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Some French Writers: Baudelaire; The Man, Page 5
by Edward Delille (1893).

Baudelaire shortly after 1860 begins to decline. Sainte-Beuve writes to him: — "You have a naturally strong constitution, but your nervous system has been overstrained." Leaving Paris, where his money difficulties threaten to swamp him, he goes to Brussels, expecting to make large sums there by delivering literary lectures. In this attempt he fails, yet does not return to France, but lingers aimlessly on in Belgium, as the stranded vessel settles deeper into the ooze. Without stimulants of some sort, alcohol if opium or haschich be unobtainable, he finds he cannot possibly keep up; solemnly registering meanwhile the most stupendous vows with regard to strict temperance and unflagging labour — in the future. Gradually he becomes incapable of the slightest literary exertion, save that of scribbling in his last hysterical diary, Mon Cœur mis à nu, where, amongst other deplorable features, he attacks in terms of the grossest abuse everybody whose views and methods are at all different from his own.

Finally, one afternoon, the doomed man falls helpless on the flags of a Brussels church. Conveyed, a hopeless paralytic, to a hospital near Paris, he there drags out a speechless tragic twelvemonth, so altered that he tries to bow to himself when he catches sight of himself in a mirror, and expires at forty-seven with the mother who adored him literally drinking his last breath as he passes away.

A sad, a dreadful scene to contemplate. A shocking "curtain" to the last act of one of the most painful of life-dramas. Nor can we doubt that Baudelaire ("j'ai cultivé mon hysterié avec jouiasance et terreur") did much to provoke his fate. But who shall affect to preach sermons over this erring poet's corpse? Who shall come and cast stones of rhetoric upon his tomb? Enough, that he lies there: a man of such gifts, such powers, such aspirations, who came to such an end.

For Charles Baudelaire's epitaph might be proposed his "Harmonic du Soir." For it is full of the white angelic peacefulness we like to think of as hovering over graves.

"Voici venir les temps où, vibrtint sur sa tige,
Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir,
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertigo.

Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir,
Le violon frémit comme un cœur qu'on afflige,
Valse melancolique et douloureux vertige,
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Le violon fremit comme un cœur qu'on afflige,
Un cœur tendre qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir,
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige . . .

Un cœur tendre qui haît le néant vaste et noir
Du passé lumineux receuille tout vestige;
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige . . .
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!"


Truly, a lily among the poison-blossoms, a fleur du bien among the Fleurs de Mal.


PAGE 5 OF 5.

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AUTHOR: Edward Delille (1893).
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