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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Obsequies Of Baudelaire

by Paul Verlaine

We had just exited Montparnasse cemetery, where some friends and admirers had accompanied Charles Baudelaire to his final resting place, deceased the day before yesterday to the horrible paralysis which pinched him since about the last two years. This death, which has not surprised anyone, painfully impressed all those who yet preserve the love for High Literature and Great Poetry. Because he was at the same time an eminent writer and a great poet the translator of Extraordinary Stories and the author of The Flowers of Evil.

The marvelous purity of his style; his brilliant, solid and winged verse; his potent and subtle imagination and, above everything else the exquisite sensibility, sometimes deep and sometimes cruel which his minor works assure Charles Baudelaire a place between the most pure literary glories of his time, along Balzac and Hugo, of course. This opinion, which soon will be everyone else’s because of being sincere has been admirably exposed in a discourse of Theodore de Banville, the exquisite teacher, so much worthy of praising Baudelaire. Mr. Charles Asselineau, friend of the illustrious dead, in some eloquent words broken by sobs, has remembered the man’s qualities, the values and the devotions, and the delicacies “of that great heart which has been also a good heart”; after, briefly evoking his last moments, has defended his loving memories of the calumnies with which stupidity and vulgarity will sting him, kept at a distance and fustigated by the ironic disdains and the poet’s baffling cold blood.

A small enough group crammed itself around the coffin, happening that we quote without any bitterness, because each one of the visitors---without taking on account the young Ernest d’Hervilly, Armand Gouzien, Eugenne Vermesch, among others---, compounded a literary and artistic illustration, and which crowd will suffice for this elite? ---Theodore de Banville, Charles Asselineau, Champfleury, Arsene Houssaye, Bracquemond, the doctor Piogey and many others!---, especially in the obsequies of a man who, while living, was so much terrorized by tumultuous manifestations and popular glory? It is sensible that the absence of a famous character was noted, qualifying it of incorrect. And it is more sensible yet that this appreciation be just.

*     *     *

“Dear friend Deschamps, reading such eloquent article by Cladel in your last issue it came to my mind a visit I made to Baudelaire’s tomb, five years ago, with Charles Morice. I had been to Montparnasse, to bring a wreath to a person who had been to me something like Mary Clems was for Edgard Poe. Once accomplished this almost filial duty, my dear friend Morice and I headed to Baudelaire’s tomb; but since I knew that the great poet was inhumed in general Aupick’s tomb, we didn’t want to confound ourselves with all the painful---and shameful for a country---ignorance proved by Ompdrailles’ author, and we could reflect melancholically before the mean wake under which so much literary genius---and to top it, if you will---, so much military men… and diplomatic ones sleep.”

“Many years ago I accompanied, when I was young and dreamer, Baudelaire’s coffin, from his health house to the necropolis, passing by the little church where the responsory was said. Lemerre the editor and I  were the first ones marching behind the hearse, which was followed by scanty attendees, Louis Veuillot, Arsene Houssaye, Charles Asselineau and Theodore de Banville. These latter two pronounced some farewell phrases in the moment in which the coffin was descending into the pit, the sky, which has been ominous the whole day, unchained itself in peals of thunder, a deluging rain falling.”

“It was very evident the absence in these sad obsequies of Theophile Gautier to whom the master loved so much and Leconte de Lisle, who boasted of being his friend, in spite of the relations, a little ironic by the part of Baudelaire, that existed between them.”

“I believed of some interest sending you these notes, which don’t rejuvenate me a little, yet, and I repeat it, I had been very young in the epoch I am talking about. Please do anything you like of my communication.”

        “Paris, October the 19th, 1890”

Translated by Lex Taylor.

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