Enivrez-Vous (be drunk)
by Charles Baudelaire
*Translated from French.
“You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it – it’s the only way.
So as not to feel the horrible burden of time
that breaks your back and bends you to the earth,
you have to be continually drunk.
But on what?
Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish.
But be drunk.
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace
or the green grass of a ditch,
in the mournful solitude of your room,
you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone,
ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock,
everything that is flying,
everything that is groaning,
everything that is rolling,
everything that is singing,
everything that is speaking. . .
Ask what time it is
and wind, wave, star, bird, the clock will answer you:
“It is time to be drunk!
So as not to be the martyred slaves of time,
be drunk, be continually drunk!
On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”
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Mentioned in “Misaeng” K-Drama episode 13
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Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris on April 9, 1821. In 1833, the family moved to Lyons where Baudelaire attended a military boarding school. Baudelaire spent the next two years in Paris’ Latin Quarter pursuing a career as a writer and accumulating debt. He had syphilis around this time.
In 1841 his parents sent him on a ship to India, hoping the experience would help reform his bohemian urges. He returned to Paris in 1842 and received a large inheritance, which allowed him to live the life of a Parisian dandy. He had the love for clothing and spent his days in the art galleries and cafes of Paris and experimented with drugs such as hashish and opium. Consequently, fell in love with Jeanne Duval, who inspired the “Black Venus” section of Les Fleurs du Mal.
1857, Auguste Poulet-Malassis published the first edition of Les Fleurs du Mal. Baudelaire was so concerned with the quality of the printing that he took a room near the press to help supervise the book’s production. The Public Safety section of the Ministry of the Interior was condemning six of his poems that describing lesbian love and vampires until 1949 where the ban was lifted in France.
In 1861, Baudelaire added thirty-five new poems to the collection. Les Fleurs du mal afforded Baudelaire a degree of notoriety; writers such as Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo wrote in praise of the lyrics. Flaubert wrote to Baudelaire claiming, “You have found a way to inject new life into Romanticism. You are unlike anyone else [which is the most important quality].” Unlike earlier Romantics, Baudelaire looked to the urban life of Paris for inspiration. He argued that art must create beauty from even the most depraved or “non-poetic” situations.
Les Fleurs du mal, with its explicit sexual content and juxtapositions of urban beauty and decay, only added to Baudelaire’s reputation as a poéte maudit (cursed poet). Baudelaire enhanced this reputation by flaunting his eccentricities; for instance, he once asked a friend in the middle of a conversation “Wouldn’t it be agreeable to take a bath with me?” Because of the abundance of stories about the poet, it is difficult to sort fact from fiction.
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