The Flowers of Evil | Study Guide

Charles Baudelaire

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The Flowers of Evil | Character Analysis


Satan Trismegistus

Satan Trismegistus is alluded to with various names throughout the text, such as Satan, the Devil, and the Demon. Baudelaire believed that the world and mankind had "fallen" from God's grace and that mankind was controlled by an external evil force. By giving this evil force the name "Satan Trismegistus," Baudelaire invokes Trismegistus, the legendary originator of the protoscience of alchemy, which was concerned with the purification of substances and the search for an elixir of eternal youth. Satan's interference with humankind is thus likened to an alchemical practice. Many of the poems in the text are concerned with mankind's fallen situation and humanity's close relationship with Satan and exile from God. These include "Destruction," wherein the speaker explains that a Demon fills him with "sinful cravings never satisfied," and "Satan's Litanies," where the speaker praises Satan as the "Adoptive father to those an angry God / the Father drove from His earthly paradise."


Throughout the text, Baudelaire emphasizes the separation of mankind from God. In "Destruction," the speaker claims that by following the desires that "the Demon" introduces into his consciousness, he is lead away from "God's regard." The speaker in "St. Peter's Rebellion" criticizes God for ignoring humanity's suffering. "The Irremediable" describes mankind as "fallen / ... far from the eye of heaven." Mankind's separation from God is explicitly described in "Satan's Litanies," where the speaker proclaims Satan the "Adoptive father to those an angry God / the Father drove from His earthly paradise." However, mankind experiences a painful and constant yearning to be close to God, as the poem "Guiding Lights" expresses. This poem describes the scenes of suffering depicted in a group of famous paintings. The speaker then addresses God directly, claiming that such art is humanity crying out for God. It is "the best evidence / that we can offer of our dignity, / this sob that swells from age to age and dies / out on the shore of Your eternity!"

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