For those who don't know the bulk of Baudelaire's poetry, it is primarily contained within a single great work, The Flowers of Evil. Baudelaire detested the Bourgeoisie and realized that many of his poems would not be accepted by them. But not only them, the authorities banned many of them as well. Baudelaire was more that his current society could take. This poem is about a book but in truth about his oeuvre. He addresses three types of readers.
Epigraph for a Condemned Book
Quiet and bucolic man resting
So at your ease, sober and pristine,
In quiet complacency languishing.
Throw away my book, so saturnine,
So wild and so melancholy waxing.
If your rhetoric does not meld with writhing
Satan, personified by the depths of Truth
Throw it away I say, you'd grasp nothing,
And if so think me quite mad or uncouth.
But if, succumbing not to sentimentality,
Rather casting your eye to the depths of my creed,
Read me then, to love me and understand my screed.
O Inquisitive One! You there! The Soul that does Suffer
And relentlessly pursues You're own Paradise real and versed,
So then I ask you, do Pity me well! ... If not, let you be cursed!
— translated by William Aggeler (with an unauthorized assist from laffite)
I love Baudelaire and my erstwhile French studies has enabled me
to understand some poems just as a native speaker would. Most English
translations are good or very good (including William Aggeler's) but
these translations never satisfy me. The meaning is always right there
but they fail to capture the rhythm and the beauty. I've tried to remedy
that by my upstart changes to reflect how I would like it read in English.
I didn't intend to include rhymes but they help at least a little with what I'm
trying to do. Some of then are forced. And there is more verbiage.You can
see that the stanzas get longer and longer (oops!) but this is all in fun.
Apologies to Mr Charles Baudelaire and Mr William Aggeler.
Below is the original Baudelaire---laffite
Épigraphe pour un livre condamné
Lecteur paisible et bucolique,
Sobre et naïf homme de bien,
Jette ce livre saturnien,
Orgiaque et mélancolique.
Si tu n'as fait ta rhétorique
Chez Satan, le rusé doyen,
Jette! tu n'y comprendrais rien,
Ou tu me croirais hysthérique.
Mais si, sans se laisser charmer,
Ton oeil sait plonger dans les gouffres,
Lis-moi, pour apprendre à m'aimer;
Âme curieuse qui souffres
Et vas cherchant ton paradis,
Plains-moi!... Sinon, je te maudis!
— Charles Baudelaire
Oh Charles, you do it with such great economy.