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A love of literature runs deep in my veins. Books and poetry are as necessary to my existence as oxygen, water, or tea. I love many many authors and many many works of art, but I have two main literary men in my life (the other going by the initials EAP), and this one may be my Main Man. Few affect me as this one does and I wrote my Master’s Thesis around his works. He is Charles Baudelaire, my literary soulmate, and today is his birthday.

He led a wild life, a full life, a bitter life, a drunken life, a talented life (his self portrait is reproduced below), a brilliant, inspired life. I’ll celebrate it, as I always do, with a journey back through his works, his journals, and Les Fleurs du Mal, the entirety of which, including translations is available at this link. My Main Man also draws me back to my other literary boyfriend: Baudelaire loved Poe and spent most of 1846 through 1865 at work translating the works of Poe into French; they are widely considered among the absolute best. Both lived hard, wild lives, struggled with illness, depression, and poverty and died in their 40’s. As he says in the following poem (Translation at the link in the title), “Angel full of gaity: have you known anguish?” Yet, he turned sorrow into beauty and as he says in his epilogue to the 2nd edition of Fleurs du Mal, “Tu m’as donné ta boue et j’en ai fait de l’or.”

You gave me your mud and with it I made gold.


Ange plein de gaieté, connaissez-vous l’angoisse,
La honte, les remords, les sanglots, les ennuis,
Et les vagues terreurs de ces affreuses nuits
Qui compriment le coeur comme un papier qu’on froisse?
Ange plein de gaieté, connaissez-vous l’angoisse?

Ange plein de bonté, connaissez-vous la haine,
Les poings crispés dans l’ombre et les larmes de fiel,
Quand la Vengeance bat son infernal rappel,
Et de nos facultés se fait le capitaine?
Ange plein de bonté connaissez-vous la haine?

Ange plein de santé, connaissez-vous les Fièvres,
Qui, le long des grands murs de l’hospice blafard,
Comme des exilés, s’en vont d’un pied traînard,
Cherchant le soleil rare et remuant les lèvres?
Ange plein de santé, connaissez-vous les Fièvres?

Ange plein de beauté, connaissez-vous les rides,
Et la peur de vieillir, et ce hideux tourment
De lire la secrète horreur du dévouement
Dans des yeux où longtemps burent nos yeux avide!
Ange plein de beauté, connaissez-vous les rides?

Ange plein de bonheur, de joie et de lumières,
David mourant aurait demandé la santé
Aux émanations de ton corps enchanté;
Mais de toi je n’implore, ange, que tes prières,
Ange plein de bonheur, de joie et de lumières!