by solitary walker

One journey ends; another one begins. Though all journeys are related, and one journey amplifies another. My new literary journey will take me back to the France of the nineteenth century, the era of Romanticism. I’ve travelled there before, but paths already taken become new paths when walked again. There are often so many new things to discover that the journey seems completely fresh. Such is the constant fascination and appeal of landscape and literature, of life and living.

Romanticism dominated French literature during the first half of the nineteenth century — and not only French but British and German literature too. The towering literary figure in France at that time was Victor Hugo. However I’m going to skirt gingerly round this monumental genius for the moment, and start with the sensitive and dissolute Charles Baudelaire, who shook Romanticism and turned it on its head. Baudelaire — one of the greatest and most influential of all French poets. Although essentially “romantic”, he mixed romanticism with naturalism, developing a new aesthetic creed which took in not only the sensual and the exotic, but also the sordid and the corrupt. He recognised that all these opposites  — good and evil, the sublimely spiritual and the grotesquely physical, the sacred and the profane — were equally part of life. There was no getting away from it. Except in death.

Baudelaire’s whole life and work can be seen as a spiritual odyssey. And the culmination of this spiritual odyssey was his collection of poems Les Fleurs Du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), Baudelaire‘s masterwork.