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Quotes of the day: Charles Baudelaire

Published Wednesday, April 08, 2015 @ 3:15 PM EDT
Apr 08 2015

Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 - August 31, 1867) was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle.

Above all else, it is residence in the teeming cities, it is the crossroads of numberless relations that gives birth to this obsessional ideal.

Alas, the vices of man, as horrifying as they are presumed to be, contain proof (if only in their infinite expansiveness!) of his bent for the infinite.

All beauties, like all possible phenomena, have something of the eternal and something of the ephemeral— of the absolute and the particular.

Always be a poet, even in prose.

Everything that gives pleasure has its reason. To scorn the mobs of those who go astray is not the means to bring them around.

Everything, alas, is an abyss, - actions, desires, dreams, Words!

Evil happens without effort, naturally, inevitably; good is always the product of skill.

For the merchant, even honesty is a financial speculation.

Genius is only childhood recovered at will, childhood now gifted to express itself with the faculties of manhood and with the analytic mind that allows him to give order to the heap of unwittingly hoarded material.

God is the only being who need not even exist in order to reign.

I am unable to understand how a man of honor can take a newspaper in his hands without a shudder of disgust.

If, by some misfortune, we understood each other, we would never agree.

Imagination is the queen of truth, and possibility is one of the regions of truth. She is positively akin to infinity.

It is at once by way of poetry and through poetry, as with music, that the soul glimpses splendors from beyond the tomb

It is by universal misunderstanding that we agree with each other.

It is imagination that has taught man the moral sense of color, of contour, of sound and of scent. It created, in the beginning of the world, analogy and metaphor. It disassembles creation, and with materials gathered and arranged by rules whose origin is only to be found in the very depths of the soul, it creates a new world, it produces the sensation of the new. As it has created the world (this can be said, I believe, even in the religious sense), it is just that it should govern it.

It is necessary to work, if not from inclination, at least from despair. As it turns out, work is less boring than amusing oneself.

Modernity is the transitory, fugitive, contingent, is but one half of art, of which the other half is the eternal and immutable.

One can only forget about time by making use of it.

One should always be drunk. That's all that matters; that's our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time's horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without ceasing.

Perhaps it would be sweet to be, in turn, both victim and executioner.

Progress, that great heresy of degenerates.

The act of love strongly resembles torture or surgery.

The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.

The loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.

The more a man cultivates the arts, the less randy he becomes.

The soul is a thing so impalpable, so often useless and sometimes so embarrassing that I suffered, upon losing it, a little less emotion than if I had mislaid, while out on a stroll, my calling-card.

There is in a word, in a verb, something sacred which forbids us from using it recklessly. To handle a language cunningly is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.

There is no sweeter pleasure than to surprise a man by giving him more than he hopes for.

This life is a hospital where each patient is possessed by the desire to change his bed.

To be a serviceable man has always seemed to me something quite repulsive.

To be wicked is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that you are; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil from stupidity.

To do one's duty every day and trust in God for tomorrow.

Unable to do away with love, the Church found a way to decontaminate it by creating marriage.

We have psychologized like the insane, who aggravate their madness in struggling to understand it.

What good is it to accomplish projects, when the project itself is enjoyment enough?

What is intoxicating about bad taste is the aristocratic pleasure of offensiveness.

What matters an eternity of damnation to someone who has found in one second the infinity of joy?

Whatever is created by the spirit is more alive than matter.

Which one of us has not dreamed, on ambitious days, of the miracle of a poetic prose: musical, without rhythm or rhyme; adaptable enough and discordant enough to conform to the lyrical movements of the soul, the waves of revery, the jolts of consciousness?


(April 9 is also the birthday of Tom Lehrer and Sam Harris.)

Categories: Charles Baudelaire, Quotes of the day


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