Charles Baudelaire: The Beautiful and Dark Poet

Charles Baudelaire: French poet.  April 9, 1821- August 31, 1867

“A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else.”- Charles Baudelaire

    When  Charles Baudelaire was only six, his father passed away.  A year later, his mother wed the future French ambassador, Lieutenant Colonel Jaques Aupick.   While  the sensitive and artistic child was extremely close to his mother, he found himself constantly at odds with his rigid stepfather.   Sent away to a boarding school in Lyons, Charles later described that time as, ” the unease of wretched and abandoned childhood, the hatred of tyrannical schoolfellows, and the solitude of the heart.” 

Upon finishing his education, while his stepfather wished him to enter law, Charles decided to pursue a literary career and began associating with fellow bohemians.  By 1843, he’d become known as a dandy- living off of credit and the goodwill of others.   Around this time he began a lifelong romance with the Hatian-born actress and dancer, Jeanne Duval.   Born of French and black African ancestry, she became his muse, his  “Vénus Noire”.

One of the poems he dedicated to her was The Balcony, in which he declared:

    “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!”
     portrait of Jeanne Duval by Manet 

   Although Baudelaire became a highly respected art and literary critic, his own work did not appear until the publication of Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) in 1857.   While such lofty figures as Flaubert and Victor Hugo praised the book,  the sexual and macabre themes caused much consternation and Charles, his publisher, and the printer,  were fined for offenses against public morals.

The accusations meant little to Charles.  He wrote to his mother:  “You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality. Beauty of conception and style is enough for me. But this book, whose title (Fleurs du mal) says everything, is clad, as you will see, in a cold and sinister beauty. It was created with rage and patience. Besides, the proof of its positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people. Moreover, since I was terrified myself of the horror that I should inspire, I cut out a third from the proofs. They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don’t care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron.”  

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Quotes:

 “One should always be drunk.  That’s all that matters… But with what?  With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose.   But get drunk.”

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”

“There is a word, in a verb, something sacred which forbids us from using it recklessly.  To handle a language cunningly is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.”

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Poems by Tyutchev

Fyodor Tyutchev:  Russian Romantic poet. 

 November 23, 1803- July 15, 1873

Silentium!

Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.
How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought, once uttered, is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.
Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard…
take in their song and speak no word.
                                                                                  -Fyodor Tyutchev

 

All Day She Quiet Lay

 

All day she quiet lay, lost in a trance,
The closing shadows all of her embracing…
The madcap rain of summer frisked and pranced,
At leaves it drummed, down garden paths went racing.And slowly, slowly she revived and sought
To hear its voice, its warm and merry patter.
Withdrawn she lay, plunged deep in conscious thought,
And listened to the rushing, singing water.Then suddenly she sighed and spoke; I heard…
(I was alive, alive through force of habit)
The softly whispered, simple, broken words:
“O how I loved it all, O how I loved it!”You loved… To love so well none ever durst…
Then, even such love fades, to be it ceases…
To watch you die, and live! How did my heart not burst,
Not break, O God, into a thousand pieces!-Fyodor Tyutchev      

                                                                                                

 
Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm  Comments (9)  
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How To Get Professionals to Read Your Work- The Emily Dickinson Way

Step One:  Find someone to send your submissions to.

 Emily Dickinson chose to send a few of her poems to social reformer and writer, Mr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Step Two:  Sit down to write query.   When addressing it, be blunt.   Emily simply wrote, “Mr. Higginson,”

Step Three:  Begin query with rhetorical question. 

Emily decided upon, “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?”

Step Four:   Compose letter.   

MR. HIGGINSON,–Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?

The mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly, and I have none to ask.

Should you think it breathed, and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude.

If I make the mistake, that you dared to tell me would give me sincerer honor toward you.

I inclose my name, asking you, if you please, sir, to tell me what is true?

That you will not betray me it is needless to ask, since honor is its own pawn.

Step Five:  Compose this letter in a large, looping penmanship that is difficult for anyone to decipher. 

“It was in a handwriting so peculiar that it seemed as if the writer might have taken her first lessons by studying the famous fossil bird-tracks in the museum of that college town.” (Amherst). – Mr. Wentworth Higginson

Step Six:  Decide this difficult to read,  rhetorical-begun query is so brilliant that you don’t even bother signing your name.

Mr. Higginson later said, “The most curious thing about the letter was the total absence of a signature”

Step Seven:   Decide you’d better include your name somewhere.  Just in case.  So scribble it on a card using the the same large, loopy handwriting.

Step Eight:  Stick your work inside the card.  Emily enclosed four poems.  Send whatever you wish.

Step Nine:  Seal envelope.  Address it to person’s home address.  Emily mailed her poems to Mr. Higginson’s house in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Step Ten:   Put on sneakers, prepare to head out to the Post Office, when a creeping thought enters your mind: 

Perhaps times have changed.

Slightly.

Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Comments (22)  
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