Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Baudelaire asked: “You find nothing ab- Another misconception, a critical one, is normal about me?” “No," was the an- the case of Poe and Baudelaire. The young swer. “But my hair—it is green!” “That Frenchman first became infatuated with is nothing singular, mon cher Baudelaire; Poe's writings in 1846 or 1847—he gives every one has more or less green hair in these two dates, though several stories of Paris.” Disappointed in not creating a Poe had been translated into French as sensation, Baudelaire went to a café, gulped early as 1841 or 1842; “L'Orang-Outang” down two large bottles of Burgundy, and was the first, which we know as “The asked the waiter to remove the water, as Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Madame water was a disagreeable sight; then he Meunier also translated several of the Poe went away in a rage. It is a pity to doubt stories for the reviews. Baudelaire's labors this green hair legend; presumably a man as a translator lasted over ten years. That of genius will not be able to enjoy an epi- he assimilated Poe, that he idolized Poe, is leptic fit in peace—as does a banker or an a commonplace of literary gossip. But that outcast. We are told that St. Paul, Ma- Poe had overwhelming influence in the homet, Handel, Napoleon, Flaubert, Dos- formation of his poetic genius is not the tiëvsky were epileptoids; yet we do not truth. Yet we find such an acute critic as encounter men of this rare kind among the the late Edmund Clarence Stedman writing, inmates of asylums. Even Baudelaire had “Poe's chief influence upon Baudelaire's his sane moments.

own production relates to poetry." It is The joke of the green hair has been dis- precisely the reverse. Poe's influence afposed of by Crépet. Baudelaire's hair fected Baudelaire's prose, notably in the thinned after an illness, he had his head disjointed confessions, “Mon caur mis à shaved and painted with salve of a green nu," which recall the American writer's hue, hoping thereby to escape baldness. “Marginalia." The bulk of the poetry in At the time when he had embarked for “Les Fleurs du Mal” was written before Calcutta (May, 1841), he was not seven- Baudelaire had read Poe, though not pubteen, but twenty years of age. Du Camp lished in book form until 1857. But in said he was seventeen when he attacked 1855 some of the poems saw the light in the General Aupick. The dinner could not “Revue des deux Mondes,” while many of have taken place at Lyons, because the Au- them had been put forth a decade or fifteen pick family had left that city six years be- years before as fugitive verse in various fore the date given by Du Camp. Charles magazines. Stedman was not the first to was provided with five thousand francs make this mistake. In Bayard Taylor's for his expenses, instead of twenty-Du “The Echo Club” we read on page 24 this Camp's version—and he was not a beef- criticism: “There was a congenital twist drover in the British army for a reason-he about Poe.... Baudelaire and Swinnever reached India. Instead, he disem- burne after him have been trying to surpass barked at the Isle of Bourbon, and after a him by increasing the dose; but his muse short stay was seized by homesickness and is the natural Pythia, inheriting her conreturned to France, being absent about ten vulsions, while they eat all sorts of insane months, But, like Flaubert, on his return roots to produce theirs." This must have home Baudelaire was seized with the nos- been written about 1872, and after reading talgia of the East; out there he had yearned it one would fancy Poe and Baudelaire were for Paris. Jules Claretie recalls Baudelaire rhapsodic wrigglers on the poetic tripod; saying to him with a grimace: “I love whereas their poetry is too often reserved Wagner; but the music I prefer is that of a and glacial. Baudelaire, like Poe, somecat hung up by his tail outside of a window, times “Built his nests with the birds of and trying to stick to the panes of glass with night," and that was enough to condemn its claws. There is an odd grating on the the work of both men by critics of the glass which I find at the same time strange, didactic school. irritating, and singularly harmonious.” Is Once, when Baudelaire heard that an it necessary to add that Baudelaire, notori- American man-of-letters (?) was in Paris, ous in Paris for his love of cats, and dedi- he secured an introduction and called. cating poems to cats, would never have Eagerly inquiring after Poe he learned that perpetrated such revolting cruelty ? he was not considered a genteel person in

America. Baudelaire withdrew, muttering ficial likeness to him in eccentricity of temmaledictions. Enthusiastic poet. Charm- perament and affection for a certain pecuing literary person. But the American, liar mixture of grotesque and horror.” Poe whoever he was, represented public opinion is without passion, except the passion for at the time. To-day criticisms of Poe are the macabre; what Huysmans calls “The vitiated by the desire to make him an angel. October of the sensations”; whereas, there It is to be doubted whether without his is a gulf of despair and terror and humanbarren environment and hard fortunes we ity in Baudelaire which shakes your nerves should have had Poe at all. He had to dig yet stimulates the imagination. That down deeper into the pit of his personality Baudelaire said, “Evil be thou my good,” to reach the central core of his music. But is doubtless true. He proved all things and every ardent young soul entering “ litera- found them vanity. He is the poet of origture" begins by a vindication of Poe's inal sin, a worshipper of Satan for the sake character. Poe was a man, and he is now of paradox; his Litanies to Satan ring a classic. He was a half-charlatan as was childishly to us—in his heart he was a beBaudelaire. In both the sublime and the liever. His was “an infinite reverse assickly were never far asunder. The pair piration," and mixed up with his Byronic loved to mystify, to play pranks on their pose was a disgust for vice, for life itself. contemporaries. Both were implacable He was the last of the Romanticists; Saintepessimists. Both were educated in afflu- Beuve called him the Kamchatka of Roence, and had to face unprepared the manticism; its remotest hypoborean peak. hardships of life. The hastiest comparison Romanticism is dead to-day, as dead as of their poetic work will show that their Naturalism; but Baudelaire is alive, and is only common ideal was the worship of an read. His glistening phosphorescent trail exotic beauty. Baudelaire, like Poe, had a is over French poetry and he is the begetter harp-like temperament which vibrated in of a school. Verlaine, Villiers de l'Isle the presence of strange subjects. Above Adam, Carducci, Arthur Rimbaud, Jules all he was obsessed by sex. Woman, as Laforgue, Verhaeren, and many of the angel of destruction, is the keynote of his youthful crew. He affected Swinburne, poems. Poe was almost sexless. His aerial and in Huysmans, who was not a poet, his creatures do not foot the dusty highways splenetic spirit lives. Baudelaire's motto of the world. His lovely lines, "Helen, thy might be the reverse of Browning's lines: beauty is to me,” could never have been “The Devil is in heaven. All's wrong with written by Baudelaire; while Poe would the world.” never have pardoned the “fulgurant” When Goethe said of Hugo and the Rograndeur, the Beethoven-like harmonies, manticists that they all came from Chateauthe Dantesque horrors of that “deep wide briand, he should have substituted the music of lost souls” in “Femmes Dam- name of Rousseau —“Romanticism, it is nées":

Rousseau,” exclaims Pierre Lasserre. But Descendez, decendez, lamentables victimes.”

there is more of Byron and Petrus Borel

a forgotten mad poet-in Baudelaire, Or this, which might serve as a text for though, for a brief period, in 1848, he beone of John Martin's vast sinister mezzo

came a Rousseau reactionary, sported the tints:

workingman's blouse, shaved his head, "J'ai vu parfois au fond d'un théâtre banal shouldered a musket, went to the barriUn être, qui n'était que lumière, or et gaze, cades, wrote inflammatory editorials calling Terrasser l'énorme Satan;

the proletarian “Brother!” (Oh, BaudeMais mon cœur que jamais ne visite l'extase,

laire!) and, as the Goncourts recorded in “Est un théâtre où l'on attend

their diary, looked like a maniacal SaintToujours, toujours en vain l'Etre aux ailes de Just. How seriously we may take this

swing of the pendulum is to be noted in a Professor Saintsbury thus sums up the speech of the poet's at the time of the Revomatter of Poe and Baudelaire: “Both au- lution: “Come,” he said, “let us go shoot thors-Poe and De Quincey-fell short of General Aupick!” It was his step-father Baudelaire himself as regards depth and that he thought of, not the eternal princifulness of passion, but both have a super- ples of Liberty. This may be a false

[ocr errors]

anecdote; many such were foisted upon corroding dreams, a spray of roses, a sparhim. For example, his exclamations at kle of pebble, a gleam of blue sky, despaircafés or in public places, such as: “Have ing hearts, and music and the abomination you ever eaten a baby? I find it pleasing to of desolation for ground-tones. But this the palate!” or, “The night I killed my soul-nest is also a cemetery of the seven father!” Naturally people stared and Bau- sorrows. He loved the clouds. ... les nudelaire was happy- he had startled the ages ... bas. ... It was bas with bourgeois. The cannibalistic idea he must him even in the tortures of his wretched have borrowed from Swift's amusing love-life. Corruption and death were ever pamphlet, for this French poet knew Eng- floating in his consciousness. He was like lish literature.

Flaubert, who saw everywhere the skeleton Gautier, in the masterly preface to the concealed in us. Félicien Rops has best definitive edition of "Les Fleurs du Mal” interpreted Baudelaire: The etcher and compares the poems to a certain tale of poet were closely-knit spirits. Rodin, too, Hawthorne's in which there is a garden of is a Baudelarian. If there could be such an poisoned flowers. But Hawthorne worked anomaly as a native wood-note evil, it in his laboratory of evil wearing mask and would be the lyric voice of this poet. His gloves; he never descended into the mud sensibility was morbid, though he could be and sin of the street. Baudelaire ruined his frigid in the face of the most disconcerting health, smudged his soul, yet remained misfortunes. He was a man for whom the withal, as Anatole France says, “A divine visible word existed; Gautier was pagan, poet." How childish, yet how touching is Baudelaire a strayed spirit from medihis resolution-he wrote in his diary of æval days. The spirit ruled, and, as Paul prayer's dynamic force—when he was pen- Bourget said, "he saw God.” A Maniniless, in debt, threatened with imprison- chean in his worship of evil, he nevertheless ment, sick, nauseated with sin: “To make abased his soul. “Oh! Lord God! Give me every morning my prayer to God, the reser- the force and courage to contemplate my voir of all force, and all justice; to my heart and my body without disgust," he father, to Mariette and to Poe as interces- prays. But as some one said to Rochesors." (Evidently, Maurice Barrès en- foucauld: “Where you end, Christianity countered here his idea of “Interces- begins.” sors.'') Baudelaire loved his father as much Baudelaire built his ivory tower on the as Stendhal hated his. To his mother borders of a poetic Maremma, which every he became reconciled after the death of miasma of the spirit pervaded, every marsh General Aupick in 1857. He felt, in 1862, light and glowworm inhabited. Like Wagthat his own intellectual eclipse was ap- ner, he painted in his sultry music the proproaching, for he wrote: “I have culti-fundities of abysms, the vastness of space. vated my hysteria with joy and terror. He painted, too, the great nocturnal silences To-day imbecility's wing fanned me as it of the soul. passed.” The sense of the vertiginous gulfP acem summum tenent! Yet he never was abiding with him; read his poem en- attained the heights. Let us admit that titled “Pascal avait son gouffre."

souls of his kind are encased in sick frames; In preferring the Baudelaire translations their steel is too shrewd for the scabbard; of Poe to the original-and they give the yet the enigma is none the less unfathomimpression of being original works—Sted- able. To affiliate him with Poe, De Quinman seemed to agree with Asselineau that cey, Hoffmann, James Thomson, Colethe French is more concise than the Eng- ridge, and the rest of the sombre choir lish. The prose of Poe and Baudelaire is does not explain him; he is, perhaps, clear, sober, rhythmic; Baudelaire's is more nearer Donne and Villon than any of the supple, finer in contour, richer colored, others-strains of the metaphysical and though without the “honey and tiger's sinister and supersubtle are to be discovblood” of Barbey d'Aurevilly's prose. Bau- ered in him. The disharmony of brain and delaire's soul was patiently built up as a body, the spiritual bi-location are only too fabulous bird might build its nest-bits of easy to diagnose; but the remedy? Hypstraw, the sobbing of women, clay, cascades ocrite lecteur-mon semblablemon frère ! of black stars, rags, leaves, rotten wood, -so Baudelaire salutes his readers in the

[ocr errors]

preface to “Flowers of Evil.” When the bitious Aupick, then Chef de bataillon, subtlety, force, grandeur of his poetic pro- Lieutenant-Colonel, decorated with the ductions are considered, together with their Legion of Honor, and later general and disquieting, nervous, vibrating qualities, it ambassador to Madrid, Constantinople, is not surprising that Victor Hugo wrote to and London. Charles was a nervous, frail the poet: “You invest the heaven of art youth, but unlike most children of genius, with we know not what deadly rays; you he was a scholar and won brilliant honors create a new shudder.” Hugo could have at school. His stepfather was proud of said that he turned Art into an Inferno. him. From the Royal College of Lyons, Baudelaire is the evil archangel of poetry. Charles went to the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, In his heaven of fire, glass, and ebony he is Paris, but was expelled'in 1839. Troubles the blazing Lucifer. “A glorious devil, soon began for him. He was irascible, large in heart and brain, that did love vain, very precocious, and given to prebeauty only ..." sang Tennyson. mature irregularities. He did quarrel with

General Aupick and he did disdain his mother. But she was to blame, she has confessed; she had quite forgotten the boy

in the flush of her second love. This he As long ago as 1869 and in our "barbar- could not forget, nor forgive what he called ous gas-lit country," as Baudelaire named her infidelity to the memory of his father. the land of Poe, an unsigned review ap- Hamlet-like, he was inconsolable. The peared in which this poet was described as good bishop of Montpelier, who knew the * unique and as interesting as Hamlet. He family, said that Charles was a little crazy, is that rare and unknown being, a genu- and he was not altogether to blame-second ine poet-a poet in the midst of things marriages usually bring woes in their train. that have disordered his spirit-a poet ex- “When a mother has such a son, she cessively developed in his taste for and by doesn't remarry,” said the young poet beauty . . . very responsive to the ideal, proudly. Charles signed himself Baudevery greedy of sensation.” A better de- laire-Dufays, or sometimes, Dufais. He scription of Baudelaire does not exist. The wrote in his journal: “My ancestors, idiots Hamlet-motive, particularly, is one that or maniacs ... all victims of terrible passounded throughout the disordered sym- sions”; which is one of his exaggerations. phony of the poet's life. He was born at His grandfather on the paternal side was a Paris April 9, 1821 (Flaubert's birth year), Champenois peasant, his mother's family and not April 21st, as Gautier has it. His was presumably Norman, but not much is father was Joseph Francis Baudelaire, or known of her forbears. Charles believed Beaudelaire, who occupied a government himself lost from the time his half-brother position. A cultivated art lover, his taste was struck down. He also believed that his was apparent in the home he made for his instability of temperament—and he studied second wife, Caroline Archimbaut-Dufays, his "case" as would a surgeon—was the an orphan and the daughter of a military result of his parents' disparity in years. officer. There was a considerable differ- After his return from the East, where ence in the years of this couple; the mother he did not learn English, as has been saidwas twenty-seven, the father sixty-two at his mother taught him as a boy to speak the birth of their only child. By his first and write the language-he came into his marriage the elder. Baudelaire had one son, little inheritance, about fifteen thousand Claude, who, like his half-brother Charles, dollars. Two years later he was so heavily died of paralysis, though a steady man of in debt that his family asked for a guardian business. That great neurosis, called Com- on the ground of incompetency. He had merce, has also its mental shipwrecks, but been swindled, being young and green. no one pays any attention; only when the How had he squandered his money? Not poet falls by the wayside is the chase on exactly on opera-glasses, like Gerard de and the neurologists and other soul-hunters Nerval, but on clothes, pictures, furniture, are abroad seeking for victims. After the books. The remnant was set aside to pay death of Baudelaire's father the widow his debts. Charles would be both poet and within a year married the handsome, am- dandy. Hedressed expensively but soberly, in the English fashion, his linen dazzling, him his life long. His constitution was the prevailing hue of his habiliments, flawed from the start-Sainte-Beuve told black. In height he was medium, his eyes him that he had worn out his nerves—he brown, searching, luminous, the eye of a was détraqué; but that his entire life was nyctalops, "eyes like ravens’,” said some one huge debauch is the silly nightmare one; nostrils palpitating, cleft chin, mouth of the moral police in some white cotton expressive, sensual, the jaw strong and night-cap country. square. His hair was black, curly, and His period of mental production was not glossy, his forehead high, square, white. brief or barren. He wrote art and literary In the Deroy portrait he wears a beard; he criticisms; his “Salon of 1845" was much is there, what Camille Mendès called him: admired; he fought for such men as DelaHis Excellence, Monseignieur Brummel! croix, Daumier, Corot, Manet, Flaubert, Later he was the elegiac Satan, the author Meryon the etcher, and Richard Wagner. of L'Imitation de N. S. le Diable; or This is not the place to dilate upon the exthe Baudelaire of George Moore: “the cellences of his criticisms. He was a critic clean-shaven face of the mock priest, the both born and made. He was a student. slow cold eyes and the sharp cunning sneer Du Camp's charge that he was an ignorant of the cynical libertine who will be tempted man is disproved by the variety and quality that he may better know the worthlessness of his published work. His range of symof temptation.” In the heyday of his blood pathies was large. His mistake, in the eyes he was perverse and deliberate. Let us of his colleagues, was to write so well of the credit him with annihilating the Byronic seven arts. Versatility is never given its pose that ennui could be best cured by dis- real name—which is protracted labor. sipation; in sin he found the saddest of all Baudelaire was one of the elect, an aristotasks. Mendès laughs at the legend of Bau- crat, who dealt in the quintessence of art. delaire's violence, of his being given to ex. With his delicate air of a bishop, his explosive phrases. Despite Gautier's stories quisite manners, his modulated voice, he about the Hotel Pimadon and its Club of aroused unusual interest and admiration. Hasheesh eaters, M. Mendès denies that He was a humanist of distinction; he left Baudelaire was a victim of the hemp. What a hymn to Saint Francis which is in the the majority of mankind does not know Latin of the decadence. How sane he was concerning the habits of literary workers is in criticism may be seen in his article on this prime fact: men who work hard, writ- “The Pagan School.” There he is able to ing verse—and there is no mental toil com- escape his own passion for the school of parable to it-cannot drink or indulge in art-for-art and view with a critical aloofness opium without the inevitable collapse. The both sides of the question: “Literature old-fashioned notion of "inspiration," of must go far to rehabilitate its powers in a spontaneity, of easy improvisation, the sud- better atmosphere. The time is not far den bolt from heaven, are delusions still distant when it will be understood that all hugged by the world. To be told that literature which refuses to advance fraterChopin filed at his music for years, that nally between science and philosophy is a Beethoven in his smithy forged his thunder homicidal and a suicidal literature!” The bolts, that Manet toiled like a laborer on critic speaks! But, luckily for his magthe dock, that Baudelaire was a mechanic nificent poetry he did not attempt to put in his devotion to poetic work, that Gau- into practice such a theory, one worthy of tier was a hard-working journalist, is a the didactic school at its dreariest. disillusion for the sentimental. Minerva Baudelaire, like Chopin, made more poig springing full-fledged from Jupiter's skull nant the phrase, raised to a higher intento the desk of the poet is a pretty fancy; sity the expressiveness of art. Woman but Balzac and Flaubert did not encour- played the commanding rôle in his life. age this fancy. Work literally killed Poe She always does with any poet worthy of as it killed Jules de Goncourt, Flaubert, the name, though few have been so frank and Daudet. Maupassant went insane be- in acknowledging this as Baudelaire. Yet cause he would work and he would play he was in love more with the idea of Woman the same day. Baudelaire worked and than the individual. The legend of the worried and drank. His debts haunted beautiful creature he brought from the

[graphic]
« НазадПродовжити »