Partir Pour Partir

by solitary walker

One of the finest poems in Baudelaire‘s Les Fleurs Du Mal, and certainly one of my own favourites, is his poem Le Voyage. In it Baudelaire writes that our travels through life, even travels to far and exotic places, ultimately leave us bored, despairing and disillusioned, and full of bitter wisdom (amer savoir). We can never find the ideal in life; we can only find it in death. Yet the very beauty of Baudelaire‘s stanzas show us that art, at least, may help us along this fraught earthly path strewn with chimerical wonders and examples of flawed and cruel mankind.

I love the fifth verse, which describes the true way to travel: “Mais les vrais voyageurs sont ceux-là seuls qui partent / Pour partir; cœurs lègers, semblables aux ballons, / De leur fatalité jamais ils ne s’écartent, / Et, sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!” (“But the real travellers are only those / Who leave for leaving’s sake; hearts light as air, / They never do their destiny oppose; / Not knowing why, they always say: I dare!”

(Translation by Joanna Richardson.)