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Oxford University Press
The Flowers of Evil

The Flowers of Evil

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In the annals of literature, few volumes of poetry have achieved the influence and notoriety of 'The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs dur Mal) by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67). Banned and slighted in his lifetime, the book that contains all of Baudelaire's verses has opened up vistas to the imagination and quickened sensibilities of poets everywhere.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199535583
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 05/15/2008
Series: Oxford World's Classics Series
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 159,262
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is most famous for his groundbreaking collection of verse The Flowers of Evil, but his essays, translations, and prose poems have been equally influential.

Marthiel Mathews was an American poet, translator of French poetry, and academic.

Jackson Mathews was an American scholar, poet, and translator of French poetry.

Read an Excerpt


The modern literary spirit was born out of the measured angles so carefully calculated by Laclos. He was the first element discovered by Baudelaire, who was a refined and reasonable explorer from a privileged background, but whose views on modern life contained a particular madness.

Laclos delighted in inspiring the corrupt bubbles that rose from the strange and rich literary mud of the Revolution. Like Diderot, Laclos was the intellectual son of Richardson and Rousseau, and his work was continued by Sade, Restif, Nerciat - some of the most notable philosophical storytellers of the late 18th century. Most of them, in fact, contained the seeds of the modern spirit, and they were poised to create a triumphant new era for arts and letters.

During this nauseating and often brilliant era of Revolution, Baudelaire mingled his spiritualistic poison with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, a strange American, who had composed, in the poetic field, work which was as disturbing and as marvellous as the work of Laclos.

Baudelaire then is the son of Laclos and Poe. One can easily untangle the influence that each exerted on Baudelaire's prophetic mind and on his work, both so full of originality. As of this year, 1917, when his work enters the public domain, we can not only place him in the front rank of the great French poets, but also award him a place alongside the greatest of universal poets.

The evidence for the influence of the cynical writers of the Revolution on Les Fleurs du Mal can be seen everywhere in Baudelaire's correspondence and in his notes. When he decided to translate and adapt Poe's works, strangely, he found a higher lyricism and moral feeling than he had thought was present in the writings of the marvellous Baltimore drunkard and his prohibited readings.

In the novelists of the Revolution, he had discovered the importance of the question of sex.

From the Anglo-Saxons of the same era, such as de Quincey and Poe, Baudelaire had learned that there were artificial paradises. Their methodical exploration - supported by Reason, the revolutionary goddess - enabled him to reach the lyrical heights towards which the mad American predicants had directed Poe, their contemporary. But Reason blinded him, and he abandoned it as soon as he had reached the heights.

Baudelaire then is the son of Laclos and Edgar Allan Poe, but a son who is blind and insane...

Table of Contents

Translator’s Introduction
The Flowers of Evil
To the Reader
Spleen and Ideal
The Albatross
“I like to bring to mind . . .”
Beacon Lights
Sick Muse
Mercenary Muse
The Bad Monk
The Enemy
Bad Luck
The Life Before
Gypsy Travelers
Man and Sea
Don Juan in Hell
Pride Punished
The Ideal
The Mask
Hymn to Beauty
Exotic Perfume
“I adore you . . .”
"You would take the whole universe . . .”
Sed Non Satiata
“In her flowing pearly garments . . .”
Dancing Serpent
De Profundis Clamavi
“One night while I lay . . .”
Posthumous Remorse
The Cat
The Balcony
The Possessed
A Phantom
“I give you these verses . . .”
Semper Eadem
“What will you say this evening . . .”
Living Torch
Spiritual Dawn
Evening’s Harmony
Poison l Sky in Confusion
The Fine-looking Ship
Invitation to the Voyage
The Irreparable
Autumn Song
To a Madonna
Afternoon Song
Franciscæ Meæ Laudes
To a Creole Lady
Moesta et Errabunda
Autumn Sonnet
The Sorrowing Moon
The Pipe
A Fantasy Print
Dead Man Glad
The Vessel of Hate
The Cracked Bell
The Taste for Nothing
Alchemy of Pain
Sympathetic Horror
Beyond Remedy
The Clock
Parisian Scenes
The Sun
To a Redheaded Beggar Girl
The Swan
The Seven Old Men
The Little Old Women
The Blind
To a Woman Passing By
The Skeleton Laborer
Evening Twilight
Danse Macabre
Love of a Lie
“I have not forgotten . . .”
“The big-hearted servant . . .”
Fog, Rain
Paris Dream
Morning Twilight
The Soul of the Wine
The Ragpicker’s Wine
The Assassin’s Wine
The Wine of the Solitary
The Wine of Lovers
Flowers of Evil
A Martyr
Women Damned
The Two Good Sisters
The Fountain of Blood
His Beatrice
A Voyage to Cythera
Love and the Skull
Saint Peter’s Denial
Abel and Cain
Litanies of Satan
The Death of Lovers
Death of the Poor
The Death of Artists
End of Day
Dream of a Curious Character
The Voyage
The Banned Poems
Women Damned
To Her, Too Merry
The Jewels
Metamorphoses of the Vampire

What People are Saying About This

Norma Cole

“This is the Baudelaire translation for our time—and for all time. Relentlessly straightforward, surprisingly succinct, hilarious and horrifying as they are, these poems have never been as readable in English.”

Cole Swensen

“There are numerous translations of Les Fleurs du Mal in print, but none even approach Waldrop’s-he alone captures the speed and verve of the real Baudelaire.”

From the Publisher

"This is the Baudelaire translation for our time—and for all time. Relentlessly straightforward, surprisingly succinct, hilarious and horrifying as they are, these poems have never been as readable in English."—Norma Cole, author of Spinoza in Her Youth

"There are numerous translations of Les Fleurs du Mal in print, but none even approach Waldrop's-he alone captures the speed and verve of the real Baudelaire."—Cole Swensen, Iowa Writers' Workshop

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The Flowers of Evil 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SeraJane More than 1 year ago
I've been studying French for a while and I really wanted to find a copy of The Flowers of Evil that had the original French text. I love that this copy has not only that, but it parallels it with English text to make comprehension that much easier. It also has plenty of notes that explain a lot of Charles Baudelaire's hidden meanings in his writing which I found extremely enlightening, as well as a biography on the man himself. It's a fantastic version, and I'm more than happy with my purchase and will definitely check out the Oxford World Classics series again!
unknown_zoso05 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simply powerful and moving. Baudelaire really knows how to throw a reader in to an abyss. While the poems have a tendency to be grim, the language that he uses makes them lovely in their very own way. I haven't read all the poems in French but some things get lost in translation in the English versions. I recommend reading them in French as well.
poetontheone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The epitome of decadence and one of the greatest volumes of modern poetry. Dark, sometimes gruesome, images of sex and death are presented in beautiful language completely opposite to its subject. It is no wonder why this volume fought constant censorship in France from its initial publication in 1857 all the way up to sixty years ago. If you enjoy poetry, you have to read this. If you don't enjoy poetry, you have to read this. I read the MacGowan translation, which seems to preserve the cadence very well. Perfect for a cold morning with a cup of hot tea.
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