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Le Spleen de Paris (1869) - Charles Baudelaire

Related: spleen - 1800s literature - 1869 - Charles Baudelaire - prose poetry

An ode to the masses, the night, Paris and cities in general and the grotesque. [Jul 2006]

Le Spleen de Paris (1869), subtitled small prose poems is a collection of prose poems by Charles Baudelaire. They were inspired by Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la nuit (1842). [Jul 2006]

Paris Spleen (1869) - Charles Baudelaire [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Written by the French poet Charles Baudelaire (published in 1869, posthumously), Le Spleen de Paris is a compilation of fifty short "prose poems .In the preface, Baudelaire mentioned that he had read Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la Nuit at least twenty times before starting Le Spleen de Paris.

Though inspired by Bertrand, Baudelaire's prose poems were based on comtemporary life in Paris instead of the Medieval background which Bertrand employed. These poems have no particular order, have no beginning and no end and read like thoughts or short stories in stream of conciousness style. The point of the poems is to capture the beauty of life in the modern city, using what Jean-Paul Sartre has labeled as being his existential outlook on his surroundings. Written twenty years after the fratricidal June Days that ended the ideal or "brotherly" revolution of 1848, Baudelaire makes no attemps at trying to reform society he has grown up in. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Spleen_de_Paris/Petits_Po%C3%A9mes_en_Prose [Dec 2005]


The line "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist" may come from a prose poem in the collection Le Spleen de Paris written by Charles Baudelaire: "Mes chers frères, n'oubliez jamais, quand vous entendrez vanter le progrès des lumières, que la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas!" --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Usual_Suspects [Jul 2006]

To Each His Own Chimera (1869) - Charles Baudelaire

From Le Spleen de Paris, 1999 translation by Cat Nilan

Beneath a broad, grey sky, upon a broad, dusty plain, without trails, without grass, without a thistle or a nettle, I met several men who walked bent over.

Each one of them carried upon his back an enormous Chimera, as heavy as a sack of flour or coal, or the gear of a Roman foot-soldier.

But the monstrous beast was not a dead weight; on the contrary, it enveloped and oppressed the man with its powerful, elastic muscles; it clasped itself to the chest of its mount with its two vast claws; and its fabulous head covered the man's brow, like one of those horrible helmets with which ancient warriors hoped to increase the terror of their enemy.

I questioned one of the men, and I asked him where they were going like that. He answered that he didn't know anything at all -- neither he nor the others; but that they were obviously going somewhere, for they were urged on by an invincible need to walk.

A curious thing to note: none of these travelers seemed irritated with the ferocious beast hanging from their neck and glued to their back; you might have said that they considered it to be a part of themselves. All of these fatigued and serious faces showed no evidence of despair; beneath the splenetic cupola of the sky, their feet plunged in the dust of a ground as desolate as the sky, they made their way with the resigned expression of those who are condemned to hope always.

And the train of men passed beside me and disappeared into mist of the horizon, at that place where the rounded surface of the planet conceals itself from the curiosity of the human gaze.

And for several instants I persisted in my desire to understand this mystery; but soon irresistible indifference battened upon me, and I was more heavily overwhelmed than they were themselves by their crushing Chimeras. -- [Translation by Cat Nilan © 1999] http://www.piranesia.net/baudelaire/spleen/06chimere.html [Jul 2006]

See also: Charles Baudelaire - chimera - Le Spleen de Paris (1869) - prose poetry

In search of the sources of T. S. Eliot

[The] English-speaking poet who is unquestionably Baudelaire's most distinguished twentieth century follower [is] TS Eliot. Eliot first registered the impact of Les Fleurs du mal in 1907 or 1908; we can see the indirect but palpable reflection of this influence in the anti-aesthetic urban imagery of Prufrock (1919), with its celebrated opening of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock — which one may well regard as a modernisation of certain lines in Baudelaire's Crépuscule du matin. --Baudelaire: Les Fleurs Du Mal (1992) - F. W. Leakey

T.S. Eliot was the first modern American poet to read French poetry critically, seeking not to mimic its styles but to absorb its lessons in order to rejuvenate poetry in English. As a young poet Eliot was captivated by the opening lines of Charles Baudelaire's "Les Sept vieillards," in which ghosts swarm a city sidewalk and accost pedestrians in broad daylight: "Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,/Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant." "I knew what that meant," Eliot recalled in 1950, "because I had lived it before I knew that I wanted to turn it into verse on my own account." From Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal Eliot learned how to transform the sordid streets of a modern metropolis into the stage of his own suffering. And from the little-known poet Jules Laforgue, Eliot learned how to create a confessional persona for that stage by amalgamating the voices of a mocking commentator and a droll sufferer. Impressions culled from the streets of Boston and London fill "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Preludes" and The Waste Land, but each poem's splenetic tone is French. --John Palattella, 2004 via http://www.thenation.com/docprem.mhtml?i=20041227&s=palatella [Jul 2006]

See also: Charles Baudelaire - T. S. Eliot - 1869 - Le Spleen de Paris (1869) - poetry

Gaspard De La Nuit (1842) - Aloysius Bertrand

In search of the sources of Baudelaire

Gaspard De La Nuit (1836|1842) - Aloysius Bertrand [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

I went to the library and stumbled on Charles Baudelaire's Spleen de Paris's prose poems (I was at the "B" looking for Borges). In the introduction Baudelaire mentions he has read Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la Nuit at least twenty times before starting this work. [Jul 2006]

Here is a synopsis from the publisher of Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la Nuit:

Gaspard de la Nuit (originally published in 1842) combines the haunting Gothic imagery of ETA Hoffmann with the colorful romantic verve of Victor Hugo. In it, you will meet Scarbo the vampire dwarf, Ondine, the faerie princess of the waters, and an unforgettable assortment of lepers, alchemists, beggars, swordsmen and ghosts. Gaspard de la Nuit inspired Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, the Surrealist Movement and composer Maurice Ravel, who wrote a suite of virtuoso piano pieces patterned after it. This new edition has been entirely retranslated by renowned poet and literary historian Donald Sidney-Fryer, the author of Songs and Sonnets Atlantean who has edited four collections of prose and poetry by Clark Ashton Smith. In his extensive introduction and afterword, Sidney-Fryer retraces the steps in Bertrand's life, casts a new light on his works and follows the elusive Gaspard from the Three Kings of Bethlehem to Casper the Friendly Ghost. This collection features a foreword by T.E.D. Klein and is illustrated by drawings from Bertand himself. --from the publisher

And the Wikipedia article on Aloysius Bertrand:

Aloysius Bertrand
Aloysius Bertrand was the writing pseudonym of Louis-Jacques-Napoléon Bertrand (born April 20, 1807 in Ceva (Piedmont, Italy); died April 29, 1841 in Paris). He wrote a collection of poems entitled Gaspard de la Nuit which composer Maurice Ravel wrote a suite of the same name, based on the poems, "Scarbo", "Ondine", and "Le Gibet". He introduced the prose poem into French literature and inspired Symbolist poets.

He was born in Ceva, Piedmont, Italy and his family settled in Dijon in 1814. There he developed an interest in the Burgundian capital. His contributions to a local paper lead to recognition by Victor Hugo and Sainte-Beuve. He lived in Paris shortly with little success. He returned to Dijon and continued writing for local newspapers. Gaspard was sold in 1836 but it wasn't published until 1842 after his death of tuberculosis. The book was rediscovered by Baudelaire and Mallarmé. It is now considered a classic of poetic and fantastic literature. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloysius_Bertrand [Jul 2006]

See also: symbolist literature - fantastic literature - 1842 - Le Spleen de Paris - prose poetry

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