Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage

This sonnet from Baudelaire seems to be channeling Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” with its description of the shooting of an albatross by the crew of a ship sailing in the southern oceans. But unlike, Coleridge, the poem I short and dwells on the sad fate of the Albatross rather than the curse laid upon those who shot it. And then he draws a parallel with the fate of the poet, a giant among men, but brought down by their mockery. But at least Baudelaire doesn’t claim to have an albatross around his neck…

L’Albatros de Charles Baudelaire

Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

A peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l’azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à coté d’eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu’il est comique et laid!
L’un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L’autre mime, en boitant, l’infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.

From <http://www.alalettre.com/baudelaire-oeuvres-l-albatros.php&gt;

The contrast is between the beauty and majesty of the albatross in flight and its sad broken down state when brought down on deck, probably not dead but unable to lift its wings. It is diminished, ugly, almost comical to some eyes, but deeply sad to those who remember its splendour in flight. The final four lines of the sonnet equate the poet with the doomed bird, fabulous when it is in the air, but helpless among ordinary men, subject to scorn and mockery, dragging its wings but unable to really move.
A beautiful poem, but a bit of self-pity for the poet himself

The Poetry Dude

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