Les Fleur du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), a collection of 101 poems by Charles Baudelaire was first published in 1857. Six of the poems were deemed so perverse and subversive, the French police rounded up and seized all available copies of the book. Baudelaire and his publisher were arrested and tried on offenses to public decency. That conviction wasn’t overturned until 1949.
Aren’t you just a little curious?
To the Reader
Folly and error, stinginess and sin
Possess our spirits and fatigue our flesh.
And like a pet we feed our tame remorse
As beggars take to nourishing their lice.
Our sins are stubborn, our contrition lax;
We offer lavishly our vows of faith
And turn back gladly to the path of filth,
Thinking mean tears will wash away our stains.
On evil’s pillow lies the alchemist
Satan Thrice-Great, who lulls our captive soul,
And all the richest metal of our will
Is vaporized by his hermetic arts.
Truly the Devil pulls on all our strings!
In most repugnant objects we find charms;
Each day we’re one step further into Hell,
Content to move across the stinking pit.
As a poor libertine will suck and kiss
The sad, tormented tit of some old whore,
We steal a furtive pleasure as we pass,
A shriveled orange that we squeeze and press.
Close, swarming, like a million writhing worms,
A demon nation riots in our brains,
And when we breathe, death flows into our lungs,
A secret stream of dull, lamenting cries.
If slaughter, or if arson, poison, rape
Have not as yet adorned our fine designs,
The banal canvas of our woeful fates,
It’s only that our spirit lacks the nerve.
But there with all the jackals, panthers, hounds,
The monkeys, scorpions, the vultures, snakes,
Those howling, yelping, grunting, crawling brutes,
The infamous menagerie of vice,
One creature only is most foul and false!
Though making no grand gestures, nor great cries,
He willingly would devastate the earth
And in one yawning swallow all the world;
He is Ennui! -with tear-filled eye he dreams
Of scaffolds, as he puffs his water-pipe.
Reader, you know this dainty monster too;
-Hypocrite reader,-fellowman,-my twin!