A Poem From Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil)
By Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2011
Type of Work and Publication
Baudelaire's "The Remorse of the Dead" is a French lyric
poem. The Paris firm of Poulet-Malassis and de Broisse first published
it 1857 as one of more than one hundred thematically related poems in the
first edition of Baudelaire's,
Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers
of Evil). The poem appeared under its original French title,"Remords
Posthume," in a section entitled "Spleen et Idéal" ("Spleen and
Lorsque tu dormiras, ma belle
Quand la pierre, opprimant
ta poitrine peureuse
Le tombeau, confident de
mon rêve infini
Te dira: «Que vous
sert, courtisane imparfaite,
.......The speaker addresses a woman as if she were present. He tells her the following.
day you will sleep, my dark beauty, under a monument of black marble. For
your bedroom and country house, you will have a damp coffin in a deep grave.
The stone will press down on your shuddering breast and cold thighs, and
it will arrest the beat of your heart and the exercise of your will. Moreover,
it will keep your feet from running their wayward course.
Translated by Lewis Piaget
when thou wilt sleep, dark
girl of shadowy gaze,
when rock shall press thy
paling breast and graze
the Grave, that knows what
infinite dreams I keep,
shall ask: "art sorry, wretched
tiring-room: Dressing room, attiring room.
.......The theme of poem is the strong sense of guilt and regret a sinner will feel after he or she dies. In "The Remorse of the Dead," the sinner is a prostitute who feels no remorse while practicing her trade.
Seize the Day
ancient Latin expression carpe diem (seize the day) sums
up another theme of "The Remorse of the Dead." The prostitute lives for
the momentthat is, she seizes the daywithout regard for the spiritual
consequences of her sinful life.
.......Baudelaire wrote "Remords Postume" in a traditional French format, Alexandrine. In this verse format, each line consists of twelve syllables. Syllables 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are unaccented. Syllables 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 are accented. In the middle of the line, between syllables 6 and 7, is a brief pause, called a caesura. Occasionally, an Alexandrine line contains thirteen syllables, the last one unaccented. In English versification, an Alexandrine line is equivalent to iambic hexameter. The third line of the poem demonstrates the format of twelve alternating unaccented and accented syllables:
. .4. .. 5.
.. 8... .9..
The rhyme scheme of the first two stanzas is abba. The rhyme scheme of the last two stanzas is cdc and dff. Here is an illustration of the rhyme scheme.
Lorsque tu dormiras, ma belle ténébreuse,
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.
monument construit en marbre noir (line 2)Apostrophe
The speaker addresses a woman presumably absentMétaphore (Metaphor)
tu n'auras pour alcôve et manoirPersonnification (Personification)
le tombeau toujours comprendra le poèteStudy Questions and Writing Topics
What is the difference between a lyric poem and a ballad?