Baudelaire is the most influential French poet of the last seventy years. 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...
Baudelaire is the most influential French poet of the last seventy years. 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 aesthetic 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.
Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was a French poet who produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.
Baudelaire is one of the major innovators in French literature. His poetry is influenced by the French romantic poets of the earlier 19th century, although its attention to the formal features of verse connect it more closely to the work of the contemporary "Parnassians". As for theme and tone, in his works we see the rejection of the belief in the supremacy of nature and the fundamental goodness of man as typically espoused by the romantics and expressed by them in rhetorical, effusive and public voice in favor of a new urban sensibility, an awareness of individual moral complexity, an interest in vice (linked with decadence) and refined sensual and aesthetical pleasures, and the use of urban subject matter, such as the city, the crowd, individual passers-by, all expressed in highly ordered verse, sometimes through a cynical and ironic voice. Formally, the use of sound to create atmosphere, and of "symbols", (images which take on an expanded function within the poem), betray a move towards considering the poem as a self-referential object, an idea further developed by the Symbolists Verlaine and Mallarmé, who acknowledge Baudelaire as a pioneer in this regard.
Beyond his innovations in versification and the theories of symbolism and "correspondences", an awareness of which is essential to any appreciation of the literary value of his work, aspects of his work which regularly receive (or have received) much critical discussion include the role of women, the theological direction of his work and his alleged advocacy of "satanism", his experience of drug-induced states of mind, the figure of the dandy, and his stance regarding democracy and its implications for the individual.