Charles Baudelaire: A Study, Page 6|
by F. P. Sturm (1919).
He remembered his visions and sensations as an eater of drugs and made literary use of them. At the end of this book, among the "Poems in Prose," will be found one entitled "The Double Chamber," almost certainly written under the influence of opium, and the last verse of "The Temptation"—
PAGE 6 OF 10.
"O mystic metamorphosis!
My senses into one sense flow—
Her voice makes perfume when she speaks,
Her breath is music faint and low!"
as well as the last six lines of that profound sonnet "Correspondences"—
"Some perfumes are as fragrant as a child,
Sweet as the sound of hautboys, meadow-green;
Others, corrupted, rich, exultant, wild,
Have all the expansion of things infinite:
As amber, incense, musk, and benzoin,
Which sing the sense's and the soul's delight,"
are certainly memories of a sensation he experienced under the influence of hashish, as recorded in The Artificial Paradises, where he has this curious passage:—"The senses become extraordinarily acute and fine. The eyes pierce Infinity. The ear seizes the most unseizable sounds in the midst of the shrillest noises. Hallucinations commence. External objects take on monstrous appearances and show themselves under forms hitherto unknown. . . . The most singular equivocations, the most inexplicable transposition of ideas, take place. Sounds are perceived to have a colour, and colour becomes musical."
Baudelaire need not have gone to hashish to discover this. The mystics of all times have taught that sounds in gross matter produce colour in subtle matter; and all who are subject to any visionary condition know that when in trance colours will produce words of a language whose meaning is forgotten as soon as one awakes to normal life; but I do not think Baudelaire was a visionary. His work shows to precise a method, and a too ordered appreciation of the artificial in beauty. There again he is comparable to Aubrey Beardsley, for I have read somewhere that when Beardsley was asked if ever he saw visions, he replied, "I do not permit myself to see them, except upon paper." The whole question of the colour of sound is one of supreme interest to the poet, but it is too difficult and abstract a question to be written of here. A famous sonnet by Rimbaud on the colour of the vowels has founded a school of symbolists in France. I will content myself with quoting that—in the original, since it loses too much by translation:
"A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu, voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes,
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombillent autour des puanteurs cruelles,
Golfes d'ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles ;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes ;
U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux.
O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des mondes et des anges.
— O l'Oméga, rayon violet de ses yeux."
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