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The Flowers of Evil (Oxford World's Classics) Mass Market Paperback – 17 Apr 2008
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'Jonathan Culler's 24 page introduction is thoughtful and informative; and the editorial apparatus of bibliography, chronology and notes on the text are up to the high standard of the series.'Acumen Magazine
'McGowan's fine poetic sense uses the springing monosyllable to good effect; A reader who goes straight to James McGowan's versions will be well rewarded. A scrupulous and sensitive poet has made the whole of Baudelaire's poetry in verse available in English so that the unique quality of the original consistently survives.'Harry Guest, Journal of European Studies, XXIV (1994)
'Culler's insistence on Baudelaire's depressing conclusions is welcome at a time when these poems are frequently subjected to evangelical optimism. McGowan urges us to consult other translations. His own generally reliable versions - given his satanic pact with symmetry - are probably now the best place to start.'Graham Robb, French Studies, Vol. 48, Pt.4
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Baudelaire's poetry is a compass leading deep into our darkest and simultaneously most distilled part of our existence. The Fleur De Mal was seized by the police when it wast first published. Would you like to read something that caused such a great fear to society of that time? What could hide more truth than the one feared?
This classic collection of poems is not just about lust. It's about unspoken feelings of desire and freedom. Freedom from the constrains set by our own nature. See the difference between the following of his poems:
You, deadlier than a dagger thrust,
Who into my sick heart have come!
You, sleek and lethal in your lust,
Who like a thousand demons swarm
Into my mind, where you have found
Your bed of sin and your domain--
Bitch! vile bitch! to you I'm bound
As is the convict to his chain!
As is the gambler to his dice,
As is the drunkard to his bowl,
As is the carcase to its lice--
Incarnate bitch! bitch without soul!
I begged the knife to put an end
To all my pain...poison to pour
Its giddy death into my veins,
Yielding the peace I so longed for!
Alas! these two, they sneered at me,
Both poison and the knife so rude:
"You have no right to be set free
From your accursèd servitude!
Fool! if somehow we could contrive
To free you from your wretched pain,
Your kisses would restore to life
Your Vampire's rotting corpse again!"
And the absolute controversy:
Man And The Sea
Free man! the sea is to thee ever dear!
The sea is thy mirror, thou regardest thy soul
In its mighteous waves that unendingly roll,
And thy spirit is yet not a chasm less drear.
Thou delight'st to plunge deep in thine image down;
Thou tak'st it with eyes and with arms in embrace,
And at times thine own inward voice would'st efface
With the sound of its savage ungovernable moan.
You are both of you, sombre, secretive and deep:
Oh mortal, thy depths are foraye unexplored,
Oh sea--no one knoweth thy dazzling hoard,
You both are so jealous your secrets to keep!
And endless ages have wandered by,
Yet still without pity or mercy you fight,
So mighty in plunder and death your delight:
Oh wrestlers! so constant in enmity!
Take this journey with this book. It's going to be the furthest journey to the closest place, the dark corners of your soul.
Les Fleurs du mal has of course been surrounded with notoriety due to the suppression of a few poems in this collection. These have been restored in this edition, but to be honest just because a small number of poems caused some legal problems on first publication does not mean that this book is something that is some perverted anti-religious read. If that is what you may think, but have never read this before, then you will be in for a surprise.
Because of the furore over a few poems so Baudelaire became more creative as he added newer pieces to the second edition of this book, and here we also have a few more pieces from the third edition.
Using a modernist approach, but within the constraints of a more classical and traditional framework shows how skilled Baudelaire was as a poet, and the way he brings ideas and impressions together is remarkable. You can be reading something that is sexual in meaning, but this is placed in juxtaposition with the rot and decay around it, making you think of the progression of the world and the generative power that surrounds us.
In all this is a book that is always very rewarding to read and with this OUP edition we also have a good introduction, and notes, etc. If you have never read this before then really it is about time that you did, and you will see why this book has always been held in high regard.
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