Friday, April 09, 2010

Les Fleurs du Mal

The balding fellow above is one Charles Baudelaire born this day 1821, in Paris, France. His father was considerably older than his mother, and departed this mortal coil when Baudelaire was only 6 years old. The widow grieved for only a year, and remarried to an army man. This remarriage was to prove a bit of a disaster for young Charles. It was to cause a problem in the relationship because Baudelaire's relationship with his mother was an extremely complex one with, and was to dominate his life. He was educated in Lyon, and when his grades slipped, was not allowed to come home on holidays to visit his mother. He obtained his degree in 1839, and told his brother that "he did not feel a vocation for anything." I know the feeling. Not too happy with his step-father's idea of a law or diplomatic career, Baudelaire decided to embark on a career as a writer. He began to live the life of a bohemian artist, and to frequent "ladies of the evening." He promptly caught a couple of lovely diseases that would affect him from the rest of his life. He was kept on a tight leash by his step father, and quickly blew his total allowance as soon as his got it. This caused the step-father to send young Charles on a voyage to India, in the hopes of keeping him from completely falling into rack and ruin. This idea was a total failure, and in under a year Charles was back in Paris living the life of a dandy. While living this life, he came into an inheritance of around 100,000 francs, which was a tidy little sum in those days, but he managed to piss it away in a few years. He is a particular hero of mine, and I have a lovely little personal story as to why. He wrote lovely verses in a couple of books one called Paris Spleen, and the other the Fleurs du Mal, I discovered him only about six years ago, and I was semi-dating a girl who was a pseudo feminist. I doing my best to impress her, tried to turn her on to Baudelaire. She read a bit, and declared that he was guilty of misogyny, I retorted that he was not he was a misanthrope, he did not dislike just women, he disliked all humans (something I have had to clarify in relation to myself). Needless to say, this little chat did not go well. After a further argument I was given the choice, "Baudelaire or me" she declared. Guess who I picked? There are many women in the world, there was only one Baudelaire. His letters to his mother's are on my bedside table, along with the Fleurs du Mal. Her, I have not heard from since. I think I made the right choice. His end was as tragic as to be expected for a man living the life of a drunken, poor, poet, and it is not something which I care to expound upon. I will have leave you with three quotes from him, that I hope you will enjoy.

"Unable to suppress love, the Church wanted at least to disinfect it, and it created marriage."

"Never slander Mother Nature, and if she has given you a flat-chested mistress, then say "I have a boyfriend-with hips!"

Always be drunk.
That's it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time's horrid burden
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
or rolls
or sings,
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock
will answer you:
"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, or poetry!"

The last quote is a poem entitled "Get Drunk," and since in about two hours that is what I plan to do, I leave it as the last quote of today's hero, Charles Baudelaire (April 9th 1821-August 31st, 1867, at the age of 46, after suffering a stroke brought about by excessive drinking) you are my (228th), hero of the day.

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