Book: The Flowers of Evil


“Glory and praise to you, O Satan, in the heights of Heaven where you reigned and in the depths of Hell where vanquished you dream in silence.”

Reader Guide 

French Modernist poet Charles Baudelaire engendered scandal and scorn with this collection of subversive poems, and both Baudelaire and his publisher were put on trial and convicted for “insult to public decency.”

Baudelaire’s decadent verses heaped praise on the distaseful and the morbid while reserving contempt for the contemporary and bourgeois, climaxing with his remarkable and compassionate “Litanies of Satan,” which addresses the devil as a patron of the downcast and the unlucky.

And yet, despite his work being as intentionally alienating as possible, Baudelaire’s contemporaries could not help but acknowledge the superiority of his verses, and be excited by the power and provocation inherent in his exploration of the seamy and the degraded.


Decadent Frenchman that he was, Baudelaire played pretty fast and loose with some of his terms, like when he considers the “pleasant delights” of “rape, poison, dagger, and fire.”

The fact that he’s considering the alleged pleasantries of being the VICTIM of such acts tells us that he’s speaking tongue in cheek. Still, actual victims of such things may find some of the poems more jarring than intended.