A seductive and beautiful head, a woman's head, I mean, is a head
that brings dreams at once--confusedly--of voluptuousness and of
sadness; which bears a suggestion of melancholy, of weariness, even of
satiety,--or perhaps an opposite emotion, an ardor, a wish to live,
mingled with pent up bitterness, as springs from privation or from
despair. Mystery, regret, are also characteristics of beauty.

A handsome male head need not convey, save perhaps in the eyes of
a woman, that suggestion of voluptuousness, which, in a female
countenance, is generally tantalizing in proportion as the face is
melancholy. But that head also will bear something ardent and sad,
spiritual needs, ambitions vaguely receding, the thought of a rumbling,
unused power, sometimes the thought of a vengeful lack of feeling (for
the ideal type of the dandy must not be neglected here), sometimes
also--and that is one of the most interesting characteristics of
beauty--mystery, and finally (let me have the courage to confess to
what degree I feel myself modern in esthetics) _misfortune_. I do not
claim that Joy cannot be associated with Beauty, but I do say that
Joy is one of its most vulgar ornaments, while Melancholy is, as it
were, its illustrious companion, to such a degree that I can scarcely
conceive (is my brain an enchanted mirror?) a type of beauty in which
is no _Misfortune_. Following--others might say: obsessed by--these
ideas, you can see that it would be difficult for me not to conclude
that the most perfect type of manly Beauty is Satan,--as pictured by


Auto-idolatry. Poetic harmony of character. Eurhythmy of character
and faculties. Of conserving all the faculties. Of augmenting all the
faculties. A cult (Magianism, evocatory sorcery).

The sacrifice and the vow are the highest formulæ and symbols of

Two fundamental literary qualities: the supernatural, and irony.
Individual glance, aspect in which things maintain themselves before
the writer, then a Satanic turn of mind. The supernatural includes the
general color and the accent, i.e., intensity, sonority, limpidity,
vibration, depth and resonance in space and in time.

There are moments in life when time and space are deeper, and the
intensity of life immeasurably increased.

Of magic applied to the rousing of the great dead, to the
reestablishment and the perfecting of health.

Inspiration always comes, when a man _wishes_, but it does not always
go, when he wishes.

Of writing and of speech, considered as magic operations, evocatory


The charming airs, which constitute Beauty, are: The blasé air,
the bored air, the giddy air, the impudent air, the cold air, the
disdainful air, the commanding air, the willing air, the mischievous
air, the sickly air, the feline air, a mingling of childishness,
nonchalance and malice.


In certain almost supernatural moods of the soul the depth of life
reveals itself to the full, in the scene, ordinary as it may be,
beneath one's eyes. It becomes the symbol.

As I was crossing the boulevard, and as I hurried to escape the
wagons, my aureole slipped off and fell into the mire of the macadam.
Fortunately, I had time to pick it up; but a moment after the unlucky
idea entered my mind that it was an ill omen; after that the idea clung
to me, and gave me no rest the entire day.

Of the worship of one's self in love, from the point of view of
health, of hygiene, of the toilet, of eloquence and of spiritual


There is a magic operation in prayer. Prayer is one of the great forces
of intellectual dynamics. It is like an electric current.

The rosary is a medium, a vehicle; it is prayer brought within reach of

Labor, progressive and accumulative force, bearing interest like
capital, in faculties as in results.

Play, intermittent energy, even though guided by science, will be
conquered, fruitful as it may be, by labor, slight as it may be, but

If a poet asked the state for the right to have a few bourgeois in his
stable, there would be considerable surprise; while, if a bourgeois
asked for roast poet, it would seem quite natural.

"Kitten, puss, pussy, my cat, my wolf, my little monkey, big monkey,
big serpent, my little melancholy monkey." Such freaks of too often
repeated terms, too frequent bestial appellations, reveal a satanic
side in love. Have not the devils the forms of beasts? The Camel of
Cazotte, camel, devil, and woman.


A man went to a shooting gallery, accompanied by his wife. He selected
a puppet, and said to his wife: "I imagine that's you." He closed his
eyes and beheaded the puppet. Then he said, kissing his companion's
hand: "Dear angel, how I thank you for my skill."

When I have inspired universal disgust and horror, I shall have won

This book is not made for my wives, my daughters or my sisters. I have
few of such things.

God is a scandal, a scandal that rebounds.


Do not scorn any one's sensibility. One's sensibility, that is one's

By an ardent concubinage, one can imagine the joys of a young household.

The precocious taste for women. I used to confuse the odor of fur with
the odor of woman. I remember.... Finally, I loved my mother for her
elegance. Thus I was a precocious dandy.

The Protestant countries lack two elements essential to the happiness
of a well-bred man: gallantry and devotion.

The mingling of the grotesque and the tragic is pleasing to the mind,
as discords to blasé ears.

What is intoxicating in bad taste, is the aristocratic pleasure of

Germany expresses meditation by line, as England by perspective.

There is, in the birth of every sublime thought, a nervous shock that
is felt in the cerebellum.

Spain puts into its religion the ferocity natural to love.

STYLE.--The eternal note, the eternal and cosmopolitan style.
Chateaubriand, Alph. Rabbe, Edgar Poe.

Why democrats do not love cats is easy to determine. The cat
is beautiful; it awakens ideas of luxury, of cleanliness, of
voluptuousness, etc.


A little labor, repeated three hundred and sixty-five times, yields
three hundred and sixty-five times a little money, that is, an enormous
sum. _At the same time fame is won._

To create a pounced drawing is genius. I ought to create a pounced

My mother is fantastic; one must fear her and please her.


To give one's self over to Satan, what does that mean?

What more absurd than progress since man, as is proven by everyday
fact, is always like and equal to man, that is to say, always in the
savage state! What are the perils of the forest and the prairie beside
the daily shocks and conflicts of civilization? Whether man ensnare his
dupe on the boulevard, or pierce his prey in unknown forests, is he not
eternal man, i.e., the most perfect beast of pray?

They say I am thirty years of age; but if I have lived three minutes in
one..., am I not ninety?

... Work, is it not the salt that preserves embalmed souls?


I think that the infinite and mysterious charm that rests in the
contemplation of a ship, especially of a vessel in motion, springs,
in the first place, from regularity and symmetry (which are of
the primordial needs of the human mind, as much as complexity and
harmony)--and, secondly, from the successive multiplication and
generation of all the curves and imaginary figures cut in space by the
real elements of the object.

The poetic idea which this movement in lines produces is the hypothesis
of a vast, immense, complex but eurythmic being, of a creature full of
genius, suffering and sighing all human sighs and all human ambitions.

Civilized races, that always speak so stupidly of savages and
barbarians, soon, as d'Aurevilly says, you will _no longer be good
enough to be idolaters_. Stoicism, religion that has but one
sacrament: suicide!

Conceive a canvas for a lyric or fairy buffoonery, for a pantomime, and
transplant it into a serious novel. Bathe the whole in an abnormal,
dreamy atmosphere,--in the atmosphere of the _great days_. Let there be
something soothing,--something even serene, in passion. Regions of pure


What is not a priesthood nowadays? Youth itself is a priesthood--so
youth tells us.

Man, i.e., every one, is so naturally depraved that he suffers less
from the universal abasement than from the establishment of a sensible


The world is coming to an end. The only reason for which it can
continue is that it exists. How weak that reason is, compared to all
that announce the opposite, particularly to this: What has the world
henceforth to do beneath the sky? For, supposing that it continue to
exist materially, would it be an existence worthy of the name and
of the Historical Dictionary? I do not say that the world will be
reduced to the expedients and the comic disorder of the South American
Republics, that perhaps we shall return to the savage state, and that
we shall go, across the grassy ruins of our civilization, seeking our
pasture, gun in hand. No; for these adventures presuppose a remnant of
vital energy, echo of the earliest ages. New example and new victims
of the inexorable moral laws, we shall perish by that through which we
thought to live. The mechanical will so have Americanized us, progress
will so have atrophied all our spiritual side, that naught, in the
sanguine, sacrilegious or unnatural dreams of the Utopians can be
compared to the actual outcome. I ask every thinking man to show me
what of life remains. Of religion, I believe it useless to speak and
to seek the remnants, since to take the trouble to deny God is the
only scandal in that field. Property virtually disappeared with the
suppression of the right of the first-born; but the time will come
when humanity, like an avenging ogre, will snatch their last morsel
from those who think they are the legitimate heirs of the revolutions.
Still, that will not be the supreme ill.

The human imagination can conceive, without too much trouble, republics
or other community states, worthy of some glory, if directed by
consecrated men, by definite aristocrats. But it is not particularly
in political institutions that there will be manifest the universal
ruin, or the universal progress; for the name matters little. It will
be in the debasement of the heart. Need I say that the little of the
political remaining will writhe painfully in the embrace of the general
bestiality, and that governments will be forced, in order to maintain
themselves and to create a phantom of order, to revert to means which
will make our actual humanity shudder, although so hardened? Then, the
son will flee from his family not at eighteen years, but at twelve,
emancipated by his gluttonous precocity; he will flee, not in search
of heroic adventures, not to deliver a beautiful prisoner in a tower,
not to immortalize a garret by sublime thoughts, but to establish a
trade, to amass wealth, and to compete with his infamous papa, founder
and stockholder of a journal which will spread the light and which will
cause the century to be looked upon as an abettor of superstition.
Then, the wanderers, the outcasts, those who have had several lovers,
and who were once called angels, in recognition of the heedlessness
which shines, light of luck, in their existence logical as evil--then
these, I say, will be no more than a pitiless wisdom, a wisdom that
will condemn all, lacking money, all, _even the faults of the senses!_
Then, that which will resemble virtue, what do I say?--all that is not
ardor toward Plutus will be considered enormously ridiculous. Justice,
if in that fortunate period justice can still exist, will interdict all
citizens who cannot make a fortune. Your wife, O Bourgeois! your chaste
partner, whose legitimacy is the poetry of your existence, thenceforth,
introducing into legality an irreproachable infamy, zealous and loving
guardian of your strongbox, will be no more than the ideal of the kept
woman. Your daughter, with infantile hopes of marriage, will dream
in her cradle of selling herself for a million, and you yourself, O
Bourgeois, still less poet than you are to-day, you will see nothing
amiss; you will regret naught. For there are things in men that
strengthen and prosper as others weaken and decline; and, thanks to
the progress of the times, you will have left of your entrails only
the viscera! These times are perhaps quite near; who knows even that
they have not come, and that the thickness of our skins is not the only
obstacle that prevents us from appreciating the environment in which we

As for me, who sometimes feel in me the ridicule of a prophet, I know
that I shall never find in myself the charity of a doctor. Lost in this
vile world, jostled by the crowds, I am as a tired man who sees behind
him, in the depths of the years, only disillusion and bitterness and
ahead, only a storm that carries nothing new, neither knowledge nor
grief. The evening that man Stole from fate a few hours of pleasure,
cradled in his digestion, forgetful--as far as possible--of the past,
content with the present and resigned to the future, intoxicated with
his sangfroid and his dandyism, proud of being less base than those
who passed, he said, watching the smoke of his cigar: "What does it
matter to me where these consciences are going?"

I think I have achieved what mechanics call an extra. However, I shall
retain these pages,--because I want to date my sadness.



Of the vaporization and the centralization of the ego. All lies in that.

Of a certain sensual joy in the society of extravagants.

(I plan to begin _My Heart Laid Bare_ at any point, in any way, and to
continue it from day to day, following the inspiration of the occasion
and the moment, provided that the inspiration be vivid.)


The first comer, if he can entertain, has the right to speak of himself.


I understand that some people desert a cause to discover what they can
experience in serving another.

It might be pleasant to bet alternately victim and executioner.


Woman is the opposite of the dandy. Thus she must inspire horror. Woman
is hungry, and she wants to eat, thirsty, and she wants to drink. She
is proud, and she, wants to be....

True merit!

Woman is _natural_, that is to say, abominable.

Also, she is always vulgar, that is, the opposite of the dandy.

_In regard to the Legion of Honor_. He who seeks the cross seems to
say: "If I am not decorated for having done my duty, I shall not go

If a man has merit, what is the good in decorating him? If he has not,
then he can be decorated, since that will give him a lustre.

To consent to be decorated, is to recognize that the state has the
right to judge you, to adorn you, et cetera.

Furthermore, if not pride, Christian humility should defend the cross.

_Calculation in favor of God._ Nothing exists without an end. Hence my
existence has an end. What end? I do not know. Hence it is not I that
have marked it. Hence it is some one wiser than I. Hence I must pray to
some one to enlighten me. That is the wisest part.

The dandy ought to aspire uninterruptedly to be sublime. He should live
and sleep before a mirror.


Analysis of counter-religions; example: sacred prostitution.

What is sacred prostitution? Nervous excitation. Pagan mysticism.
Mysticism, link between paganism and Christianity. Paganism and
Christianity are reciprocal proofs.

Revolution and the worship of Reason prove the concept of Sacrifice.

Superstition is the reservoir of all truths.


There is in all change something at once agreeable and infamous,
something that smacks of infidelity and of moving day. That is enough
to explain the French Revolution.


My intoxication in 1848. Of what sort was that intoxication? Desire
of vengeance. Natural pleasure in demolishing. Literary drunkenness;
memories of reading.

The 15th of May. Ever the desire of destruction. Legitimate desire, if
all that is natural is legitimate.

The horrors of June. Madness of the people and madness of the
bourgeoisie. Natural love of crime.

My fury at the coup d'état. How many gunshots sustained! Another
Buonaparte! What a disgrace!

Still, all is quieted. Has not the President the right to invoke?

What Emperor Napoleon III is? What he is worth?

To find the explanation of his nature, and of his providentially.


To be a useful man has always seemed to me a hideous thing.

1848 was amusing only because every one was building Utopias like
castles in Spain.

1848 was charming only by the very excess of the ridiculous.

Robespierre is estimable only because he has made some fine phrases.


The Revolution, by sacrifice, confirmed superstition.


_Politique_. I have no convictions, as the men of my age understand the
term, because I have no ambition.

There is no basis in me for conviction.

There is a certain cowardice, or rather a certain softness, in honest

The brigands alone are convinced--of what? That they must succeed.
Therefore, they succeed.

Why should I succeed, when I haven't even the desire to try?

Glorious empires can be founded on crime, and noble religions on

However, I have some convictions, in a higher sense, that cannot be
understood by the men of my day.

Feeling of _solitude_, from my childhood. Despite my family, and in
the midst of my comrades above all,--feeling of an eternally solitary

Withal, an intense desire for life and for pleasure.

Almost all our life is spent in idle curiosity. In revenge, there are
things which ought to rouse human curiosity to the highest degree, and
which, to judge by their commonplace activity, inspire it in no one!

Where are our dead friends? Why are we here? Do we come from somewhere?
What is liberty? Can it harmonize with providential law? Is the number
of souls finite or infinite? And the number of habitable worlds? etc.,


Nations have great men only in spite of themselves. Hence the great man
is the conqueror of all his nation.

The modern ridiculous religions: Molière, Béranger, Garibaldi.


Belief in progress is a doctrine of the slothful, a doctrine of the
Belgians. It is the individual who relies on his neighbors to tend
to his affairs. There can be no progress (true, that is, moral) save
in the individual and by the individual himself. But the world is
composed of folks who can think only in common, in bands. Thus the
Belgian societies. There are also folks who can amuse themselves only
in droves. The true hero finds his pleasure alone.

Eternal superiority of the dandy. What is the dandy?


My opinions on the theatre. What I have always found most beautiful
in the theatre, in my childhood, and still to-day, is _lustre_,--a
beautiful object, luminous, crystalline; complex, circular, symmetrical.

However, I do not absolutely deny the value of dramatic literature.
Only, I should like the actors to be mounted on high pattens, to
wear masks more expressive than the human face, and to speak through
megaphones; finally, I should like the female parts to be played by men.

After all, lustre has always seemed to me the principal actor, seen
through the large or the small end of the glass.


One must work, if not through desire, at least in despair, since, as is
well established, to work is less boring than to seek amusement.


There are in every man, at every moment, two simultaneous postulations,
one toward God, the other toward Satan.

The invocation of God, or spirituality, is a desire to rise; that of
Satan, or bestiality, is a joy in descent. To the latter should be
attributed love for women.

The joys which spring from these two loves conform to their two natures.


Intoxication of humanity; great picture to be made, in the sense of
charity, in the sense of libertinage, in the literary or dramaturgic


Torture, as the art of discovering the truth, is barbaric nonsense; it
is the application of a material means to a spiritual end.

       *       *       *       *       *

Capital punishment is the result of a mystic idea, totally
misunderstood to-day. The death penalty has not as its object
to _preserve_ society, _materially_ at least. Its object is the
_preservation_ (spiritually) of society and the guilty one. In order
that the sacrifice be perfect, there must be assent and joy on the part
of the victim. To give chloroform to one condemned to death would be an
impiety, for it would be to wipe out the consciousness of his grandeur
as victim and to destroy his chance of gaining paradise.

As to torture, it is born of the infamous side of the heart of man,
athirst for voluptuousness. Cruelty and voluptuousness, identical
sensations, like extreme heat and extreme cold.


A dandy does nothing. Can you imagine a dandy talking to the people,
save to scoff at them?

There is no reasonable, stable government save the aristocratic.

Monarchy and republic, based on democracy, are equally weak and absurd.

Immense nausea of placards.

There exist but three respectable beings: the priest, the warrior, the
poet. To know, to kill, and to create.

Other men are serfs or slaves, created for the stable, that is, to
exercise what are called professions.


Observe that those who advocate the abolition of capital punishment
are more or less interested in its abolishment. Often, they are
executioners. The matter may be summarized thus: "I wish to be able to
cut off your head, but you shall not touch mine."

Those who abolish souls (materialists) necessarily abolish hell; they
are, beyond all doubt, interested.

At the least, they are men that are afraid to live again, slothful ones.


Mme. de Metternich, although a princess, has forgotten to answer me, in
regard to what I said of her and of Wagner. Manners of the Nineteenth


The woman Sand is the Prudhomme of immorality. She has always been
a moralist. Only formerly she practiced amorality. Also she has
never been an artist. She has the famous _fluent style_, dear to the

She is stupid, she is heavy, she is a chatterbox. She has, in moral
matters, the same depth of judgment and the same delicacy of feeling as
innkeepers and kept women. What she has said of her mother; what she
has said of poetry. Her love for the workingman.

George Sand is one of those old ingenues who do not wish to quit the

See the preface to _Mlle. La Quintinie_, where she claims that true
Christians do not believe in hell. Sand is for the God of good folks,
the god of innkeepers and of domestic sharpers.

She has good reason to wish to wipe out hell.


It must not be thought that the devil tempts only men of genius. He
doubtless scorns imbeciles, but he does not disdain their assistance.
Quite the contrary, he founds great hopes on them.

Take George Sand. She is especially, and above all things, a great
_blockhead_; but she is _possessed_. It is the devil who has persuaded
her to trust in her _good heart_ and her _good sense_, so that she
might persuade all other great blockheads to trust in their good heart
and their good sense.

I cannot think of that stupid creature without a shudder of horror. If
I were to meet her, I could not keep myself from hurling a basin of
holy water at her.


I am bored in France, especially as every one resembles Voltaire.

Emerson forgot Voltaire in his "Representative Men." He could have made
a fine chapter entitled Voltaire or The Antipoet, the king of boobies,
the prince of the shallow, the anti-artist, the preacher of innkeepers,
the father who "lived in a shoe" of the editors of the century.


In the "Ears of the Earl of Chesterfield," Voltaire jokes at the
expense of that immortal soul which resided, for nine months, in the
midst of excrement and urine. Voltaire, like all the slothful, hates

(At least, he might have divined in that environment the malice or
satire of Providence against love, and, in the process of generation,
a sign of original sin. In fact, we can make love only with excretory

Unable to suppress love, the Church wished at least to disinfect it,
and created marriage.


Portrait of the literary riff-raff. Doctor Tavernus Crapulosus
Pedantissimus. His portrait in the manner of Praxiteles. His pipe, his
opinions, his Hegelianism, his filth, his ideas of art, his spleen, his
jealousy. A fine picture of modern youth.


Theology. What is the fall? If it is unity become duality, it is God
who has fallen. In other words, is not creation the fall of God?

Dandyism. What is the superior man? It is not the specialist. It is the
man of leisure and broad education. To be rich and to love labor.


Why does the man of parts prefer maidens to women of the world, though
they are equally stupid? Find this out.


There are women who are like the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. They
are wanted no more, because they have been sullied by certain men. Just
as I would not put on the breeches of a mangy fellow.

What is annoying in love, is that it is a crime in which one cannot do
without an accomplice.


Study of the great disease of horror of the home. Reasons for the

Indignation at the universal fatuity of all classes, of all beings, of
both sexes, of every age.

Man loves man so much that when he flees the city, it is still to seek
the crowd, that is, to rebuild the city in the country.


Of love, of the predilection of the French for military metaphors. Here
every metaphor wears a moustache.

Militant literature.--To man the breach.--To bear the standard
aloft.--To maintain the standard high and firm.--To hurl oneself into
the thick of the fight.--One of the veterans. All these fine phrases
apply generally to the college scouts and to the do-nothings of the


To add to the military metaphors: Soldier of the judicial press
(Bertin). The poets of strife. The _littérateurs_ of the advance guard.
This habitude of military metaphors denotes minds not military, but
made for discipline, that is, for conformity, minds born domesticated,
Belgian minds, which can think only in society.


Desire of pleasure binds us to the present. Care for our health
suspends us on the future.

He who attaches himself to pleasure, that is, to the present, is to me
as one who, rolling down an incline, and trying to cling to the shrubs,
uproots them and bears them away in his fall.

Before all to be a _great man_ and a saint for one's self.


In the end, before all history and before the French people, the great
glory of Napoleon III will have been to prove that the first comer, by
seizing the telegraph and the national press, can govern a great nation.

Imbeciles are those who think that such things can be accomplished
without the permission of the people,--and those who believe that
glory can be founded only on virtue!


What is love? The need of coming out of one's self.

Man is an animal of worship. To worship is to sacrifice one's self and
to prostitute one's self.

Thus all love is prostitution.

The most prostituted being is the being beyond compare, is. God, since
he is the soul supreme for every individual, since he is the common,
inexhaustible reservoir of love.


Do not chastise me in my mother, you chastise my mother because of
me.--I commend to you the souls of my father and Mariette.--Give me
each day strength to perform the present duty and thus to become a
hero and a saint.


A chapter on the indestructible, eternal, universal and ingenious human
ferocity. Of the love of blood, of the intoxication of blood, of the
intoxication of crowds. Of the intoxication of the executed criminal


I have always been astonished that women are allowed to enter church.
What conversation can they have with God?

The eternal Venus (caprice, hysteria, whim) is one of the seductive
forms of the devil.


Woman cannot separate the soul from the body. She is simple, like the
animals.--A satirist would say it is because she has only a body.


Veuillot is so coarse and such an enemy of the arts that one would
think all the democracy of the world was harbored in his breast.

Development of the portrait. Supremacy of the pure idea in the
Christian as in the Babouvian communist.

Fanaticism of humility. Not even to aspire to understand religion.


In love, as in almost all human affairs, the _entente cordial_ is the
result of misunderstanding. The misunderstanding is pleasure. The man
cries: "Oh my angel!"

The woman coos: "Mamma! Mamma!" And the two imbeciles are persuaded
that they are thinking in concert.--The insuperable gulf, which bars
communication, remains unabridged.


Why is the spread of the sea so infinitely and so eternally agreeable?

Because the sea conveys the thought both of immensity and of movement.
Six or seven leagues are for man the radius of the infinite. 'Tis a
diminutive infinite. What matter, if it suffice to suggest the whole?
Twelve or fourteen leagues of liquid in movement are enough to convey
the highest ideal of beauty which is offered to man in his transitory


There is naught interesting on earth save its religions.

There is a universal religion made for the alchemists of thought,
a religion which is disengaged from man, considered as a heavenly


Saint-Marc Girardin has spoken one word that will endure: "Let us be
mediocre!" Set that beside this of Robespierre: "Those that do not
believe in the immortality of their being, do themselves justice." The
word of Saint-Marc Girardin implies a bitter hatred of the sublime.


Theory of true civilization. It lies not in gas, nor in steam, nor in
tilting tables. It lies in the diminution of the traces of original sin.

Nomad peoples, shepherds, hunters, farmers, even cannibals, _all_ can
rise superior in energy, in personal dignity, to our races of the West.
We perhaps shall be destroyed.


It is through leisure, in part, that I have grown,--to my great
detriment; for leisure, without wealth, increases debts; but to my
great gain, in regard to sensibility, meditation, and the faculty of
dandyism and of dilettantism.


The young girl of editors. The young girl of editors in chief. The
young girl, scarecrow, monstrous, assassin of art.

The young girl, what she really is. A little stupid and a little
slovenly; the greatest imbecility combined with the greatest depravity.

There is in the young girl all the abjection of the cad and of the


Advice to non-communists: all is common, even God.


The Frenchman is a backyard animal so domestic that he dare not leap
any fences. See his tastes in art and literature.

He is an animal of the Latin race; filth does not displease him; in his
home, and in literature, he is scatophagous. He dotes on excrement. The
litterateurs of the coffee-house call that the _gallic salt_.


_Princes and generations._ There is equal injustice in attributing to
reigning princes the virtues and the vices of the people they actually

Those virtues and those vices should almost always, as statistics and
logic will show, be attributed to the atmosphere of the preceding

Louis XIV inherits the men of Louis XIII, glory. Napoleon I inherits
the men of the Republic, glory. Louis-Philippe inherits the men of
Charles X, glory. Napoleon III inherits the men of Louis-Philippe,

It is always the preceding government that is responsible for the
customs of the following, in so far as a government can be responsible
for anything.

The sudden suppressions that circumstances bring to a reign do not
allow of absolute exactitude in this law, in regard to time. One
cannot, say precisely where an influence ends, but an influence will
endure in all the generation that was subjected to it in youth.


Of the hatred of youth toward those who quote. The quoter is their

"I would place spelling itself in the hands of the hangman." (Th.

Immovable desire of prostitution in the heart of man, whence springs
his horror of solitude.--He wishes to be _two_. The genius wishes to be
_one_, hence alone. Glory is in remaining _one_, and in prostituting
one's self in a particular way.

It is that horror of solitude, the need of forgetting his _ego_ in the
outer flesh, that man nobly calls the _need of love_.

Two fine religions, immortally planted on the mature, eternal
obsessions of the people: the ancient phallus, and "Vive Barbés!" or "A
bas Philippe!" or "Vive la République!"


To study, in all its moods, in the works of nature and in the works of
man, the eternal and universal law of gradation, by degrees, little by
little, with forces progressively increasing, like compound interest in

It is the same with artistic and literary ease; it is the same with the
variable treasure of the will.


The rout of little _littérateurs_ to be seen at funerals, distributing
handshakes and commending themselves to the memory of the letter
writer. Of the funerals of famous men.

Molière.--My opinion of Tartuffe is that it is not a comedy, but
a pamphlet. An atheist, if only he is well-bred, would think, in
connection with the play, that serious questions should never be
betrayed to the riff-raff.


To glorify the worship of images (my great, my one, my primitive
passion). To glorify vagabondage and what may be called bohemianism.
Worship of sensation, multiplied and expressing itself in music. Refer
this to Liszt.

Of the need of beating women.

One can chastise what one loves. Thus with children.

But that implies the misery of scorning what one loves.

Of cuckoldom and of cuckolds. The misery of the cuckold. It springs
from his pride, from a false conception of honor and of happiness, and
from a love foolishly turned from God to be attributed to creatures. It
is ever the worshipping animal deluded with its idol.


Music conveys the idea of space. All the arts, more or less; since they
are _number_ and number is a translation of space.

Daily to wish to be the greatest of men!


Nations have great men only in spite of themselves.

Apropos of the actor and of my childish dreams, a chapter on what
constitutes, in the human soul, the calling of the actor, the glory of
the actor, the art of the actor and his situation in the world.

The theory of Legouvé. Is Legouvé a cold farceur, a Swift, who tried
whether France would swallow a new absurdity? His choice. Good, in the
sense that Samson is not an actor.

Of the true greatness of pariahs. Perhaps even, virtue harms the
talents of pariahs.


Commerce is, in its essence, _satanic_. Commerce, is the loan returned,
it is the loan with an understanding: Return more than I gave you.

--The spirit of everything commercial is completely depraved.

--Commerce is _natural_, hence it is _infamous_.

--The least infamous of tradesmen is he who says: "Let us be virtuous
that we may gain much more money than the fools who are vicious." For
the tradesman, honesty itself is a speculation. Commerce is Satanic,
because it is one of the forms of egoism, the lowest, and the most vile.


When Jesus Christ said: "Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall
be filled!" Jesus Christ was gambling on probabilities.


The world progresses only through misunderstanding. It is by universal
misunderstanding that all the world agrees. For if, unfortunately, they
understood one another, people could never agree.

The man of wit, he who will never agree with any one, ought to strike
up a liking for the conversation of idiots and the reading of bad
books. He will draw from this bitter joys that will largely compensate
for his fatigue.


Any officeholder whatsoever, a minister, a manager of a theater or
magazine, can sometimes be an estimable being; but he can never
be admirable. He is a person lacking personality, a being without
originality, born for the office, that is to say, for public


God and his profundity. One can be not lacking in wit and find in God
the accomplice and friend who is always wanting. God is the eternal
confidant in that tragedy where every one is the hero. There are
perhaps usurers and assassins who say to God: "Lord, let my next
operation succeed!" But the prayer of these rascally folk does not
disturb the honor and the pleasure of mine.


All idea is, in itself, endowed with immortal life, like a person. All
form, even created by man, is immortal. For form is independent of
matter, and it is not molecules that constitute form.


It is impossible to glance through any newspaper at all, no matter of
what day, what month, what year, without finding in every line the most
frightful signs of human perversity, together with the most astonishing
boasts of probity, of goodness, of charity, and the most shameless
affirmations in regard to the progress of civilization.

Every paper, from the first line to the last, is but a tissue of
horrors. War, crime, theft, lewdness, crimes of princes, crimes of
nations, crimes of individuals, a universal intoxication of atrocity.

And it is with this disgusting appetizer that civilized man accompanies
his every morning meal. Everything in this world sweats crime: the
magazine, the wall, the face of man. I cannot see how a pure hand can
touch a paper without a convulsion of disgust.


The strength of the amulet demonstrated by philosophy. Bored coins,
talismans, every one's keepsakes. Treatise on moral dynamics. Of the
power of the sacraments. Of my childhood, tendency to mysticism. My
conversations with God.


Of obsession. Of Possession, of Prayer and of Faith. Moral dynamics
of Jesus. (Renan thinks it ridiculous to suppose that Jesus believed
in the omnipotence, even materially, of Prayer and of Faith.) The
sacraments are the means of this dynamics.

Of the infamy of the printing-shop, great obstacle to the development
of beauty.


In order for the law of progress to exist, every one must wish to
create it; that is, when every individual applies himself to progress,
then, and only then, humanity will be in progress.

This hypothesis serves to explain the identity of two contradictory
ideas, free will and predestination.--Not only is there, in the case of
progress, identity of free will and predestination, but that identity
has always existed. That identity is history, the history of nations
and of men.


_Hygiene. Projects._--The more one wills, the better one wills.

The more one works, the better one works, and the more one wants to
work. The more one produces, the more fertile one grows.

Morally as physically, I have always had the sensation of the gulf,
not only of the gulf of sleep, but the gulf of action, of revery, of
memory, of desire, of regret, of remorse, of beauty, of number, etc.

I have cultivated my hysteria with joy and terror. Now, I always have
vertigo, and to-day, January 23, 1862, I felt a strange warning. I felt
pass over me a gust from the wing of imbecility.


How many presentiments and signs already sent by God, that it is _high
time_ to act, to regard the present moment as the most important
moment, and to make my _perpetual joy_ of my usual torment, that is, of


_Hygiene, Conduct, Morals._--Every moment, we are crushed by the idea
and sensation of time. And there are only two means of escaping that
nightmare, of forgetting it: pleasure and work. Pleasure consumes us.
Work fortifies us. Let us choose.

The more we make use of one of these means, the more the other fills us
with repugnance.

One can forget time only by using it.

Everything is accomplished bit by bit.

De Maistre and Edgar Poe taught me to reason.

There is no long work but that which one dares not begin. It becomes a


_Hygiene._--By putting off what one has to do, one runs the risk of
never being able to do it. By postponing conversion, one risks being

To heal everything, misery, disease and melancholy, absolutely nothing
is needed but the love of work.


Precious Notes.--Do every day what prudence and duty dictate. If you
work every day, life will be more endurable. Work six days without a
let-up. To find fields, Know thyself. Always to be a poet, even in
prose. Grand style (nothing is more beautiful than the commonplace).
First begin, then make use of logic and analysis. Any hypothesis
whatsoever tends to its conclusion. Find the daily frenzy.


_Hygiene, Conduct, Morals._--Debts. Friends (my mother, friends,
myself). Thus, 1000 francs should be divided into two parts of 500
francs each, and the second divided into three.


--To do one's duty every day and trust in God for the morrow.

The one way to make money is to work in a disinterested fashion.

--Concentrated wisdom. Toilet, prayer, labor.

Prayer: charity, wisdom and strength.

Without charity, I am but a clashing cymbal.

--My humiliations have been mercies of God.

Is my egoistical phase at an end?

The gift of responding to the moment's need, exactitude, in a word,
should infallibly bring its recompense.


_Hygiene, Conduct, Morals._--Jean 300, my mother 200, myself 300,--800
francs a month. To work from six in the morning, on an empty stomach,
till noon. To work blindly, aimlessly, like a madman. We shall see the

I suppose I base my destiny on a few hours' uninterrupted toil.

All is reparable. There is still time. Who knows even if new

I have not yet known the pleasure of a project carried out.

Power of the fixed idea, power of hope.

The habit of doing one's duty drives out fear.

One must wish to dream and know how to dream. The summoning of
inspiration. The Art of Magic. To set myself immediately to writing. I
reason too much.

Immediate work, even poor, is worth more than dreams.

A procession of little wishes makes a mighty end.

Every recoil of the will is a particle of lost substance. How prodigal,
then, is hesitation! And judge of the greatness of the final effort
needed to repair so many losses!

The man who prays in the evening, is a captain who posts his sentinels.
He can sleep.

Dreams of death and warnings.

Up to now I have enjoyed my memories alone; they must be shared with
another. Make a passion of the joys of the heart.

Because I comprehend a glorious existence, I believe myself capable of
realizing it. O Jean-Jacques!

Work forcibly engenders good habits, sobriety and chastity,
consequently health, wealth, successive and progressive genius, and
charity. Age quod agis.

Fish, cold baths, showers, lichen, lozenges, occasionally; in addition,
suppression of everything exciting.

    Island Lichen     125 grams
    White sugar       250   "

Steep the lichen, for twelve or fifteen hours, in a sufficient quantity
of cold water, then drain the water. Boil the lichen in two liters
of water, on a slow and continuous flame, until the two liters have
dwindled to one, remove the scum once; then add the 250 grams of sugar
and allow it to thicken to the consistency of syrup. Allow it to cool
again. Take a large tablespoonful three times daily, morning, noon, and
night. Do not be afraid to increase the dose, if the crises become too


_Hygiene, Conduct, Method._--I swear to myself henceforth to take the
following rules as eternal rules of my life:

Every morning to pray to God, _reservoir of all strength and all
justice, to my father, to Mariette, and to Poe,_ as intercessors;
to pray to them to grant me the necessary strength always to do my
duty, and to grant to my mother _a life long enough_ to enjoy my
transformation; to work all day, or at least _while my strength
remains_; to trust in God, that is, in Justice itself, for the success
of my projects; to make, every evening, a new prayer to God, asking
life and strength for my mother and for myself; to divide all I earn
into four parts,--one for current expenses, one for my creditors,
one for my friends and one for my mother;--to obey the precepts of
strictest sobriety, of which the first is the suppression of everything
exciting, whatever it may be.

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