Poetry / The English Teacher / The Social Network

Cheers to Inebriation! Or, ‘Happy Birthday, Charles Baudelaire’

April 9. Birthdate of one Charles Baudelaire, who, if you didn’t know, is considered “one of the most compelling poets of the nineteenth century” (Kathryn Oliver Mills). I, stuck on American & British literature most of the time, didn’t know. I carry around the slightest smidge of knowledge about the French greats. A smidge, mind you.

Usually, talk of ‘French greats’ brings to mind, in no particular order, Paris, bread, Versailles, brie, the stable of Impressionists, and wine.

Let’s choose wine. Charles Baudelaire did:

Be Drunk

Charles Baudelaire

 

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the

only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks

your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

 

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

 

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of

a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again,

drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave,

the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything

that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is

singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and

wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be

drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk,

be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

translated by Louis Simpson

“On wine, on poetry, on virtue” — intoxicating choices, all.  Thanks for the tip, good sir. Cheers!!

 

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2 thoughts on “Cheers to Inebriation! Or, ‘Happy Birthday, Charles Baudelaire’

  1. Oh yeah. Bauddelaire’s quite the mad bastard. 😛 A good intro is his Flowers of Evil. A lot of his poetry can read like a mashup between late-night horror flicks and Evanescence music videos. (He’s also mainly responsible for the French translations of Poe’s work, so he’s pretty well-known for those translations as well.)

    • HA! “quite the mad bastard,” oddly, makes me want to read a bit more! 🙂 I did know about the Poe translation gig (contributing to the mad factor?). What great descriptions you offer, sir. Thanks for stopping by and reading…

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