The second installment in my catalogue of Baudelaire’s banned poems. This one was dedicated to the famous courtesan and artistic patroness, Apollonie Sabatier, with whom Baudelaire had a brief affair.
To One Who Is Too Cheerful
Your head, your hair, your every way
Are scenic as the countryside;
the smile plays in your lips and eyes
Like fresh winds on a cloudless day.
The gloomy drudge, brushed by your charms,
Is dazzled by the vibrancy
That flashes forth so brilliantly
Out of your shoulders and your arms.
All vivid colours, and the way
They resonate in how you dress
Have poets in their idleness
Imagining a flower ballet.
These lavish robes are emblems of
The mad profusion that is you;
Madwoman, I am maddened too,
And hate you even as I love!
Sometimes within a park, at rest,
Where I have dragged my apathy,
I have felt like an irony
The sunshine lacerate my breast.
And then the spring’s luxuriance
Humiliated so my heart
That I had pulled a flower apart
To punish nature’s insolence.
So I would wish, when you’re asleep,
The time for sensuality,
Towards your body’s treasury
Silently, stealthily to creep,
To bruise your ever-tender breast,
And carve in your astonished side
An injury both deep and wide,
To chastise your too-joyous flesh.
And, sweetness that would dizzy me!
In these two lips so red and new
My sister, I have made for you,
To slip my venom, lovingly!
– Translated by James McGowan
The poem was banned because the literary sensors believed that the ‘venom’ referred to was that most decadent of venereal diseased, syphilis. Baudelaire, however, argued that they had taken the poem too literally, and that he was in fact writing about the melancholy and ennui that his ‘White Venus’ could never understand. While I think that there are obviously sexual connotations to the poem, it should also not be taken too literally. To me, it embodies the decadent love of beauty that is in some way marred, and the desire to corrupt innocence. What do you think about it?