Charles Pierre Baudelaire

1821 - 1867

one of the greatest French poets of the 19th century

Ch. Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. While studying law at the Ecole de Droit he became addicted to opium and hashish. He also contracted syphilis at that time, from which he was to die. He attained his majority in 1842. He lived with Jeanne Duval, a woman who inspired his first cycle of love poems Black Venus regarded as the finest erotic poems in the French language. During this period he composed most of the poems that later became part of Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). The poems were finally published in 1957. The author was prosecuted, found guilty of obscenity and blasphemy and fined. Les Fleurs du Mal were seen by many generations as an example of depravity and obscenity.

He became a professional writer publishing reviews. In 1847 he published his only novel La Fanfarlo. In 1952 he discovered writings of Edgar Alan Poe. From 1952 to 1965 he was involved in translation of Poe's works and writing critical essays. Later, two other women inspired two next cycles: Apollonie-Aglae Sabatier for cycle of White Venus and an actress Marie Daubrun for cycle of Green Eyed Venus. Baudelaire died unrecognised with some of his works unpublished.

His critical essays on art are regarded as a breakthrough in literary critics. Baudelaire presents a conscious poet who is able to decipher the meaning from his/her poetics. A poet who is at the same time a critic of his/her art. It is believed that modern French poetry starts with the publication of The Flowers of Evil. The poet based his innovative imagery on the traditional poetry such as Dante's Inferno. The initial title for The Flowers of Evil was The Limbus. Baudelaire uses also romantic symbol and incorporates into poems the spirit of baroque with its praise for form, putting stress on ugliness, terror, contrasts and obsession with death. The traditional poetics became the basis for Baudelaire from which he then moved to modernity. He created a new poetry with a new language presenting a man who exists nowhere with a longing for unattainable ideal.



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