Correspondence by Charles Baudelaire: A Close Reading

Author: Tipper, Karen
This is a close study of the one poem of Charles Baudelaire where he explains, and exemplifies, his key aesthetic idea: that every physical quality “corresponds” to a spiritual quality, or idea. Therefore, the physical world should be interpreted as a performance of the spiritual world an idea the author suggests Baudelaire got from Swendenborg.


Blind Peer Review:
"The author convincingly demonstrates that Baudelaire’s writing comes at the creative vortex of nineteenth-century art: Wagner, Delacroix, Manet, Hoffmann, Hugo, Poe, Swedenborg. She draws upon this range of influences to show that Baudelaire’s poetry has riches that are still unexplored."

Table of Contents

Baudelaire intended the beauty of a poem to be symbolic of the perfection to which he aspired, so it is essential that Correspondences be read in the original. No matter how precise a translation, it will never evoke the same sensations, particularly that the sound of a musical composition, that Baudelaire had sought to reflect the vitality of his vision or dream.

La nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles ;
L’homme y passe à travers des forets de symbols
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
Las parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
-Et d’autres, corrumpus, 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.

Nature is a temple where living pillars sometimes emit indistinct words; the man passes through forests of symbols, which observe him with familiar looks. Like long echoes that merge from afar a in a mysterious and profound unity, vast like the night and like bright light, scents, colors, and sounds correspond. It is fresh scents like the flesh of children, mellow like the oboe, green like the prairies- and of others, corrupt, rich, and triumphant, having the expansion of infinite things, like amber, musk, benzoin and incense, which sing of the rapture of the soul and the senses. (Tipper).