Mon enfant, ma soeur

This is a beautiful poem by Baudelaire on the fantasy of going away with his lover to some exotic place where they could live a life dedicated to love and pleasure. Most people have this yearning at some point, but the realities of daily life usually get in the way. When it does happen, such voyages usually end in tears. However, with Baudelaire, we can always wish for our dreams to come true.

L’invitation au voyage

Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur
D’aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Les soleils mouillés
De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
Si mystérieux
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Des meubles luisants,
Polis par les ans,
Décoreraient notre chambre;
Les plus rares fleurs
Mêlant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l’ambre,
Les riches plafonds,
Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
Tout y parlerait
À l’âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Vois sur ces canaux
Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l’humeur est vagabonde;
C’est pour assouvir
Ton moindre désir
Qu’ils viennent du bout du monde.
— Les soleils couchants
Revêtent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entière,
D’hyacinthe et d’or;
Le monde s’endort
Dans une chaude lumière.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

— Charles Baudelaire

From <;

It seems from the start of the poem that it is addressed by an older man to a younger lover, calling her my child. This rings true, as such fantasies of leaving everything behind and starting a new life are often appealing to younger people. And he tells her that the destination will resemble her, she will be at home there.

The three stanzas are punctuated with a two line refrain which describes the ideal qualities which the poet aspires to in this magical place: order, beauty, luxury, calm, voluptuousness – a combination of peaceful repose and sensual stimuli.

The second and third stanzas describe aspects of interior and exterior scenes. The second stanza describes old, well-polished furniture, flowers, high ceilings and deep mirrors, a place of high class easy luxury and comfort, where they will be able to make love in comfort. The third stanza evokes the ships tied up n the canal, only there to bring any luxury goods from anywhere in the world that the poet’s lover might wish for. And then there is a description of a sunset bathing the whole scene in a deep, glowing light. This is truly the world seen through rose-tinted spectacles.

For me the poem is very evocative of the sights, sounds and smells of some luxurious oriental place. Baudelaire masters the art of conveying multiple sensory perceptions through the words he chooses. I am happy to go along with him on the voyage.

The Poetry Dude


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