Do words about beauty seem more intense, when they are written in the French language? It’s up to you, to decide this. For your convenience, the translated version of “La Beauté” is also included in this article.
At many times people have discussed and written about beauty. The trouble with beauty: it’s different for everyone. There isn’t one definition, even when there’s an explanation in the dictionary. What is beautiful for some, doesn’t have to be beautiful for others.
Yes, the poem written by Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867) is, in fact, a love poem. Is there need to give a biography of this French poet’s life after the article about one of his other poems – “La Vie antérieure” (“My former life” or “Previous Existence”)?
Les Fleurs du mal
This poem was first published in the book ” Les Fleurs du mal” (“The flowers of evil”) in 1857. This book was important because it’s based on the Symbolist and Modernist movements. It was way ahead of its time because the book contained erotic and decadent poems. More about this book can be read on this page. As you can read, many poets were inspired by the words of Baudelaire. Poets across the globe nowadays still are greatly inspired by this French poet.
About the poem
This poem is very closely related to the poet. Actually, to his mental wellbeing at that time. Baudelaire presented (or presents) beauty, with an allegory of beauty. He also wants to reveal an intelligible world. Also, the poet is greatly inspired by Parnassianism and the idea of perfection.
Parnassianism was a style in French literature that was thriving during the time of the Positivism (the philosophical theory that real knowledge or genuine knowledge is exclusively derived from the experience of natural phenomena, their relations and their properties). This was after Romanticism and before Symbolism.
Je suis belle, ô mortels! comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s’est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière.
Je trône dans l’azur comme un sphinx incompris;
J’unis un coeur de neige à la blancheur des cygnes;
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes,
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.
Les poètes, devant mes grandes attitudes,
Que j’ai l’air d’emprunter aux plus fiers monuments,
Consumeront leurs jours en d’austères études;
Car j’ai, pour fasciner ces dociles amants,
De purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles:
Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartés éternelles!
I am fair, O mortals! like a dream carved in stone,
And my breast where each one in turn has bruised himself
Is made to inspire in the poet a love
As eternal and silent as matter.
On a throne in the sky, a mysterious sphinx,
I join a heart of snow to the whiteness of swans;
I hate movement for it displaces lines,
And never do I weep and never do I laugh.
Poets, before my grandiose poses,
Which I seem to assume from the proudest statues,
Will consume their lives in austere study;
For I have, to enchant those submissive lovers,
Pure mirrors that make all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my large, wide eyes of eternal brightness!
Translated by: William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)