The Flowers of Evil (French: Les Fleurs du Mal) is a book of poems published in 1857. More or less all of the contemporary artist who judged “Madame Bovary” judged this book too. Baudelaire and his work were accused of being immoral and a threat to public morality.
Charles Baudelaire was a great but yet unaccepted poet of that time. He was also punished for some parts of this, at that time, misunderstood and immoral book. Four years later the book was published again but this time they’ve cut out all of the parts that could endanger public morality.
The Flowers of Evil was written for 15 years, but at that time the book was not well accepted and became recognized as a work of art many years later. Baudelaire wanted to torture the readers with his poems because they were used to reading nice verses that made their, in Baudelaire’s opinion, pretty but hypocrite lives even better.
Baudelaire was not the kind of artist who wanted to write poems about beauty and an uplifted spirit. Instead of them, he decided to write about darker themes in his book of poems.
In today’s analysis, the book is not perceived as an immoral and shocking work and does not get many negative responses. When it comes to the form of the poems, we could say the book was written with strict rules.
The Flowers of Evil consist of over 160 poems that are divided into five units creating six cycles. The book is based on the introductory poem that is a dedication to the reader named “To the reader” and on 28 compositions named “Additional songs” that were not divided nor included in the already mentioned six cycles.
The main and the biggest cycle is the first one named “Spleen and ideals” that consists of 88 poems. All of the most important motives are brought out in the first poem. In it, Baudelaire describes how a modern man goes to waste in a society of hypocrites describing it with aesthetics of ugliness.
Every single of the five units has a significant meaning for the whole book, and every poem has a meaning for the unit.
“Spleen and ideals” contains series of songs describing a new aesthetic program and new visions of art and beauty. You can see the position of the artist in the society and the influence the society has in everyday life. From the songs you can also witness the other side of the poet’s life where he is described as a beggar, martyr, and a crazy man.
In the other part of the cycle, you can see the strength of an ideal love, the feeling of ecstasy and enthusiasm it brings but also the feelings of melancholy and gloominess. It’s written in the poems that the material state is a state of transience. The women are shown as a source of beauty and bliss, and from the other side, the poet describes the women as the source of coldness and viciousness.
The first cycle ends in a conclusion that a man cannot fulfill himself with love and that is the reason why he goes back to his psyche that is described as suffering.
“Parisian scenes” is the name of the second cycle that seems the most complete of all of them. It consists of 18 poems that revolve around the life in a big city. The writer walks through town for 24 hours and finds happiness and misery on the streets, and that reminds him of his suffering.
After that, a small cycle named “Wine” comes and it deals with the theme of narcotization while in the cycle “The Flowers of Evil” the poet writes about sexual deviations. That cycle was the most provocative one.
The cycle “Revolt” has only three poems, and it describes a hero standing on the line between heaven and hell.
The last cycle is called “Death” and the title indicates the theme. Baudelaire unravels everything in it and looks closer to the destiny of humans.
This book of poems is the poet’s vision of things in the current social situation and also his rises and falls. He rebelled against lies and frauds and wanted to find the first initiator of the human existence. In the same time, he thought that it wasn’t all fake and empty conventions of behavior.
In his poems, he casts away beauty, sentimentality and brings in a new kind of emotionality by writing verses full of desperation, anger, hate and enthusiasm. His songs are about emptiness, fornication, envy, and instincts. His themes are death, emptiness, desperation, the gray shades of a big city, misery and the fight for survival.
Charles Baudelaire Biography
Charles Baudelaire (1821. – 1867.) is the first European writer of modern lyric, a French critic, and poet. His hometown was Paris, and he comes from an aristocratic family. His family did not have much understanding for his sensibility as a child nor his talent for art.
He was very attached to his mother, but he got disappointed when she re-married after his father’s death. His stepfather, a nobleman, belonging to the aristocratic, never cared much for Charles and his sensibility which he inherited from his father.
Charles decided to leave his family. He considered their relations to be hypocrite and fake. Charles met the real life and the life essence in the suburbs of Paris, but he met them through alcohol, narcotics, and women of questionable morality.
Even though he lived as a bohemian, he never forgot art. He studied Wagner’s music and the poems of Edgar Allan Poe.
He wrote many literary, art and music critiques and that tells a lot about his talents. He wrote many poems in prose and was also an excellent translator of Poes songs, but his work and talent were never acknowledged.
Because he could not live with the fake moral and hypocrisy, he was attacked as a poet and man and called to court because of his book “Les Fleurs du Mal”. The lyric that he wrote for 15 years was forbidden, and he had to cut out the inappropriate verses. His scandalous behavior reached its top when he got into a relationship with a mullato Jeane Duval who he called his muse.
He was 46 years old when he died from illness and tired from the search of a life goal and fulfillment. He did not live long enough to see the acknowledgment of his book “Les Fleurs du Mal”.
Except for that book he also wrote critics and essays Curiosités Esthétiques and L’art romantique.