Teacher Diaries: Ms Valencia – The Poem I Love

Charles Boudelaire was one of the most influential poets in the Symbolist movement in the 19th century. My favourite poem is Correspondences by Boudelaire in his well-known publication Les Fleurs du mal. We experience and perceive the world through a mixture of senses, and we usually think of the five senses as separate entities. However, in this poem, the poet engages the five senses in the form of synesthesia.

There are many versions of English translation of this poem, and the following is one of them:

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d’autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,
Ayant l’expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l’ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l’encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l’esprit et des sens.
— Charles Baudelaire

Nature is a temple in which living pillars
Sometimes give voice to confused words;
Man passes there through forests of symbols
Which look at him with understanding eyes.
Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance
In a deep and tenebrous unity,
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.
There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
— And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,
With power to expand into infinity,
Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,
That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

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