Challenges of Modernity
Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, has been widely regarded as one of the
grandfathers of modernity.
Indeed, it has been said that his poem “Le Cygne” (English
translation, “The Swan”) started the Modernist movement
Of all his books,
(English translation, “
The Flowers of Evil
,” first published in 1857) is the most
well known, with its violent themes and revolutionary style.
The book itself was in fact
almost banned due to its reported vulgarity and lack of moral sense.
Instead, six poems
deemed especially explicit were removed from the text.
Baudelaire’s work as both a poet
and a translator/critic, specifically of fellow poet Edgar Allan Poe, has lived on to inspire
younger poets such as T. S. Eliot, as well as artists in other fields such as the Cubist
painter Pablo Picasso.
Baudelaire’s fame ranges so far as for his name to be used in a
recent children’s book,
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Although “Le Cygne” is one of
his most famous poems, the darker poem “Heautontimoroumenos” is more exemplary of
Baudelaire’s work and mentality.
Formal analysis of Charles Baudelaire’s poems must begin with his book,
Fleurs du Mal
, as a whole.
Baudelaire wrote the poems contained in the book not as
individual verses but as one long flowing piece
Baudelaire put a great deal of effort into
the construction of
Les Fleurs du Mal
with the hopes of creating an overarching feeling
that ran through the entirety of the book.
He took the assembly of the book so seriously
that when six of his poems were deemed inappropriate, Baudelaire reworked the entire
Lloyd, Rosemary, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire
. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge UP,
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events
. HarperCollins, 1999.
Baudelaire, Charles. The Flowers of Evil
. Trans. Keith Waldrop. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan UP, 2006.