Baudelaire’s THE ALBATROSS…. the Poet versus Himself

Charles Baudelaire’s The Albatross, is a stirring description of his own feelings on being a man and a poet.

Baudelaire compares “the poet” to an Albatross: for as beautifully graceful as the majestic bird is in flight, it is equally as awkward and ridiculed while on the ground; as is the Poet-  who reaches into the mystical heavens to touch life itself- only to feel ugly, ridiculed and misunderstood by those around him.

The Albatross
by Charles Baudelaire (translated William Aggeler 1954)

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew
Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds
That indolently follow a ship
As it glides over the deep briny sea.

Scarcely have they placed them on the deck
Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed,
Pathetically let their great white wings
Drag beside them like oars.

That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is,
So beautiful before, now comic and ugly!
One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe;
Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!

The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky
Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.

Baudelaire is credited with coining the term, “modernity” to designate the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century.  His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) was first published in 1857.

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