Baudelaire’s Banned Poems

February 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

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.

Apollonie Sabatier by Vincent Vidal

Apollonie Sabatier by Vincent Vidal

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?



  1. Rick Holland said,

    Thanks for sharing this, I hadn’t read it before, and have been revisiting all things Baudelaire lately. I agree with your appraisal, the more violent and animal aspects of sexual love and desire explored, and the very real mixture of love and sex as a way of expressing our vulnerability

    You may be interested in ‘Intoxicate without Truce’, a work in progress. The prologue is a section written by Baudelaire about staying giddy with life, and the form is in part a reflection of Baudelaire’s prose-poetry, and partly after a formatting glitch on posterous.

  2. saqlain said,

    To One Who Is Too Cheerful
    This is just a awesome poem that I must share with my friends, “And then the spring’s luxuriance………” this whole stanza is just an awesome one…

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