Baudelaire, Rilke

1. Historical and Literary Context: During Rilke's come up as a young scholar, he attended many universities throughout Europe and had aspired to become a poet and a writer even as a young boy. He went to a Military Academy during the late 1800's in Prague where he first discovered his passion for writing. During his time as a Scholar, many great works throughout Eastern Europe were coming into play, such as Tolstoy's War and Peace and his Anna Karenina. Works such as these inspired turn of the century writers and poets like Rilke to write about the realization of all great works of art including art itself and literature. This helped him live life to its fullest and his works led him to a lot of travel and meetings of influencing authors, poets, and others. All of these life experiences earned Rilke compelling praise from present and future critics and other great writers. His inner compulsions allowed for powerful poetry to be written and interpreted for future scholars such as himself.

2. The Books of Hours and Sonnets of Orpheus expressed Rilke's passionate attitude towards the everyday lifestyle and living in the moment themes he expresses through his works. HE constantly probed the relationship between his art and the world surrounding him in a very crafty manner. He did this by finding an even balance between poetry and life, while maintaining the boundaries poetry requires to be considered poetry, and the passion and mindset required to make average poetry great poetry.

3. During Rilke's youth, he aquired a taste for great works by experiencing all of Europe's cultures. He was an extensive traveler and during his travels he read A LOT of books. Mostly of German, Russian, and Eastern European authors and poets. One of his biggest influences of all time was Leo Tolstoy, who, at the time, was the biggest thing since sliced bread. His philosophies and extremely long novels (Anna Karenina and War and Peace) were huge hits throughout Europe and these greatly influenced Rilke. When Tolstoy caught wind of Rilke's works and poems, he was intrigued to meet him. They met in Russia around 1899/1900 and develop a lifelong friendship. His other influences were mostly women and abstract thoughts that came from his appreciation of life and nature.

4. In his work, Rainer Maria Rilke expresses his emotions through personal insight on himself as a human being. In "Song of the Little Cripple at the Street Corner" he empathsizes with the cripple he speaks of, but he also has an underlying impression that he gives to his readers as he compares himself to this little cripple. He speaks of his interest in the human soul; its shape, purpose, strife, and eventual freedom from the human body. His ideas are post-romantic and evolutionary. He reminds readers of other great philosophers like Neitzche and Marx. They have comparable ideas to Asian philosophies in their perception of death. Death is simply an illusion to us, it is not the end of life, but the change of life to a different place. In "On Hearing of Death" he writes as if Death is a person condemned to earth to transports humans from one life form to the next. It is a very abstract way of thinking but also a anti-logical one which intrigues poetry readers into his work.
URL where we got poems for RILKE

Love Song

How can I keep my soul in me, so that

it doesn't touch your soul? How can I raise
it high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote
lost objects, in some dark and silent place
that doesn't resonate when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin's bow,
which draws *one* voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song.

Song of a Cripple at a Street Corner*

Maybe my soul’s all right.
But my body’s all wrong,
All bent and twisted,
All this that hurts me so.
My soul keeps trying, trying
To straighten my body up.
It hangs on my skeleton, frantic,
Flapping its terrified wings.
Look here, look at my hands,
They look like little wet toads
After a rainstorm’s over,
Hopping, hopping, hopping.
Maybe God didn’t like
The look of my face when He saw it.
Sometimes a big dog
Looks right into it.

On Hearing Of Death

We lack all knowledge of this parting. Death
does not deal with us. We have no reason
to show death admiration, love or hate;
his mask of feigned tragic lament gives us
a false impression. The world's stage is still
filled with roles which we play. While we worry
that our performances may not please,
death also performs, although to no applause.
But as you left us, there broke upon this stage
a glimpse of reality, shown through the slight
opening through which you dissapeared: green,
evergreen, bathed in sunlight, actual woods.
We keep on playiing, still anxious, our difficult roles
declaiming, accompanied by matching gestures
as required. But your presence so suddenly
removed from our midst and from our play, at times
overcomes us like a sense of that other
reality: yours, that we are so overwhelmed
and play our actual lives instead of the performance,
forgetting altogehter the applause.



  • unfocused, sense of literary ambition;
  • and in need of both attention and solitude;
  • he was a snob who liked to walk barefoot,
  • he was a passive and self-pitying sexual predator
  • he was even a vegetarian
  • As a selfish poseur, Rilke can scarcely be matched

  • poems were fueled by violence and his past

  • As John Berryman so aptly put it: "Rilke was a jerk."
  • “On page after page it portrays one of the most repugnant human beings in literary history” from someone’s book about him
  • “But Rilke the man is hard to pardon or excuse.” saying that most people are able to have sympathy for

Charles Baudelaire:


Personal Life:
Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris, France on April 9th, 1821.His father was thirty-four years older than his mother. His father died in 1827 when Charles was six. His mother remarried, and this is seen as a crucial part of his life because he was no longer the sole focus of his mother. Charles was educated in Lyon, and was seen as eratic in his studies,sometimes diligent and other times suffered from"idleness". Charles later attended Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris where he studied law. It is believed that Baudelaire frequented prostitutes and attracted syphillis and gonnherea during this time. Throughout his higher education, Charles went into extreme debt and was known to squander money. He graduated in 1939. Afterwards, Jeanne Duval became his mistress but she was rejected by his family. Charles attempted suicide during this time. He took part in the Revolution of 1848 and wrote for a revolutionary paper during the early 1850s. He struggled under debt, ill health, and poor literary output. The last two years of his life were spent in a semi-paralyzed state in Brussels and Paris, where he died on August 31st, 1867. He is buried in Paris.
Charles Baudelaire

2.) Charles Baudelaire's first published work was the art review of "Salon of 1845." This review attracted attention because of it's boldness. Much of his views seemed incredibly intuned with the future theories of the Impressionist painters. In 1846, Baudelaire wrote his second Salon review. This review gained him credibility as an advocate of Romanticism. His support of Delacrouix as the foremost romantic artist only furthered this credibility.

3.) Baudelaire touched many topics that surprised and offended many people of his day. His principal themes of sex and death were extremely scandalous. He also touched on lesbianism, sacred and profane love, metamorphosis, melancholy, corruption, loss of innocence, oppresiveness, and wine. He was a model for "Bohemian" behavior. He loved to shock people, and wrote about what touched him. He wrote about society as he saw it, full of hypocrites. Baudelaire composed many of his poems in taverns. Also, his stepfather sent him on a voyage to Calcutta, India which became the topic of many of his poems.

4.) Les Fluers du mal was Baudelaire's published works. He always insisted that it was not merely a collection of his poems, but had a beginning and end. Each poem's true meaning was shown through reading the others within its framework. Notable in some of these poems, is his use of imagery of the sense of smell and fragrances that are used in order to create feelings of nostalgia and past intimacy. Some texts may be considered as authentic poems in prose, while others more closely rose miniature prose narratives. The settings are primarily urban, focus on crowds and the suffering lives they contain. His poems are musical but without rythm or ryhme, both supple and staccato. His poems are a crucial link between Romanticism and Modernism, and truly shows what it means to be a modern artist.


Always be drunk.
That's it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time's horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
or rolls
or sings,
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock
will answer you:
"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!"
Always be drunk.
That's it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time's horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
or rolls
or sings,
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock
will answer you:
"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!"

Death of lovers:

La Mort des Amants
Nous aurons des lits pleins d'odeurs légères,
Des divans profonds comme des tombeaux,
Et d'étranges fleurs sur des étagères,
Ecloses pour nous sous des cieux plus beaux.
Usant à l'envi leurs chaleurs dernières,
Nos deux coeurs seront deux vastes flambeaux,
Qui réfléchiront leurs doubles lumières
Dans nos deux esprits, ces miroirs jumeaux.
Un soir fait de rose et de bleu mystique,
Nous échangerons un éclair unique,
Comme un long sanglot, tout chargé d'adieux;
Et plus tard un Ange, entr'ouvrant les portes,
Viendra ranimer, fidèle et joyeux,
Les miroirs ternis et les flammes mortes.
Charles Baudelaire
The Death of Lovers
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.
William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

The soul of wine:

L'Ame du Vin

Un soir, l'âme du vin chantait dans les bouteilles:
«Homme, vers toi je pousse, ô cher déshérité,
Sous ma prison de verre et mes cires vermeilles,
Un chant plein de lumière et de fraternité!

Je sais combien il faut, sur la colline en flamme,
De peine, de sueur et de soleil cuisant
Pour engendrer ma vie et pour me donner l'âme;
Mais je ne serai point ingrat ni malfaisant,

Car j'éprouve une joie immense quand je tombe
Dans le gosier d'un homme usé par ses travaux,
Et sa chaude poitrine est une douce tombe
Où je me plais bien mieux que dans mes froids caveaux.

Entends-tu retentir les refrains des dimanches
Et l'espoir qui gazouille en mon sein palpitant?
Les coudes sur la table et retroussant tes manches,
Tu me glorifieras et tu seras content;

J'allumerai les yeux de ta femme ravie;
À ton fils je rendrai sa force et ses couleurs
Et serai pour ce frêle athlète de la vie
L'huile qui raffermit les muscles des lutteurs.

En toi je tomberai, végétale ambroisie,
Grain précieux jeté par l'éternel Semeur,
Pour que de notre amour naisse la poésie
Qui jaillira vers Dieu comme une rare fleur!»

Charles Baudelaire

The Soul of Wine

One night, the soul of wine was singing in the flask: 
"O man, dear disinherited! to you I sing 
This song full of light and of brotherhood 
From my prison of glass with its scarlet wax seals.

I know the cost in pain, in sweat,
And in burning sunlight on the blazing hillside,
Of creating my life, of giving me a soul:
I shall not be ungrateful or malevolent,

For I feel a boundless joy when I flow 
Down the throat of a man worn out by his labor; 
His warm breast is a pleasant tomb 
Where I'm much happier than in my cold cellar.

Do you hear the choruses resounding on Sunday 
And the hopes that warble in my fluttering breast? 
With sleeves rolled up, elbows on the table, 
You will glorify me and be content;

I shall light up the eyes of your enraptured wife, 
And give back to your son his strength and his color; 
I shall be for that frail athlete of life 
The oil that hardens a wrestler's muscles.

Vegetal ambrosia, precious grain scattered 
By the eternal Sower, I shall descend in you 
So that from our love there will be born poetry, 
Which will spring up toward God like a rare flower!"

William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

La Destruction
Sans cesse à mes côtés s'agite le Démon;
II nage autour de moi comme un air impalpable;
Je l'avale et le sens qui brûle mon poumon
Et l'emplit d'un désir éternel et coupable.
Parfois il prend, sachant mon grand amour de l'Art,
La forme de la plus séduisante des femmes,
Et, sous de spécieux prétextes de cafard,
Accoutume ma lèvre à des philtres infâmes.
II me conduit ainsi, loin du regard de Dieu,
Haletant et brisé de fatigue, au milieu
Des plaines de l'Ennui, profondes et désertes,
Et jette dans mes yeux pleins de confusion
Des vêtements souillés, des blessures ouvertes,
Et l'appareil sanglant de la Destruction!
Charles Baudelaire

The Demon is always moving about at my side; 
He floats about me like an impalpable air; 
I swallow him, I feel him burn my lungs 
And fill them with an eternal, sinful desire.
Sometimes, knowing my deep love for Art, he assumes 
The form of a most seductive woman, 
And, with pretexts specious and hypocritical, 
Accustoms my lips to infamous philtres.
He leads me thus, far from the sight of God, 
Panting and broken with fatigue, into the midst 
Of the plains of Ennui, endless and deserted,
And thrusts before my eyes full of bewilderment, 
Dirty filthy garments and open, gaping wounds, 
And all the bloody instruments of Destruction!
William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Damned women :
Femmes damnées
Comme un bétail pensif sur le sable couchées,
Elles tournent leurs yeux vers l'horizon des mers,
Et leurs pieds se cherchant et leurs mains rapprochées
Ont de douces langueurs et des frissons amers.
Les unes, coeurs épris des longues confidences,
Dans le fond des bosquets où jasent les ruisseaux,
Vont épelant l'amour des craintives enfances
Et creusent le bois vert des jeunes arbrisseaux;
D'autres, comme des soeurs, marchent lentes et graves
À travers les rochers pleins d'apparitions,
Où saint Antoine a vu surgir comme des laves
Les seins nus et pourprés de ses tentations;
II en est, aux lueurs des résines croulantes,
Qui dans le creux muet des vieux antres païens
T'appellent au secours de leurs fièvres hurlantes,
Ô Bacchus, endormeur des remords anciens!
Et d'autres, dont la gorge aime les scapulaires,
Qui, recélant un fouet sous leurs longs vêtements,
Mêlent, dans le bois sombre et les nuits solitaires,
L'écume du plaisir aux larmes des tourments.
Ô vierges, ô démons, ô monstres, ô martyres,
De la réalité grands esprits contempteurs,
Chercheuses d'infini, dévotes et satyres,
Tantôt pleines de cris, tantôt pleines de pleurs,
Vous que dans votre enfer mon âme a poursuivies,
Pauvres soeurs, je vous aime autant que je vous plains,
Pour vos mornes douleurs, vos soifs inassouvies,
Et les urnes d'amour dont vos grands coeurs sont pleins
Charles Baudelaire

Damned Women
Lying on the sand like ruminating cattle, 
They turn their eyes toward the horizon of the sea, 
And their clasped hands and their feet which seek the other's 
Know both sweet languor and shudders of pain.
Some, whose hearts grew amorous from long confessions, 
In the depth of the woods, among the babbling brooks, 
Spell out the love of their timid adolescence 
By carving the green wood of young saplings;
Others, like sisters, walk gravely and with slow steps 
Among the high rocks peopled with apparitions, 
Where Saint Anthony saw the naked, purple breasts 
Of his temptations rise up like lava;
There are some who by the light of crumbling resin 
In the silent void of the old pagan caverns 
Call out for help from their screaming fevers to you 
O Bacchus, who lull to sleep the ancient remorse!
And others, whose breasts love the feel of scapulars, 
Who, concealing a whip under their long habits, 
Mingle, in the dark woods and solitary nights, 
The froth of pleasure with tears of torment.
O virgins, O demons, O monsters, O martyrs,
Great spirits, contemptuous of reality,
Seekers of the infinite, pious and satyric,
Sometimes full of cries, sometimes full of tears,
You whom my spirit has followed into your hell,
Poor sisters, I love you as much as I pity you,
For your gloomy sorrows, your unsatisfied thirsts,
And the urns of love with which your great hearts are filled!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)