Charles Baudelaire: Poems

Influence

Baudelaire's influence on the direction of modern French (and English) language literature was considerable. The most significant French writers to come after him were generous with tributes; four years after his death, Arthur Rimbaud praised him in a letter as 'the king of poets, a true God'.[48] In 1895, Stéphane Mallarmé published a sonnet in Baudelaire's memory, 'Le Tombeau de Charles Baudelaire'. Marcel Proust, in an essay published in 1922, stated that along with Alfred de Vigny, Baudelaire was 'the greatest poet of the nineteenth century'.[49]

In the English-speaking world, Edmund Wilson credited Baudelaire as providing an initial impetus for the Symbolist movement, by virtue of his translations of Poe.[50] In 1930, T. S. Eliot, while asserting that Baudelaire had not yet received a "just appreciation" even in France, claimed that the poet had "great genius" and asserted that his "technical mastery which can hardly be overpraised ... has made his verse an inexhaustible study for later poets, not only in his own language".[51] In a lecture delivered in French on "Edgar Allan Poe and France" (Edgar Poe et la France) in Aix-en-Provence in April 1948, Eliot stated that "I am an English poet of American origin who learnt his art under the aegis of Baudelaire and the Baudelairian lineage of poets."[52] Eliot also alluded to Baudelaire's poetry directly in his own poetry. For example, he quoted the last line of Baudelaire's 'Au Lecteur' in the last line of Section I of 'The Waste Land.'

At the same time that Eliot was affirming Baudelaire's importance from a broadly conservative and explicitly Christian viewpoint,[53] left-wing critics such as Wilson and Walter Benjamin were able to do so from a dramatically different perspective. Benjamin translated Baudelaire's Tableaux Parisiens into German and published a major essay on translation[54] as the foreword.

In the late 1930s, Benjamin used Baudelaire as a starting point and focus for his monumental attempt at a materialist assessment of 19th-century culture, Das Passagenwerk.[55] For Benjamin, Baudelaire's importance lay in his anatomies of the crowd, of the city and of modernity.[56] He says that, in Les Fleurs du mal, "the specific devaluation of the world of things, as manifested in the commodity, is the foundation of Baudelaire's allegorical intention."[57] François Porche published a poetry collection called Charles Baudelaire: Poetry Collection in memory of Baudelaire.

Vanderbilt University has "assembled one of the world's most comprehensive research collections on ... Baudelaire".[58] Les Fleurs du mal has a number of scholarly references.[59]


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