In the 1840s Charles Baudelaire was a regular member of the infamous Club des Hashischins ("Club of the Hashish-Eaters"), a Parisian literary group dedicated to the exploration of altered states of consciousness, principally through the use of hashish (a concentrated form of cannabis resin). Other notable members of this group included Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Gerard de Nerval, Honore de Balzac, and Theophile Gautier, all dedicated to experimenting with drugs and drug-induced states. As a denizen of the Hashishin Club, Charles Baudelaire was well-placed to turn his drug experiences, and those of others, into literature. Inspired by Thomas de Quincey's 1821 Confessions Of An Opium-Eater (which he would also translate into French), he turned his writing to drug intoxication around 1850, eventually producing a collection of drug-related writings titled Artificial Paradise, published in 1858. As well as a modified version of an earlier essay, now titled "On Wine And Hashish", Artificial Paradise contained this "The Poem Of Hashish", a lengthy dissertation on the effects of prolonged hashish use.
Let it be well understood then, by worldly and ignorant folk, curious of acquaintance with exceptional joys, that they will find in hashish nothing miraculous, absolutely nothing but the natural in a superabundant degree. The brain and the organism upon which hashish operates will only give their ordinary and individual phenomena, magnified, it is true, both in quantity and quality, but always faithful to their origin. Man cannot escape the fatality of his moral and physical temperament. Hashish will be, indeed, for the impressions and familiar thoughts of the man, a mirror which magnifies, yet no more than a mirror. Here is the drug before your eyes: a little green sweetmeat, about as big as a nut, with a strange smell; so strange that it arouses a certain revulsion, and inclinations to nausea-as, indeed, any fine and even agreeable scent, exalted to its maximum strength and (so to say) density, would do. There! there is happiness; heaven in a teaspoon; happiness, with all its intoxication, all its folly, all its childishness. You can swallow it without fear; it is not fatal; it will in nowise injure your physical organs. Perhaps (later on) too frequent an employment of the sorcery will diminish the strength of your will; perhaps you will be less a man than you are today; but retribution is so far off, and the nature of the eventual disaster so difficult to define! What is it that you risk? A little nervous fatigue to-morrow-no more. Do you not every day risk greater punishments for less reward?