'I have sought forgetful sleep in love; but love is nothing but a mattress of needles'
The poems of Charles Baudelaire are filled with explicit and unsettling imagery, depicting with intensity every day subjects ignored by French literary conventions of his time. 'Tableaux parisiens' portrays the brutal life of Paris's thieves, drunkards and prostitutes amid the debris of factories and poorhouses. In love poems such as 'Le Beau Navire', flights of lyricism entwine with languorous eroticism, while prose poems such as 'La Chambre Double' deal with the agonies of artistic creation and mortality. With their startling combination of harsh reality and sublime beauty, formal ingenuity and revolutionary poetic language, these poems, including a generous selection from Les Fleurs du Mal, show Baudelaire as one of the most influential poets of the nineteenth century.
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Charles-Pierre Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. He travelled to the Indian Ocean but returned prematurely and never again travelled far from Paris, until his journey to Belgium the year before his death, where he suffered a stroke. He lived a bohemian lifestyle, writing, publishing and lecturing to raise money for his rather lavish tastes. His collection of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) was prosecuted for indecency. Carol Clark is a Fellow and Tutor in French at Balliol College, Oxford.