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Charles Baudelaire Was Key to Pointing Michael’s Way
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Charles Baudelaire Was Key to Pointing Michael’s Way

by | Oct 14, 2017 | 6 comments

Épater la bourgeoisie! | Wicked Wednesday

Poet, Philosopher, Visionary… Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867)

I’ve always been fascinated by Charles Baudelaire – his life, philosophy, and poetry. An undeniably brilliant man, it seems without a doubt that he lived a truly dissolute life.

It’s said that Charles Baudelaire was lazy, self-indulgent, and emotionally unstable. At the same time, he was also a brilliant visionary. Baudelaire’s indolence was matched by insight. His instability far out-shadowed by his influence.

In writing this, I’ve had more than my share of realizations, stirred by youthful memories. I feel a certain kinship with Baudelaire. His writing and life, his philosophy, influenced me in ways I hadn’t realized. In many respects, he provided keys to unlock parts of my own mind I had not known. Baudelaire pointed me towards Michael’s Way…

I hope you enjoy the collected artwork, as well as the images I’ve edited/created. Along with my own thoughts interspersed throughout, you’ll find a variety of insights into Charles Baudelaire from his own writing.

Finally, I’ve included a variety of commentary about Baudelaire by those who have reviewed his writing and studied his life. I think Paul Valéry’s quote (near the end) will sum up some of Baudelaire’s philosophical appeal to a Dominant quite well…

Nature is a temple where living columns
Let slip from time to time uncertain words;
Man finds his way through forests of symbols
Which regard him with familiar gazes.

Charles Baudelaire

Lament Of An Icarus

The paramours of courtesans
Are well and satisfied, content.
But as for me my limbs are rent
Because I clasped the clouds as mine.
I owe it to the peerless stars
Which flame in the remotest sky
That I see only with spent eyes
Remembered suns I knew before.
In vain I had at heart to find
The center and the end of space.
Beneath some burning, unknown gaze
I feel my very wings unpinned
And, burned because I beauty loved,
I shall not know the highest bliss,
And give my name to the abyss
Which waits to claim me as its own.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

The Lament for Icarus by Herbert James Draper (1898)

He could be said to have been the first modern poet: TS Eliot thought so, saying he was “the greatest exemplar in modern poetry in any language”.

It is as much a matter of his state of mind as anything else. Baudelaire was given to reverie and despair in more or less equal parts or, as he put it, “Spleen et Idéal”. He was very conscious of the way his mind was elsewhere, unsuited to quotidian existence. The idea of the poet who is scornful or terrified of everyday life pretty much begins with him.

Nicholas Lezard

The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire review – the essence of a genius, The Guardian

I took a lot of French in High School, and some in College. I was advanced enough to earn membership in the National French Honor Society. But, I’ll be damned if I could ever understand Charles Baudelaire in his native tongue.

My French was just good enough to attempt to understand poetry like Baudelaire’s, to read the words (mostly) but miss the concepts. I did better with Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I’ve read that Baudelaire made exquisite use of the French language. It really escaped me. I relied on translations. That’s less than ideal, I know. For instance, there’s another translation of Lament Of An Icarius that reads significantly differently than the one I shared earlier in the post.

As a small child, I felt in my heart two contradictory feelings, the horror of life and the ecstasy of life. Charles Baudelaire

Lament Of An Icarus

Lovers of whores don’t care,
happy, calm and replete:
But my arms are incomplete,
grasping the empty air.
Thanks to stars, incomparable ones,
that blaze in the depths of the skies,
all my destroyed eyes
see, are the memories of suns.
I look, in vain, for beginning and end
of the heavens’ slow revolve:
Under an unknown eye of fire, I ascend
feeling my wings dissolve.
And, scorched by desire for the beautiful,
I will not know the bliss,
of giving my name to that abyss,
that knows my tomb and funeral.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

Portrait of Charles Baudelaire painted in 1844 by Emile Deroy

Baudelaire was a contrarian: a well-dressed dandy who delighted in the company of the back-street bars and bordellos, a purist in pursuit of artistic beauty who would spend his nights dazed with alcohol and drugs. Thus it was entirely in character that he should bestow the status of mistress on a barely literate mixed-race woman who seemingly had little to offer but her fleshly charms. James MacManus

Baudelaire’s Femme Fatale Muse, The Daily Beast

Charles Baudelaire was a complex man. He was a tortured soul.

The number of words written about Baudelaire vastly outnumbers his own quite meager production. His life was like the proverbial train wreck – we want to look away but cannot, our eyes drawn unceasingly to the disaster.

It’s easy to be frustrated with Baudelaire. It could be argued that he wasted his talent. His disparate life is as difficult to understand as the man himself. If he didn’t invent the model for the crazy visionary artist, he certainly refined it for the modern era.

How little remains of the man I once was, save the memory of him! But remembering is only a new form of suffering. Charles Baudelaire

An artist is an artist only because of his exquisite sense of beauty, a sense which shows him intoxicating pleasures, but which at the same time implies and contains an equally exquisite sense of all deformities and all disproportion.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

To handle a language skillfully is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

Sexuality is the lyricism of the masses.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

lyricism definition

A few years ago I heard a sharp critic ask a poet what animated his work, what were his poetic concerns? “The city,” said the poet, pausing. “And boredom.” “More than a century later,” the critic said, “and we’re still catching up to Baudelaire.”

So goes Charles Baudelaire’s reputation for seeing such matters early. He’s the first modern man. Or at least the first modern poet — obscure, impoverished and suppressed in his lifetime. A sort of Goth dandy (“We’re all celebrating some burial or other,” he wrote), he completed only two full books of poetry. The first, “Flowers of Evil,” was prosecuted on its 1857 release as an affront to the public morals, as was “Madame Bovary.” Flaubert’s novel was vindicated; “Flowers of Evil” vanished, returning after four years with six poems excised, numerous others added. Six dissolute years later the poet was dead at age 46.

Joshua Clover

Invitation to the Voyage, NY Times

Before I became a Buddhist (discovering I’m a Pagan came recently) I had a very fatalistic outlook on life. While I was influenced by the Transcendentalism of Walt Whitman and David Thoreau, I also felt a certain kinship to the Decadents.

Much like Baudelaire, I’ve lived a life of excesses. My experimentation with drugs has included a wide enough range of mind-altering substances that I consider myself to be a psychonaut. I’ve experienced my share of lovers, and have left few stones unturned. There are very few of my own sexual fantasies I haven’t already fulfilled.

While I certainly have the intellect and ability to have pursued a career in medicine or law. I chose instead a life of near poverty as an activist and community organizer. Some might count my days as wasted, but I was too busy cracking open the bones of life, sucking out the marrow, to have noticed. I’ve lived life deep, full, and (mostly) on my own terms.

Beauty

I am fair, O mortals! like a dream carved in stone,
And my breast where each one in turn has bruised himself
Is made to inspire in the poet a love
As eternal and silent as matter.
On a throne in the sky, a mysterious sphinx,
I join a heart of snow to the whiteness of swans;
I hate movement for it displaces lines,
And never do I weep and never do I laugh.
Poets, before my grandiose poses,
Which I seem to assume from the proudest statues,
Will consume their lives in austere study;
For I have, to enchant those submissive lovers,
Pure mirrors that make all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my large, wide eyes of eternal brightness!

Charles Baudelaire

If rape or arson, poison or the knife
Has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff
Of this drab canvas we accept as life—
It is because we are not bold enough!

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

It would be difficult for me not to conclude that the most perfect type of masculine beauty is Satan, as portrayed by Milton. 

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

Portrait de Charles Baudelaire by Franz Kupka

T.S. Eliot spoke of seeing Baudelaire as “something more than the author of the Fleurs du Mal.” “He is in fact a greater man than was imagined, though perhaps not such a perfect poet.” This is an odd view, but Eliot was, by 1930, tired of what he called Baudelaire’s machinery (“prostitutes, mulattoes, Jewesses, serpents, cats, corpses”) and anxious to register signs of spiritual struggle wherever he could find them. Baudelaire “attracted pain to himself,” was able to “study his suffering.”

Some seventeen years later Sartre made a passing reference to “Baudelaire’s greatness as a man” but generally saw him as something less than the author of the Fleurs du Mal, as someone who hid in the skirts of a religion he might have rejected, who chose not to choose his vertiginous freedom and converted his life into a lingering figurative suicide. “A hundred removals and not a single voyage”; “he elected to confuse the satisfaction of desire with its unsatisfied exasperation.”

Of course there is no great distance between these pictures of the poet. Only the evaluations differ. What is greatness for Eliot is evasion for Sartre. And the pictures are curiously alike in their unwillingness to focus on Baudelaire’s masterpiece. Les Fleurs du Mal is so disturbing a book, so spectacular and so patchy, so atrocious as Baudelaire himself said, that readers have always been tempted to avert their eyes from it—to prefer the prose poems, for example, or the intimate journals, or to bury themselves in the wretched, posturing letters in which Baudelaire, early and late, tried to persuade his mother that he really was the little boy she had always wanted, “that he was working hard,” as F. W. J. Hemmings nicely puts it, “and would shortly be at the top of the class.”

Michael Wood

Beautiful and Damned, The New York Review of Books

Nearly all our originality comes from the stamp that time impresses upon our sensibility.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

The lover of life makes the whole world into his family, just as the lover of the fair sex creates his from all the lovely women he has found, from those that could be found, and those who are impossible to find.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

An artist is only an artist on condition that he neglects no aspect of his dual nature. This dualism is the power of being oneself and someone else at one and the same time.

   ~ Charles Baudelaire

Perhaps we truly are little more than the sum of our influences. We learn a snippet here, a verse there. And then, over time, they become a part of our existence. Perhaps you were most influenced by your parents, most folks probably are. My family was dysfunctional, so I deliberately looked elsewhere.

It could be argued I choose poorly in my influences. I’ve certainly heard that said by more than just family. But, the individuals who pointed my way had vision and originality. While those individual influences may have disagreed on many details, I believe they all felt that a man must, in the end, seek and fulfill his own vision.

Like the Transcendentalists, the Decadent Movement gave me keys to unlocking the recesses of my own mind. They were critical elements in my self-discovery. In that sense, Charles Baudelaire, like many others, helped to point me towards the man, the lover, the dominant, and ultimately the Master I’ve become.

Épater la bourgeoisie!

Delacroix, Wagner, Baudelaire—all great theorists, bent on dominating other souls by sensorial means. Their one dream was to create the irresistible effect—to intoxicate, or overwhelm. They looked to analysis to provide them with the keyboard on which to play, with certainty, on man’s emotions, and they sought in abstract meditation the key to absolutely certain action upon their subject—man’s nervous and psychic being. . . . [It was] the ambition of such violent and tormented minds, anxious to reach and as it were possess (in the diabolical sense of the term) that tender and hidden region of the soul by which it can be held and controlled entire, through the indirect path of the entrails and organic depths of being. They wish to enslave . . . and to bring us into bondage. Paul Valéry

Portrait of Baudelaire by Gustave Courbet (1843)

On August 31, 1867, at the age of forty-six, Charles Baudelaire died in Paris. Although doctors at the time didn’t mention it, it is likely that syphilis caused his final illness. Poets.org

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors. Charles Baudelaire

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About The Author

Michael Samadhi

Michael Samadhi – Joy of Kink Editor – author, lifestyle dominant, sex blogger, sex educator, photographer, artist, pansexual, sapiosexual, polyamorist, audiophile, historian, pagan/Buddhist, former political activist, and community organizer. I tied up a girlfriend (consensually) the first time back in 1980, and it’s been a hell of a ride ever since.

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6 Comments on "Charles Baudelaire Was Key to Pointing Michael’s Way"

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Indigo Byrd

Powerful piece of writing Michael, and a fascinating subject. I stand by my comment on Sinful Sunday re your own complexity.
Indie xx

May More

Extremely interesting article – I knew a little about Baudelaire as my man is a bit of a fan. He, like you, chose to experience life rather than a professional career – was on the fast track and derailed himself. We live life on our own terms too.

Marie Rebelle

A lovely history lesson 🙂

Rebel xox

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