Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Today marks the birth of Charles Baudelaire, the famous French Symbolist poet, whose greatest work, The Flowers of Evil, still intrigues scholars today. His life is as captivating as his poetry. His father died when he was six, and he never did get along with his step-father, and thus had a rough relationship with his mother. Baudelaire always had trouble with money, and he had a guardian to watch over his finances. This only caused more problems between him and his family.

The Flowers of Evil, his great work, also caused him much grief, when it was charged with indecency. A legal battle ensued, and finally it was published with the omission of six poems, which were banned.

Charles Baudelaire also wrote a series of prose poems known as Paris Spleen, a novella called La Fanfarlo, and numerous essays and critiques on art and artists. He also translated many of Edgar Allan Poe's works into French.

He was never married, and never had children. His most famous of lovers, Jeanne Duval, refused to marry him, and for years their relationship was on and off. Baudelaire died in 1867 due to the latter effects of syphilis. It was not until nearly a hundred years later that the Paris Appeals Court lifted the conviction on Baudelaire and his publisher for the charge against the banned poems.

And since I'm tired, I'll leave you with one of my favorite lines from one of his prose poems, a line which I plan to take to heart pretty soon here:

Always be drunk. That's it! The great imperative! In order not to feel Time's horrid fardel bruise your shoulders, grinding you into the earth, get drunk and stay that way.
On what? Wine, poetry, virtue, whatever. But get drunk.
Everyone have a drink honoring Charlie! Or read The Flowers of Evil. Or read it anyway, cuz it's amazing!

Works Cited: Baudelaire, Charles. "Get Drunk." The Flowers of Evil and Paris Spleen. Trans. William H. Crosby. Rocchester, New York: BOA Editions, Ltd., 1991. 423.

Works Consulted: McGowan, James. Charles Baudelaire The Flowers of Evil.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.