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Essay on baudelaire

essay on baudelaire Particularly, in The Flowers of Evil, from which the three chosen works for this paper originate, Baudelaire "combines the passion of Romanticism with the Parnassian perfection of form", yet is also seen as the "founder" of symbolism (Harris 78; Haviland). It is in these three styles that three common elements can be found in the poems "Elevation," "Spleen," and "To One Who is Too Gay."

To begin with, in "Elevation," the romantic and the symbolic style tie in very closely through the "appreciation of external nature" associated with romanticism, but at the same time using nature symbolically to suggest the "ideal," which is associated with symbolism (Merriam-Webster, "Romanticism" and "Symbolism"). He expresses that he is soaring above "ponds," "valleys," "woods," "mountains," "clouds," and "seas" to connote that he is above earthly worries and above the material life of mortal men. He goes on to say that he is farther than the "sun," "the distant breeze," and the "spheres" of outer space to describe a state even beyond these abstract objects which are usually associated with divine beings (Baudelaire, "Elevation").

essay on baudelaire The Writer of Modern Life   Walter Benjamin, Michael W.

These associations have deemed him as a "patron saint of modernist poetry" while at the same time closely tying his style in with the turbulent revolutionary movements in France and Europe during the 19th century (Haviland, screens 5-10). By comparing three of his poems, "Spleen," "Elevation," and "To One Who Is Too Gay," from his masterpiece The Flowers of Evil, three evident commonalities can be found throughout the works in the influence that the three 19th-century styles of Romanticism, Parnassianism, and Symbolism had on his poetry.

Charles-Pierre Baudelaire was born on April 9, 1821 in Paris, France to the parents of Francois Baudelaire and Caroline Defayis (Christohersen, Biography). It was his father, Francois, who taught Charles to appreciate the arts, because he was also a mildly talented poet and painter himself. In February 1827, Francois died when Charles was only six, after which Charles and his mother developed an extremely close relationship until she remarried in 1828 to Major Jacques Aupick (Veinotte; Christohersen, Biography).

More than most Romantics, he wrote poetry based on the ugliness of urban life and drew an intense beauty from the prosaic and the unspeakable. Although major Romantics, including Victor Hugo, had broken down many restrictions on subjects that could be treated in poetry, Baudelaire went further, choosing such topics as crime, disease, and prostitution as his points of departure. While many Romantics suggest a transcendent redemptive quality in art, a spiritual enlightenment that gives readers a kind of religious or social pathway to liberation, Baudelaire tantalizes the reader with religious hope but then pulls it away, suggesting that all hope is in the moment of artistic insight and not in the real future.

The image of the poet as prophet or spiritually superior dreamer, typical of Hugo or Alfred de Vigny, flickers occasionally through Baudelaire’s work, but it generally yields to an image of the poet as a sensitive and marginal individual whose only superiority to his contemporaries is his consciousness of his corruption and decadence, something Baudelaire expressed as “conscience [or consciousness] in the midst of evil.

Whatever one may think about the authority of such claims, the six major divisions of the book, beginning with the longest section, eighty-five poems, titled “Spleen et idéal” (“Spleen and Ideal”), and ending with the six poems of “La Mort” (“Death”), seem to outline a thematic and perhaps even chronological passage from aspirations toward a transcendence of pain, suffering, and evil (in the earliest section) through the exploration of various kinds of intoxication or escape—glimpsed in the sections “Le Vin” (“Wine”), “Flowers of Evil,” and “Révolte” (“Rebellion”)—only to end in death, seen itself as a form of escape from the disappointments or boredom of this world.

“To the Reader”

Throughout Flowers of Evil, a major theme is the uncovering of man’s own contradictions, hypocrisies, desires, and crimes: all the aspects of life and fantasy that the respectable middle class hides.

Instead, it promotes a third term into what is usually a simple dilemma: Boredom, as the greatest of vices, is an aesthetic concept that replaces traditional moral concepts of evil as that which must be avoided at all costs, a vice which “could swallow the world in a yawn.” In religious verse, the address to the reader as a brother is part of a call, first to recognize a common weakness and, second, to repent. Baudelaire does make an avowal of similarity but calls for an aesthetic rather than an ethical response.

“Beacons”

The largest part of Flowers of Evil evokes a struggle against boredom through the artistic use of the ugliness of everyday life and ordinary, even abject, passions. The poem “Les Phares” (“Beacons”) is an enumeration of eight great painters, including Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo, not as a celebration of human greatness but as a testimony to human sentiment and sensation, predominantly in the negative.

It was at the latter that he began to write poetry and develop moods of depression, and in 1839 he was expelled for being unruly. Eventually he became a student of law at the Ecole de Droit but in reality lived a "free life" and it was here that he came into contact with the literary world for the first time. He also contracted VD, which was to be the cause of his death years later.

Aupick, hoping to draw Baudelaire away from the lifestyle he was living, sent him on a ship for India in 1841. Baudelaire jumped ship and returned to France almost a year later, but his travels came to be an enormous influence on his work. On his return, Baudelaire received a huge inheritance from his parents but spent it so rapidly on drugs, clothes, fine foods, fine wines, books, and paintings that he was later denied access to his inheritance and was made a legal minor.

Another significant part of Baudelaire's life was women. Three women in particular are extremely significant in how they influenced his writing and what they represented in his philosophy of life.

Poe subsequently came to be a major influence on Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry and even played a role in contemporary French psychoanalysis.

In terms of poetic form, Baudelaire’s major innovation was undoubtedly in the prose poem, which existed before him but achieved status as a major form principally through Paris Spleen, 1869. In his verse, Baudelaire often used the highly restrictive “fixed forms” with their set repetition of certain verses, such as the pantoum, in which the second and fourth verses of one stanza become the first and third of the following four-verse unit. Such forms were common among the Romantics, but Baudelaire’s combination of this formal perfection with surprising and even shocking subjects produces a dissonant and unforgettable music. Baudelaire thus avoids the pitfalls of the school of “art for art’s sake,” which he denounced for its exclusive attachment to surface beauty.

Flowers of Evil

Baudelaire insisted that Flowers of Evil should be read as a structured whole and not as a random collection of verse.

” Over this humanity presides the Devil, described two stanzas later as the magician, not Hermes but Satan Trismegistus (three-times great), who turns the rich metal of the will into vapor like an alchemist working backwards. Building toward what will apparently be a crescendo of vice, Baudelaire, in stanza 7, lists sins that man would commit if he had the courage (such as rape, poisoning, stabbing, and arson) and then points to a still greater vice, which he names only three stanzas later in the conclusion: boredom (ennui). In the poem’s striking concluding lines, Baudelaire claims that the reader knows this “delicate monster,” and then calls the reader “Hypocritical reader, my likeness, my brother!”

This strange poem, borrowing so much of its vocabulary and rhetoric from the tradition of religious exhortation, does not choose between good and evil.

More than most Romantics, he wrote poetry based on the ugliness of urban life and drew an intense beauty from the prosaic and the unspeakable. Although major Romantics, including Victor Hugo, had broken down many restrictions on subjects that could be treated in poetry, Baudelaire went further, choosing such topics as crime, disease, and prostitution as his points of departure. While many Romantics suggest a transcendent redemptive quality in art, a spiritual enlightenment that gives readers a kind of religious or social pathway to liberation, Baudelaire tantalizes the reader with religious hope but then pulls it away, suggesting that all hope is in the moment of artistic insight and not in the real future.

The image of the poet as prophet or spiritually superior dreamer, typical of Hugo or Alfred de Vigny, flickers occasionally through Baudelaire’s work, but it generally yields to an image of the poet as a sensitive and marginal individual whose only superiority to his contemporaries is his consciousness of his corruption and decadence, something Baudelaire expressed as “conscience [or consciousness] in the midst of evil.

Poe subsequently came to be a major influence on Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry and even played a role in contemporary French psychoanalysis.

In terms of poetic form, Baudelaire’s major innovation was undoubtedly in the prose poem, which existed before him but achieved status as a major form principally through Paris Spleen, 1869. In his verse, Baudelaire often used the highly restrictive “fixed forms” with their set repetition of certain verses, such as the pantoum, in which the second and fourth verses of one stanza become the first and third of the following four-verse unit. Such forms were common among the Romantics, but Baudelaire’s combination of this formal perfection with surprising and even shocking subjects produces a dissonant and unforgettable music.

Baudelaire's "spiritual nostalgia for the ideal" and his adherence to "the standard Romantic connotation of soul and to the concept of elevation" associates him with the Romantic poets (Nalbantian 128). At the same time, his use of imagery in nature that describes "the soul's aspiration for the ideal" and the "implication of intuition into the language of flowers and mute things" are greatly associated to the symbolist movement (Nalbantian 128; Jones 114).

The next poem, "Spleen," is the complete opposite of "Elevation" because instead of soaring high above the earth, Baudelaire is describing the earth as a "lid" which oppresses his spirit into misery (Auerbach 149-150).

” In religious verse, the address to the reader as a brother is part of a call, first to recognize a common weakness and, second, to repent. Baudelaire does make an avowal of similarity but calls for an aesthetic rather than an ethical response.

“Beacons”

The largest part of Flowers of Evil evokes a struggle against boredom through the artistic use of the ugliness of everyday life and ordinary, even abject, passions. The poem “Les Phares” (“Beacons”) is an enumeration of eight great painters, including Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo, not as a celebration of human greatness but as a testimony to human sentiment and sensation, predominantly in the negative. Rubens is described, for example, as a “Pillow of fresh flesh where one cannot love” and Rembrandt as a “sad hospital full of murmuring.

” The last three stanzas seem at first to point to a religious purpose in this art which depicts a swarming, nightmare-ridden humanity, for Baudelaire uses terms from religion: malediction, blasphemy, Te Deum. Humankind’s art is called a “divine opium,” but this drug is not offered upward as incense to the Deity. It is, rather, an opium for human hearts. The purpose of art is ambiguous in this conclusion, for it is the best testimony to human dignity but is destined to die at the edge of God’s eternity. In the...

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Although remembered most for his poetry, as a writer he was also an art and literary

critic, translator, and author (Veinotte). One of his "earliest passions" had been art and literary criticism, partly due to his father's influence on his interest of amateur art. He eventually came to be called "the poet-critic," and a large number of his major criticisms appeared in the annual series of "Le Salon" for many years (Christohersen, The Critic). Other significant criticisms were found in his essay called "The Painter of Modern Life" and in a collection of his criticisms published posthumously called "Romantic Art." Other major works include "La Fanfarlo," a short story and fictional autobiography; Poe translations in "Extraordinary Stories," "New Extraordinary Stories," and "Grotesque and Serious Stories"; collections of poetry in "The Flowers of Evil" and "The Artificial Paradises"; and prose in "The Spleen of Paris" (Christohersen, The Poet). During his lifetime "The Flowers of Evil" gained the most publicity, although the majority was not positive, it was even questioned under court and mandated to be revised due to its obscene and immoral content.

“To the Reader”

Throughout Flowers of Evil, a major theme is the uncovering of man’s own contradictions, hypocrisies, desires, and crimes: all the aspects of life and fantasy that the respectable middle class hides. In the very first poem of the book, “Au lecteur” (“To the Reader”), Baudelaire establishes an unusual relationship with his public. The poem begins with a list of vices—stupidity, error, sin, and stinginess—but instead of reproaching humanity and urging the reader to reform, the poet finishes the sentence with an independent clause containing a remarkable simile: “We feed our nice remorse,/ As beggars nourish their lice.” Over this humanity presides the Devil, described two stanzas later as the magician, not Hermes but Satan Trismegistus (three-times great), who turns the rich metal of the will into vapor like an alchemist working backwards. Building toward what will apparently be a crescendo of vice, Baudelaire, in stanza 7, lists sins that man would commit if he had the courage (such as rape, poisoning, stabbing, and arson) and then points to a still greater vice, which he names only three stanzas later in the conclusion: boredom (ennui).

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