Je te donne ces vers afin que si mon nom

This is a nice poem from Charles Baudelaire, which takes as its starting point the assumption that his poems will make him immortal, his name will forever be remembered because of his verses (which is what has actually happened), but subverts the notion by offering the poem to a mysterious female figure, perhaps his muse, perhaps a real person, so that the immortality will be transferred also to that figure.

And how else would a poet express this somewhat complex idea but with a sonnet, of course – making the pleasure of reading it even more acute.

Je te donne ces vers…

Je te donne ces vers afin que si mon nom
Aborde heureusement aux époques lointaines,
Et fait rêver un soir les cervelles humaines,
Vaisseau favorisé par un grand aquilon,

Ta mémoire, pareille aux fables incertaines,
Fatigue le lecteur ainsi qu’un tympanon,
Et par un fraternel et mystique chaînon
Reste comme pendue à mes rimes hautaines ;

Être maudit à qui, de l’abîme profond
Jusqu’au plus haut du ciel, rien, hors moi, ne réponds !
– Ô toi qui, comme une ombre à la trace éphémère,

Foules d’un pied léger et d’un regard serein
Les stupides mortels qui t’ont jugée amère,
Statue aux yeux de jais, grand ange au front d’airain !

Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal

From <;

I lean towards the idea that the figure to whom these verses are offerred is a muse rather than a real person, because of the classical references and vocabulary, and because, at the end of the poem, the figure is distinguished from the stupid mortals who judge her austere (I think that is what is meant by amere here). So the figure would be a muse in the literal sense – Erato, I think. And a figure for which there is a statue with eyes of jade, so even less likely to be, for example, one of the poet’s lovers in real life.

The mood of the poem is reflective, gently rhythmic and subtle and pleasing in a way that grows on you. It doesn’t try to grab the reader by the throat with language, references, rhymes or rhythms which jerk you out of your seat. And is so much the better for that.

The Poetry Dude

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