The Flowers of Evil (French: Les Fleurs du mal) is a book of poems published in 1857. More or less all of the contemporary artist who judged “Madame Bovary” judged this book too. Baudelaire and his work were accused to be immoral and a threat to public morality.
Charles Baudelaire was a great but yet unaccepted poet of that time. He was also punished for some parts of this, at that time, misunderstood and immoral book. Four years later the book was published again but this time they’ve cut out all of the parts that could endanger public morality.
The Flowers of Evil was written for 15 years but at that time the book was not well accepted and became recognized as a work of art many years later. Baudelaire wanted to torture the readers with his poems because they were used to reading nice verses that made their, in Baudelaires opinion, pretty but hypocrite lives even better.
Baudelaire was not the kind of artist who wanted to write poems about beauty and an uplifted spirit. Instead of them he decided to write about darker themes in his book of poems.
In todays analysis the book is not perceived as an immoral and shocking work and does not get many negative responses. When it comes to the form of the poems, we could say the book was written with strict rules.
The Flowers of Evil consist of over 160 poems that are divided into 5 units creating 6 cycles. The book is based on the introductory poem that is a dedication to the reader named “To the reader” and on 28 compositions named “Additional songs” that were not divided nor included in the already mentioned 6 cycles.
The main and the biggest cycle is the first one named “Spleen and ideals” that is consisted of 88 poems. All of the most important motives are brought out in the first poem. In it Baudelaire describes how a modern man goes to waste in a society of hypocrites describing it with aesthetics of ugliness.
Every single of the 5 units has a significant meaning for the whole book, and every poem has a meaning for the unit.
“Spleen and ideals” contains series of songs describing a new aesthetic program and new visions of art and beauty. You can see the position of the artist in the society and the influence the society has in everyday life. From the songs you can also witness the other side of the poets life where he is described as a beggar, martyr and a crazy man.
In the other part of the cycle you can see the strength of an ideal love, the feeling of ecstasy and enthusiasm it brings but also the feelings of melancholy and gloominess. It’s written in the poems that the material state is a state of transiency. The women is shown as a source of beauty and bliss, and from the other side the poet describes the women as the source of coldness and viciousness.
The first cycle ends in a conclusion that a man cannot fulfill himself with love and that is the reason why he goes back to his psyche that is described as suffering.
“Parisian scenes” is the name of the second cycle that seem the most complete of all of them. It consist of 18 poems that revolve around the life in a big city. The writer walks through town for 24 hours and finds happiness and misery on the streets and that reminds him of his suffering.
After that a small cycle named “Wine” comes and it deals with the theme of narcotization while in the cycle “The Flowers of Evil” the poet writes about sexual deviations. That cycle was the most provocative one.
The cycle “Revolt” has only 3 poems and it describes a hero standing on the line between heaven and hell.
The last cycle is called “Death” and the title indicates the theme. Baudelaire unravels everything in it and looks closer on the destiny of humans.
This book of poems is the poets vision of things in the current social situation and also his rises and falls. He rebelled against lies and frauds and wanted to find the first initiator of the human existence. In the same time he thought that it weren’t all fake and empty conventions of behavior.
In his poems he casts away beauty, sentimentality and brings in a new kind of emotionality by writing verses full of desperation, anger, hate and enthusiasm. His songs are about emptiness, fornication, envy and instincts. His themes are death, emptiness, desperation, the grey shades of a big city, misery and the fight for survival.
Author: Charles Baudelaire biography