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To A Passer By Baudelaire 1

By Fabricio-Baeza Jul 02, 2015 431 Words


To a Passer-By
The street about me roared with a deafening sound.
Tall, slender, in heavy mourning, majestic grief,
A woman passed, with a glittering hand
Raising, swinging the hem and flounces of her skirt;
Agile and graceful, her leg was like a statue's.
Tense as in a delirium, I drank
From her eyes, pale sky where tempests germinate,
The sweetness that enthralls and the pleasure that kills.
A lightning flash... then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Will I see you no more before eternity?
Elsewhere, far, far from here! too late! never perhaps!
For I know not where you fled, you know not where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Baudelaire on the flaneur:
"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes.  His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd.  For the perfect flaneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.  To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world - impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.  The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.  The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not - to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas.  Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy.  Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all  the elements of life...any man who can yet be bored in the heart of the multitude is blockhead? a blockhead? and I despise him! -Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, New York: Da Capo Press, 1964. (reprint)  Note: the original essay appeared in the Parisian newspaper, Figaro, in 1863.

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