Frencher than the Tour de France

Charles Baudelaire Le Fleurs du Mal Le Cygne Poetry Literature

Here in Colombia, we have Tour de France fever. 23-year old Nairo Quintana won second place. The best showing by a Colombian ever.

The sight of over a hundred, neon-wearing cyclists circling historic Paris during the Tour’s final stage was exciting but also uncanny. It reminded me of poet Charles Baudelaire running into a swan while walking by the Louvre back in 1857.

He wrote about it in his poem ‘The Swan’, dedicated to Victor Hugo (so French!). Above is one my favorite passages from the poem. Below is a translation by William Aggeler.

charles baudelaire le cygne the swan translation french poetry literature


  1. The Drugstore Notebook

    Dear William,

    I noticed you also recently posted a Baudelaire poem. Odd coincidence!

    As regards the translation, of course you are correct…what a shame that “all” experts aren’t always right!

    I will take a look at Mr. Stevens’ poem. The title is itself a work of art. Sounds Japanese to me…no?


  2. William Eaton

    Thanks for another Baudelaire poem. The one thing I would change in the translation is that “all”. Baude. is not referring to the specific things he has just listed; everything in his world has become an allegory. (We are not far here from the problem of “Le Gouffre” and envying “the senselessness of the void”.) On another subject, someone today sent me a Wallace Stevens poem that reminded me of you (or of your work): “The Poem That Took The Place Of A Mountain”. It’s on the Web and not too long or opaque. Best, Wm.

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