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Seven Olympians 5 - Charles Baudelaire

Baudelaire is an exhilarating poet of the sea-voyage and the love-song who becomes the wandering lone lover of a city, descendant of Homer’s Ulysses, forefather of Joyce’s. To read him is to be instantaneously young, a champion bourgeois-baiting Frenchman, charismatically jaundiced, eloquently susceptible to beauty, isolation, melancholy, the wonders of transgression and the dark side, and hungry to paint the hidden faces of the Paris he famously dubbed a ‘swarming city, city full of dreams’.

Evening Harmony

Now comes the eve, when on its stem vibrates
Each flower, evaporating like a censer;
When sounds and scents in the dark air grow denser;
Drowsed swoon through which a mournful waltz pulsates!
Each flower evaporates as from a censer;
The fiddle like a hurt heart palpitates;
Drowsed swoon through which a mournful waltz pulsates;
The sad, grand sky grows, altar-like, immenser.
The fiddle, like a hurt heart, palpitates,
A heart that hates oblivion, ruthless censor.
The sad, grand sky grows, altar-like, immenser.
The sun in its own blood coagulates...
A heart that hates oblivion, ruthless censor,
The whole of the bright past resuscitates.
The sun in its own blood coagulates...
And, monstrance-like, your memory flames intenser!

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)


“The king of poets, a true God”
(Arthur Rimbaud)

“You have found a way to rejuvenate Romanticism . . . You are as unyielding as marble and as penetrating as an English mist”.
(Gustave Flaubert to Baudelaire)
 
Invitation to the Voyage

Think, would it not be
Sweet to live with me
All alone, my child, my love? —
Sleep together, share
All things, in that fair
Country you remind me of?
Charming in the dawn
There, the half-withdrawn
Drenched, mysterious sun appears
In the curdled skies,
Treacherous as your eyes
Shining from behind their tears.

There, restraint and order bless
Luxury and voluptuousness.

We should have a room
Never out of bloom:
Tables polished by the palm
Of the vanished hours
Should reflect rare flowers
In that amber-scented calm;
Ceilings richly wrought,
Mirrors deep as thought,
Walls with eastern splendor hung,
All should speak apart
To the homesick heart
In its own dear native tongue.

There, restraint and order bless
Luxury and voluptuousness.

See, their voyage past,
To their moorings fast,
On the still canals asleep,
These big ships; to bring
You some trifling thing
They have braved the furious deep.
— Now the sun goes down,
Tinting dyke and town,
Field, canal, all things in sight,
Hyacinth and gold;
All that we behold
Slumbers in its ruddy light.

There, restraint and order bless
Luxury and voluptuousness.

Charles Baudelaire, ‘Invitation to the Voyage’, translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)


“Any man who does not accept the conditions of life sells his soul”. (Charles Baudelaire)

"I was enthralled by Graham Fawcett's talk on Baudelaire.  He painted such vivid pictures with words, that you felt you understood the troubled poet and essayist, and the 'modern' influences of Paris in the 1800s that had shaped his life, loves and work.  Graham drew the listener into the world of the poet with such skill that, despite no previous knowledge of the subject and the sometimes complex nature of his work, I was totally at ease with Baudelaire's highly unique style.  Several pieces were delivered in full in the original French, allowing the music and rhythm of the lines to be appreciated, before an equally entertaining translation was given. A thoroughly enjoyable evening".
                                                                     (Meg Depla-Lake, at Baudelaire Night in Lewes)
 

"I want to say how much I enjoyed your lecture last night; it set me thinking.... and this is always a welcome thing".                                
                                                                   (Audience member in Lewes)
Forthcoming Dates
Seven Olympians 5 - Charles Baudelaire The Great Chamber, Sutton House
London