Baudelaire fans?

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Anyone got an oddly photographic memory and can tell me the name of the Baudelaire poem that contains the line 'The abyss of your bed?"
I can't remeber either the name of the poem or any other lines but I used to love it and it's driving me up the WALL!!! I'm pretty sure it was from The Flowers Of Evil, not that I supose that's going to help much considering the needle/haystack qualities of this question.

WeeklyWeekly, Saturday, 17 May 2003 10:23 (nineteen years ago) link

I know nothing of this poetry of which you speak, but if you google the line (inside quotes so it searches for the whole line rather than the separate words) it might get you somewhere. Or someone like Anthony might know.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Saturday, 17 May 2003 11:05 (nineteen years ago) link

Three translations of the same couplet, from LEHTE, which is part of Les Fleurs du Mal:

To swallow my abated sobs
Nothing equals your bed's abyss.

Nothing could equal your bed's abyss
When my silenced sobs must be swallowed;

To drown my sorrow there is no abyss,
However deep, that can compare with your bed.

The structure of Les Fleurs du Mal remains a mystery to me, but here's a link that may shed some light:

Hope it helps

Daniel (dancity), Saturday, 17 May 2003 11:28 (nineteen years ago) link

I meant LETHE, not lehte

Daniel (dancity), Saturday, 17 May 2003 11:29 (nineteen years ago) link

intimate journals = dog's bollocks.

piscesboy, Saturday, 17 May 2003 13:58 (nineteen years ago) link

Not to be super snob, right, but it's maybe good to look at the original - more than any other writer I can think of, Baudelaire sounds really, really wrong in translation, so even if you don't understand French, it's worth looking at if only for the sound of the words, and if you do.. there is a lot more space in the meanings of the words. In English he usually just sounds goth, which is unfortunate. Richard Howard's translation is the one to look for though, if you must.

daria g, Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:28 (nineteen years ago) link

maybe this is why i do not like charles, b/c of translation issues. also the dead whore shit is creepy.

anthony easton (anthony), Saturday, 17 May 2003 17:16 (nineteen years ago) link

I remember reading Baudelaire (in translation) as a young teenager and thinking, "Ah, this is no big deal. What's so dark and disturbing about it?" Several years back I read a couple of his poems (still in translation) and I found some of it heavy and genuinely disturbing.

Rockist Scientist, Saturday, 17 May 2003 17:25 (nineteen years ago) link

i never enjoyed Baudelaire = only read english translations

kephm, Saturday, 17 May 2003 18:05 (nineteen years ago) link

Thanks everyone, but horrifiyingly it's not Lethe I mean. I've remebered a tiny bit of the preceding line of the poem I'm actualy thinking, it's something like 'To calm my ------- -------, Nothing is better (?) than the abyss of your bed"
I wrote it out on the front of a valantines card for a ex and highbrow boyfriend years ago and for sentiments sake I realy realy want unearth the complete poem.
Translation wise, I have school girl french so I did read it in French with a French/English dictionary, an edition with an English translation in the facing page and a large brace of smelling salts at my elbow, and of course it is best to read it in it's original language but the best translation to me is the Jonathan Culler. Lovely understanding of poetic form I think.
Back to the drawing board then dramatic poetry scholars!

WeeklyWeekly, Saturday, 17 May 2003 20:23 (nineteen years ago) link

"Pour engloutir mes sanglots apaisés
Rien ne me vaut l'abime de ta couche"

thom west (thom w), Saturday, 17 May 2003 20:32 (nineteen years ago) link

Proche, mais pas de cigare Monsuier.
Pourtant, citer en Francias m'impresse toujours profondement.

WeeklyWeekly, Saturday, 17 May 2003 21:30 (nineteen years ago) link

Richard Howard's translation is the one to look for though, if you must.

My favourite Baudelaire translator is often Walter Martin, at least in terms of producing poetry that formally resembles the source, which is tough. As an example, here is a Baudelaire poem in French, followed by Howard's translation, and then Martin's.


Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes d'équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Que suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les goufres amers.

A peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comes des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, come it est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid!
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-guele,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;
Exilé sur le sol au mileu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

THE ALBATROSS (trans. Howard)

Often to pass the time on board, the crew
will catch an albatross, one of those big birds
which nonchalently chaperone a ship
across the bitter fathoms of the sea.

Tied to the deck, this sovereign of space,
as if embarrassed by its clumsiness,
pitiably lets its great white wings
drag at its sides like a pair of unshipped oars.

How weak and awkward, even comical
this traveller but lately so adoit -
one deckhand sticks a pipestem in its beak,
another mocks the cripple that once flew!

The Poet is like this monarch of the clouds
riding the storm above the marksman's range;
exiled on the ground, hooted and jeered,
he cannot walk because of his great wings.

THE ALBATROSS (trans. Martin)

Sometimes for cruel sport a crew will take
The sky's leviathan, an albatross,
That easygoing escort in the wake
Of vessels drifting on the salt abyss

Out of his element. A king of kings -
But once the men have wrestled him aboard,
Pathetically, he drags those futile wings
Behind him like a pair of great white oars.

This noble traveler, so graceful then,
So awkward now, and comical, and meek -
One sailor apes the sea-sick alien,
Another sticks a pipestem in his beak!

Cloud-sovereign himself, the poet seems
To rule the storm and taunt the crossbows's strings,
But exiled on the earth in scornful times,
Can never walk for such outlandish wings.

Eyeball Kicks (Eyeball Kicks), Saturday, 17 May 2003 22:39 (nineteen years ago) link

Hey, that is really interesting. I always uh.. je me méfie of translations that actually rhyme, but this is good stuff, because.. Howard as I recall (and after what I see here) has a more.. lofty, classicist sort of tone, which is usually something I appreciate because it heads off the overwrought, gothy effect you can easily get out of bad, more literal translations. The cool thing about Martin is the way he gets the effect of - wham! - the deliberate cruelty of what has happened by having the whole first stanza sort of float until you hit "Out of his element."

daria g, Sunday, 18 May 2003 01:23 (nineteen years ago) link

I've never really connected to Baudelaire for some reason, outside of that one about "you, my hypocrite reader" (which Eliot quotes in The Waste Land). Maybe I'm just more of a Rimbaud guy.

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 18 May 2003 05:42 (nineteen years ago) link

im a rimbaud guy too.

anthony easton (anthony), Sunday, 18 May 2003 06:17 (nineteen years ago) link

Surely there is room for more than one French poet in yr life!

daria g, Sunday, 18 May 2003 06:58 (nineteen years ago) link

thirteen years pass...

“The Bad Glazier,” a translation by David Lehman of Charles Baudelaire’s poem, Le Mauvais vitrier , appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of The Antioch Review.

The Bad Glazier
by Charles Baudelaire
translated by David Lehman

There are people who live entirely in their minds and are
totally impractical, utterly abstract, who can nevertheless, under the
sway of some mysterious force, act so decisively even they cannot
believe it.
One fellow comes home, fearful of bad news, so he paces for
a full hour in front of the concierge’s door, too nervous to knock but
too irresolute to leave; another one holds onto a letter for a fortnight
before he opens it; a third is still wondering, after six months have
gone by, whether to do something he should have done a year ago.
There are times when even such characters spring into action, rudely
propelled by an irresistible force, like an arrow shot from a bow.
The moralist and the physician, with their air of infallibility,
cannot explain where this energy comes from or how a good-for-nothing
idler or voluptuary, ordinarily incapable of running the simplest
errand, can somehow tap into that surfeit of bravery that emboldens
a man to perform the craziest and most reckless stunts.
A friend of mine, as innocuous a daydreamer as has ever
lived, once set a forest on fire just to see, he said, whether fire
spreads as speedily as people think. Ten times the experiment failed.
On the eleventh it succeeded all too well.
Somebody else will light a cigar near a powder keg just
to see, to know, to tempt destiny, to test his mettle, to gamble,
to enjoy the pleasures of anxiety, or for no reason at all, on a whim,
a piece of mischief born of idleness.
For the twin cause of this energy is ennui and fantasy;
and those in whom it manifests itself tend to be, as I have said,
the laziest of day-dreaming louts.
Someone too timid to meet your gaze, who needs to pluck
up all his courage just to enter a cafe or step into the box office
of a theater, where the ticket vendors appear vested with the majesty
of Minos, Eacus, and Rhadamanthus, will suddenly stop an old man in
the street, a stranger, and hug him with a big show of affection
before an astonished crowd.
Why? Because . . . because the man’s face struck him as
irresistibly sympathetic? Maybe. But it is likely he had no idea why
he acted as he did.
More than once have I myself been the victim of these
crises, these impulses that lead us to believe that we are possessed
by malicious Demons, imps of the perverse that make us do their
bidding, whether we will it or not.
One morning I woke up in a bad mood, depressed, exhausted,
yet motivated, as it seemed to me, to do something spectacular--to
attempt some heroic exploit. That is when, alas, I opened the window.
(Observe, please, that the mystical spirit, which, in some
of us, is a sign neither of overwork nor affectation but of inspiration
and good fortune, suggests, in the intensity of desire it rouses, a
certain state of mind--hysterical in the view of doctors, satanic
in the view of those who think more deeply than doctors -- in the
throes of which we may commit deeds as rash and dangerous as they
are transgressive.)
The first person I saw in the street below was a maker of
window glass loudly hawking his wares. He virtually punctured the
pestilential air of Paris with his shouts. I can’t say why the sight
of this poor bastard filled me with a surge of violent hatred,
but it did.
“Hey,” I shouted, motioning him to come upstairs. I grinned
at the thought that the glazier would have to climb six flights of
narrow stairs and that his fragile cargo might not survive intact.
And then there he was. I looked at the panes and said,
“What! No colored glass? No rose-colored glass, red glass, blue glass?
Where are the magic panes, the window-panes of paradise? What
impudence! You barge into this humble neighborhood without even
the decency to bring the glass that can make life beautiful.”
And I pushed him down the stairs.
I went to the balcony with a little flower pot and when he
emerged in front of the door, I dropped my engine of war perpendicularly.
The shock made him fall backward, breaking all the glass that remained
of his itinerant stock. It sounded like the cracking of a crystal palace
split by lightning.
Drunk with the madness of the moment I shouted: “Make life
beautiful! Make life beautiful!”
These impulsive jests are not without their hazards, and
sometimes there is a stiff price to pay. But what does an eternity
of damnation matter to one who has found in a single instant
an infinity of joy?

j., Saturday, 20 August 2016 07:35 (six years ago) link

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