The creator of all this decadence and all its obscure strands was Baudelaire. His poetry collection called The Flowers of Evil from 1857, is a classic and seminal piece of decadent writing influencing everyone from Walter Benjamin to Henry Miller and the Beat writers. Its dripping with the aesthetic of a brooding melancholia, a kind of mourning tinged with traces of the morbid eroticism of the Marquis de Sade, yet steeped in the growing modernism of the metropolis. The city would be seen from the streets and the gutters, the underside of bourgeois morality and the large swath of people the Enlightenment forgot….
It was a new mood. A new aesthetic. An antidote to the announced utopia, the messianism of industry, trade and banking. No political ambition, no feigned detachment; it was to be wallowing in the cesspool of evil and then pelting the crap by the shovel-ready on the silk stocking of the polite veil better society’s manners, the world of Marcel Proust. To Baudelaire, the beggars and whores, even the flaneurs, were un-people, balancing on the fringes of the cosmopolitan. Here, the poet would meet the ragpicker on poetic terms…
The Death of Lovers ( Charles Baudelaire )
We shall have beds full of subtle perfumes,
Divans as deep as graves, and on the shelves
Will be strange flowers that blossomed for us
Under more beautiful heavens.
Using their dying flames emulously,
Our two hearts will be two immense torches
Which will reflect their double light
In our two souls, those twin mirrors.
Some evening made of rose and of mystical blue
A single flash will pass between us
Like a long sob, charged with farewells;
And later an Angel, setting the doors ajar,
Faithful and joyous, will come to revive
The tarnished mirrors, the extinguished flames.
Baudelaire’s works were filled with new figures that seemed themselves to be products and the detritus of the consumerist capitalist society. Beggar girls, the ugly jewess, rag pickers and the parasitical flaneur were part of a poetic narrative that he used to articulate the new experience of the urban dweller, somewhat in the vein of Edgar Allan Poe and Melville’s “untrustworthy narrators.” It eas the beginning of the cult of the ego and the fetish object, a life mediated by images and intangible desires seen through shop windows, invisible barriers as in Kafka’s Before the Law. The new economic relations and the beginnings of the bureaucracies to manage the structural changes were giving birth to a consumer culture and impacted the manner in which poets saw their surroundings; more impersonal and anonymous. With regard to Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin wrote,” The delight of the city-dweller is not so much love at first sight as love at last sight.”
Baudelaire’s The first poem of The Flowers of Evil, asked the reader to identify with the poet and with the destitute and prostitutes he describes. We all take what clandestine pleasure we can, he writes, “Like an exhausted rake who mouths and chews / The martyrized breast of an old withered whore.” If only we had more guts, he suggests, we would all be rapists, murders, and arsonists. Our evil arises not so much from the enticements of Satan as from the most typical of modern vices, Boredom (“L’Ennui”): “[Boredom] in his hookah-dreams, / Produces hangmen and real tears together, / How well you know this fastidious monster, reader, / —Hypocrite reader, you—my double! my brother!” Baudelaire here celebrates the evil lurking inside the average reader, in an attitude far removed from the social concerns typical of realism. Read More:http://modernism.research.yale.edu/wiki/index.php/Les_Fleurs_du_Mal_%28The_Flowers_of_Evil%29
Packed tight, like hives of maggots, thickly seething,
Within our brains a host of demons surges
Deep down into our lungs at every breathing,
Death flows, an unseen river, moaning dirges.
from “To the Reader”
Do you come from deep heaven or do you come from hell,
O Beauty? Your eyes, infernal and divine,
Pour out both goodness and crime,
And for that you can be compared to wine…
You walk over the dead, O Beauty, and mock them.
Among your jewels, Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest baubles,
Dances amorously on your proud body.
from “Hymn to Beauty”
Metamorphoses of the Vampire
Meanwhile, from her red mouth the woman, in husky tones,
Twisting her body like a serpent upon hot stones
And straining her white breasts from their imprisonment,
Let fall thses words, as potent as a heavy scent:
“My lips are moist and yielding, and I know the way
To keep the antique demon of remorse at bay.
All sorrows die upon my bosom. I can make
Old men laugh happily as children for my sake.
For him who sees me naked in my tresses, I
Replace the sun, the moon, and all the stars of the sky!
Believe me, learned sir, I am so deeply skilled
That when I wind a lover in my soft arms, and yield
My breasts like two ripe fruits for his devouring-both
Shy and voluptuous, insatiable and loath-
Upon his bed that groans and sighs luxuriously
Even the impotent angels would be damned for me!”
When she drained me of my very marrow, and cold
And weak, I turned to give her one more kiss-behold,
There at my side was nothing but a hideous
Putrescent thing, all faceless and exuding pus.
I closed my eyes and mercifully swooned till day:
Who seemed to have replenished her arteries from my own,
The wan, disjointed fragments of a skeleton
Wagged up and down in a new posture where she had lain;
Rattling with each convulsion like a weathervane
Or an old sign that creaks upon its bracket, right
Mournfully in the wind upon a winter’s night. Read More:http://www.hauntedbay.com/tomes/poems/metamorphvamp.shtml