Monday, April 13, 2015

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire (1867-1821)

I don't know when I first fell in love with the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. Perhaps it was in my French literature class in college or my travels to Paris or even in my research of Poe, but nonetheless, I did.

Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. His father was 34 years older than his mother and did not live to see him grow up. When his mother remarried he was sent to boarding school and then off to India to see if that would shake out his writing interests. It did not.

Baudelaire was known for his urban subject matter and often wrote of sensual and aesthetic pleasures. 

For a while he wrote politically about the Revolution of 1848 but soon found that type of writing was not for him. As with most writers, he found himself in poor health with pressing debts in the late 1850's. He died at the age of 46 in Paris.

Baudelaire is well known today for his complete translations of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry from English into French.

The following poem is one of my most beloved. I hope you love it as well as we continue on into poetry week. 

As always.

The Ragpickers' Wine
In the muddy maze of some old neighborhood,
Often, where the street lamp gleams like blood,
As the wind whips the flame, rattles the glass,
Where human beings ferment in a stormy mass,

One sees a ragpicker knocking against the walls,
Paying no heed to the spies of the cops, his thralls,
But stumbling like a poet lost in dreams;
He pours his heart out in stupendous schemes.

He takes great oaths and dictates sublime laws,
Casts down the wicked, aids the victims' cause;
Beneath the sky, like a vast canopy,
He is drunken of his splendid qualities.

Yes, these people, plagued by household cares,
Bruised by hard work, tormented by their years,
Each bent double by the junk he carries,
The jumbled vomit of enormous Paris,—

They come back, perfumed with the smell of stale
Wine-barrels, followed by old comrades, pale
From war, mustaches like limp flags, to march
With banners, flowers, through the triumphal arch

Erected for them, by some magic touch!
And in the dazzling, deafening debauch
Of bugles, sunlight, of huzzas and drum,
Bring glory to the love-drunk folks at home!

Even so, wine pours its gold to frivolous
Humanity, a shining Pactolus;
Then through man's throat of high exploits it sings
And by its gifts reigns like authentic kings.

To lull these wretches' sloth and drown the hate
Of all who mutely die, compassionate,
God has created sleep's oblivion;

Man added Wine, divine child of the Sun.