Que le soleil est beau quand tout frais il se lève,

This is a beautiful poem from Baudelaire, almost singing of the uplifting power of the sun, especially at sunrise or sunset, when it lifts our spirits and brings us to life. In contrast, the darkness of the night is oppressive, funereal and erodes the human spirit. Light and warmth, joy and energy, become darkness and cold, fear and trembling.

The title of the poem draws our attention to the romantic nature of a sunset, as experienced both by young lovers and amateur photographers – but that is only one part of the poem, the whole piece is really a celebration of sunlight and how it literally and figuratively brightens up our lives.

And, by the way, this is of course a sonnet.

Charles BAUDELAIRE   (1821-1867)

Le coucher du soleil romantique

Que le soleil est beau quand tout frais il se lève,
Comme une explosion nous lançant son bonjour !
– Bienheureux celui-là qui peut avec amour
Saluer son coucher plus glorieux qu’un rêve !

Je me souviens ! J’ai vu tout, fleur, source, sillon,
Se pâmer sous son oeil comme un coeur qui palpite…
– Courons vers l’horizon, il est tard, courons vite,
Pour attraper au moins un oblique rayon !

Mais je poursuis en vain le Dieu qui se retire ;
L’irrésistible Nuit établit son empire,
Noire, humide, funeste et pleine de frissons ;

Une odeur de tombeau dans les ténèbres nage,
Et mon pied peureux froisse, au bord du marécage,
Des crapauds imprévus et de froids limaçons.


From <http://www.poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/charles_baudelaire/le_coucher_du_soleil_romantique.html&gt;

Right away in the first four lines we encounter the force and impact of the sunrise, like an explosion of light and life, and the sunset, bringing a dream-like happiness to anybody who encounters it. Then in the next four lines, the poet highlights the impact of the sun on all living things – even plants and flowers turn towards it, while we humans run wildly in search of the sun’s rays.

But then the poem gets darker as the sunset fades away, making way for night and darkness, in the last six lines. Baudelaire emphasises the fear of the unknown, the funereal aspects of night, the shadows and the slimy nocturnal creatures which could make us shudder. Smells replace vision as the light has disappeared, this is the world of the toads and the slugs.

The Poetry Dude


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