Charles Pierre Baudelaire – The Awkward Poet
Charles Pierre Baudelaire (Paris, April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was a French poet, the forerunner and founder of modernism.
Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. His father, a senior civil servant and amateur artist, died during the Baudelaire childhood in 1827. The following year, his mother, Carolina, who was thirty-four years younger than his father, remerried a lieutenant colonel who later became a French ambassador to various tribal courts.
Baudelaire had a close and complex relationship with his mother. He later stated: “I loved my mother for her elegance.” He later wrote to her: “In my childhood, there was a period of passionate love for you.” His stepfather was a tough educator, but he was still concerned about Baudelaire’s upbringing and the future.
Baudelaire was educated in Lyon, where he was forced to stay at the pension, away from his mother (even during the holidays) and accepted his step-fathers’ methods, which included a ban on going home. Recalling those years, he wrote: “I get angry when I think about those years … for a sad childhood, loneliness in my heart.” At the age of fourteen, Baudelaire was described in his class as much more precise and different than other of his fellow students. At the age of eighteen, Baudelaire was described as “an exalted character, sometimes very mysterious and sometimes very immoral and cynical.” He was reluctant to talk about his future. is to his brother: “I do not feel that I have a title.” His stepfather had planned a career in law or diplomacy for him, but Baudelaire decided to dedicate himself to a literary career.
Baudelaire often visited prostitutes and at that time he became infected with gonorrhea and syphilis. At the recommendation of his elder brother Alphonse (a judge), he went to a pharmacist known for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. For some time he lived with prostitute Sarah, and with his brother, when he was in a bad financial situation. He received a low daily subsistence allowance, which he spent very quickly. Baudelaire began to borrow money, mainly because of the purchase of clothing. His stepfather demanded financial accounts and wrote to Alphonse: “There is a moment to do something and keep your brother from ruin.” Hoping to succeed in changing him and making him a man, his stepfather sent him on a trip to India in 1841 , with the oversight of the former naval captain. Baudelaire’s mother was sad about his inappropriate behavior.
This strenuous journey did not make Baudelaire turn his thoughts from a literary career, nor change his behavior and life attitudes, so it was agreed that the naval captain would return Baudelaire home. From the trip he returned home richer for many experiences (one of them was riding elephants) and with impressions related to the sea, sailing and exotic ports, which he later used in his poetry. Baudelaire returned to Paris after less than a year of absence. Unfortunately for his parents, he was solved more than ever to continue his literary career. His mother later said, “Oh, what a crash! If Charles’s career was led by his stepfather, he would be much different than he was … he would not leave a trace in literature, his name would not be remembered that way it is true, but it would be much happier, we would all be happier.”
Baudelaire soon returned to the recitation of his unpublished poems and enjoyed enjoying his artistic peers. At age of twenty one, he had received a large inheritance, over 100,000 francs and four land plots, but spent most of that wealth within a few years. His accumulated debts have far exceeded his annual income and from desperation, his family put the property under mortgage. At that time he met with Miss Duval, daughter of one of the prostitutes. It was his longest romantic relationship during which he discovered the magic and bitterness of passion.
Although his work in 1843 had not yet been published, Baudelaire became known in art circles as a poacher and a poet. He bought books, and art pieces and antiques he was not able to afford. During 1844, he took food on credit, and half of his property was lost. Baudelaire regularly prayed to his mother to give him money while he was trying to advance his career. He met Balzac and during that period he wrote many songs that were found in the collection of the Caves of Evil. His first published artwork is an overview of the “Salon of 1845”. Baudelaire showed that he wanted to be well-informed, was a passionate critic and attracted the attention of the art community. That income flight was modest and the debts were large, he was alone and suspicious of the future, because “fatigue falls into sleep and fatigue of awakening”. He decided to commit suicide and leave the rest of his legacy lovers. However, he did not kill himself, he only wounded himself with a knife. As he recovered, he begged his mother to visit him, but she did not pay attention to his petitions, most probably because her husband forbid to visit her son. Baudelaire was for some time homeless and completely alienated from his parents.
In 1846 he wrote the second Salon Review and gained extra credibility as a prophet and critic of romance. The following year, Baudelaire’s novel La Fanfarlo was released.
Baudelaire has been involved in the revolution since 1848. For several years he was interested in republic politics, but his political tendencies were more influenced by emotional attitudes than solid beliefs. His stepfather was also a participant in the revolution. During 1850, Baudelaire fought with weak health, pressure on debts, and the inaccuracy of writing and making his own art scene. He often moved from one apartment to another and maintained an uncomfortable relationship with his mother, often asking for money. He agreed to do many projects that he was not able to complete completely, but he managed to complete the translation of Edgar Allan Po’s story that was published. Baudelaire learned English at young age, and Gothic novels, and the short stories, became his favorite reading matter.
After his step-father’s death in 1857, Baudelaire did not even mention it to him, but he became involved with his mother in order to improve their relationship. Still strong emotionally tied to her, he wrote: “I believe that I belong to you completely and that I belong to you only.”
Baudelaire occupies the position of the first poet in French poetry whose poetry made a strong breakthrough in other European literature and influenced further flows of European poetry. In his time, unjustly neglected, Baudelaire’s poetry later became a general recognition for decades, became a model and inspiration, based on the poetics of symbolism, the strongest and most prominent literary direction of modern Europe: as Baudelaire’s poetry remained radiant with ever more pure shine, Thus, the symbolism of the symbolism remained to last in contemporary poetry.
Baudelaire is the best example of a close relationship between the poet’s life and his poetry. He survived his poetry, so his poetry equally explains life as life explains the poetry. But Baudelaire’s experiences of the world and of life, personal existence and the experience of life, did not as such enter into poetry – his poetic speech has metaphysical depth and universal validity.
Family and personal life left deep and painful traces in Baudelaire’s soul. He was born into a marriage in which a husband is thirty years older than a woman and has continuously underlined this fact and saw the cause of his emotional accident in her. Often, speaking of the father he lost at the age of seven, he said that he was ten years older than he really was. The boy was hit hard by his father’s death, and even more strongly his mother’s decision to remarry. Love for his mother was jeopardized by his judgment. Baudelaire was a very attentive stepfather and a very good man who tried to please his step-son and learn him the way of the life. However, this could not have calmed down the boy’s heart in which the flame of jealousy and hatred was fluttering. From this emotional fracture in the triangle stepfather – the mother – boy cursed Baudelaire’s top poetry.
From his hurtful love to his mother and from the hatred he instilled this innocence, an infant was born, escape from the world of order and morality into the world of disorder and immorality, loneliness and self-destruction. Boem, the opponent of everything “normal” in society and life, he lives on by the barns and burdens; enjoys alcohol and drugs; lives with prostitutes; has of syphilis. All attempts by the family (mother and stepfather) to help him have failed. Such a way of life, created on defiance and protest, becomes a lifestyle. His password is “Drink without ceasing! Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish.” Drinking is a flight from everyday life and entering the world of enthusiasm and illusion. Baudelaire’s defiant and defiant power was tough – he tended everything to the confrontation with the world he once lived in. Such a life, defiance and protest will become a characteristic feeling of the latter poets to be called Baudelairism. However, there was a split in the poet’s personality. One of his parts hated the world and despised him, and therefore he was running away in solitude, but the other was generalized with the world of poetry he had created and the messages it carried.
Baudelaire is a poet, essayist, critic and theorist of poetry; he translated Edgar Allan Po’s prose and published two books of his stories. But poetry is the main value of Baudelaire’s creativity. For life, he published only one book of poems – Flowers of Evil in 1857, but it was enough to make Baudelaire the greatest French poet of the 19th century and poet who brought French poetry into the world.
The flowers of evil is the poet Baudelaire’s spiritual biography: “In this book I put my whole heart, all my tenderness, all my faith, all my hatred.” It has love and tenderness, beauty and sunshine, sun and ideals. But too little. There is too much coldness and death, darkness and corpses, boredom and wastefulness. The most common philosophical, psychological and existential categories of Baudelaire poetry are: breakaway, hell, boredom, nonsense, nonsense, disappointment, sinfulness, loneliness, despair, clumsiness, disease, dying, death, decomposition, sludge, cliché, carcasses, turbines, cemeteries, worms, smell, love, music, beauty, sun, dusk, ideal.
It’s a bit of Baudelaire’s poetry of light and life, it’s mostly dark and dying. Nothing, nonsense, despair and clumsiness are the dominant feelings and moods. The image of the world in this poetry is too dark and pessimistic. His pessimism will paint the latter poetry of Baudelaire followers from the era of European modern literature.
From this connection of the utter rationality of a Cartesian spirit and extreme irrationality, a terrible depth in Baudelaire’s poems arises. Baudelaire does the same thing that later Kafka will do: in the calmest, most hectic way, he talks about things that stir up anxiety and horror, to present the absurd as something completely normal, to present horror, horror, and bestiality as order, beauty and grace.
Baudelaire’s book of poems made a revolution in poetry: “Flowers of Evil do not contain any historical poetry or legend, nothing that is based on narrative, no philosophical tirade will be revealed, and politics is not here.” Descriptions are rare and always bearers of meaning. But everything is charm, music, powerful and abstract sense… It brings content and shapes, ideas and actions that, in the epoch of modern (symbolism), will get full affirmation. This poetry suggests the role of dreams and irrational worlds in poetry, which will be realized in surrealism. Baudelaire’s poetry left the nucleus and perfection of the form, precision and symbolism of language, the special rhythm and musicality of the lyrics, the gloomy experience of the world and pessimism. Sinesthesia, this most beautiful and richest metaphor, was created in this poetry.
The fate of the poet Baudelaire is strange: in his time he was not understood, nor accepted, he was least famous. But as time passed, his poetry was becoming more and more influential. It seemed that at that time, through his followers Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud, he reached the zenith of glory. It was not like that. As time goes by, Baudelaire is becoming more and more famous. His rise does not cease, his modernity is contemporary. Andre Jew was undoubtedly right when he said: “Mode passes, critics also, Baudelaire stays.”
To the dearest, fairest woman
Who sets my heart ablaze with light,
To the angel, the immortal idol,
Greetings in immortality!
She permeates my life
Like air impregnated with salt
And into my unsated soul
Pours the taste for the eternal.
Sachet, ever fresh, that perfumes
The atmosphere of a dear nook,
Forgotten censer smoldering
Secretly through the night,
Everlasting love, how can I
Describe you truthfully?
Grain of musk that lies unseen
In the depths of my eternity!
To the dearest, fairest woman
Who is my health and my delight
To the angel, the immortal idol,
Greetings in immortality!