Poetry, France, 19th Century


Baudelaire, Charles.Les Fleurs du Mal. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et De Broise, 1857. Lilly Library: PQ2191 .F6 1857.


Félicien Rops, frontispiece for Les Épaves de Charles Baudelaire. Amsterdam: à l’enseigne du Coq [Brussels: Poulet-Malassis], 1866. Kinsey Institute Library (late reprint): 841.7 B33 e6 1874.

The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire (1857)

Currently the most revered and studied collection of French lyric poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal [The Flowers of Evil] by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) was the subject of one of the most famous literary trials in France. On August 20, 1857, a few weeks after publication of the collection by Poulet-Malassis, six poems from Les Fleurs du Mal were indicted by the Tribunal correctionnel [criminal court] of the Seine for affront to public decency (“outrage à la morale publique”) because of their alleged “crude realism”: “Les Bijoux” [The Jewels], “Le Léthé”, “Femmes damnées” [Damned Women], “Les Métamorphoses d’un vampire,” “À celle qui est trop gaie” [To a Woman too Gay], and “Lesbos” (the last two reproduced here with translations by Samuel N. Rosenberg). These erotic, sometimes lesbian poems were then excluded from all regular editions of Les Fleurs du Mal until the rehabilitation of Baudelaire and his collection by the Cour de cassation [court of appeals] in 1949. The condemned poems nevertheless continued to be widely circulated through clandestine and often illustrated editions, including Le Parnasse satyrique (1864), Les Épaves [The Wrecks] with a frontispiece by Félicien Rops (1866), Les Pièces condamnées [Condemned Pieces] with woodcuts by Jean Gabriel Daragnès (1917), all exhibited here.


First edition of Les Fleurs du Mal

Documents on the trial of Les Fleurs du Mal

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Baudelaire, Charles. Les Pièces condamnées. Édition ornée de 12 gravures sur bois de Daragnès. Paris: Leharanger-Coq, 1917. Kinsey Institute Library: AAF4967.


Mère des jeux latins et des voluptés grecques,
Lesbos, où les baisers languissants ou joyeux,
Chauds comme les soleils, frais comme les pastèques,
Font l’ornement des nuits et des jours glorieux,
— Mère des jeux latins et des voluptés grecques,


Mother of games and of pleasures, Latin and Greek,
Lesbos, where kisses of leisure, languor or joy,
Warm as summer suns and cool as fresh melons,
Ornament now all our nights and glorious days,
Mother of games and of pleasures, Latin and Greek,


Full poem translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg

À celle qui est trop gaie

Ta tête, ton geste, ton air
Sont beaux comme un beau paysage ;
Le rire joue en ton visage
Comme un vent frais dans un ciel clair.


To a woman too gay

The way you look and move and breathe
Has all the beauty of a beautiful landscape;
There's smiling at play across your face—
A cool fresh breeze in a sky that's bright.


Full poem translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg

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Le Parnasse satyrique du dix-neuvième siècle. Recueil de vers piquants et gaillards. 2 vols. Frontispiece by Félicien Rops. Rome: À l’enseigne des sept péchés capitaux [Brussels: Poulet-Malassis], 1864. Lilly Library: PQ1181 .P256 v. 1-2.

Le Parnasse satyrique / The Satyrical Parnassus (1864-81)

Le Parnasse satyrique du dix-neuvième siècle is an impressive anthology in two volumes, followed by the Nouveau Parnasse satyrique, of licentious French poetry by Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Albert Glatigny, Stéphane Mallarmé, among many other poets, on the model of the seventeenth-century Parnasse satyrique attributed to Théophile de Viau, as well as the eighteenth-century Parnasse libertin, also exhibited here. The anthology was clandestinely edited by the publisher Auguste Poulet-Malassis during his exile in Belgium in 1864, probably with the complicity of Baudelaire and other poets. Several copies of the anthology were seized by French customs when Poulet-Malassis tried to smuggle them into Paris, and the publisher was sentenced in absentia by a French court on June 2, 1865. The Parnasse satyrique was the first edition in which the six condemned poems of Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal were reprinted, and the second volume includes a facsimile of Baudelaire’s autograph dedication of his collection of verse to Gautier. Many reprints and new editions of the anthology were circulating in the late nineteenth century, including the expanded edition exhibited here, clandestinely printed by the Belgian publisher Henry Kistemaeckers in 1881, before it became almost forgotten in the twentieth century. Les Jeunes-France, the 1833 collection of novellas by Théophile Gautier, has little to do with the licentious anthology, but the frontispiece created by Félicien Rops for the reissue of the novel in 1866 may be considered an illustration of the Parnasse satyriques, to the extent that it represents several Romantic poets featured in the anthology, including Hugo, Musset, Gautier, and Baudelaire, gathered around a naked and lascivious muse.


First edition of the Parnasse satyrique

Full text of the Nouveau Parnasse satyrique

Félicien Rops, frotispiece forLes Jeunes France

Félicien Rops, frontispiece for Les Jeunes-France. Romans goguenards by Théophile Gautier.  Amsterdam: À l’Enseigne du coq [Brussels: Poulet-Malassis], 1866. Kinsey Institute Library: 843.7 G27 j5 1866.

Le Godemichet de la gloire par Théophile Gautier

Un vit, sur la place Vendôme,
Gamahuché par l’aquilon,
Décalotte son large dôme,
Ayant pour gland Napoléon.
Veuve de son fouteur, la Gloire,
La nuit, dans son con souverain,
Enfonce — tirage illusoire ! —
Ce grand godemichet d’airain…

The Dildo of Glory

A veritable shaft on the Place Vendôme,
Lapped and licked by the North wind alone,
Pulls its broad head away from the skin
And Napoleon rises, no longer tucked in.
Glory, now stripped of her iron-clad might,
At night, like a witless and cunningless knight,
Penetrates far (yes, it's tricky, alas!)
With that dildo of hers, that dildo of brass.

Translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg


[Verlaine, Paul]. Les Amies: Sonnets, par le licencié Pablo de Herlagnez. Segovie [Brussels: Poulet-Malassis], 1868. Lilly Library: PQ2463 .A74 1868.

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Verlaine, Paul. Les Amies: Sonnets. Illustrated by Jean Gabriel Daragnès. Bayonne: À l’enseigne de la Guirlande [Paris: Daragnès], 1919. Kinsey Institute Library: 841.7 V52 a5 1919.

Les Amies by Paul Verlaine (1868)

The collection of six Sapphic sonnets Les Amies [Girlfriends], composed by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) under the pseudonym Pablo de Herlagnez, was clandestinely printed in Brussels by Poulet-Malassis in December 1867. Several copies of the booklet were seized by French customs while the publisher was trying to smuggle them into Paris at the beginning of 1868, and the Tribunal Correctionnel (Criminal Court) of Lille ordered the destruction of the collection, on May 6, 1868, for affront to religion and public decency (see the September 19 issue of Le Moniteur universel. Journal official de l’Empire français). The collection Les Amies was anonymously illustrated and reissued by the artist and art publisher Jean Gabriel Daragnès (1886-1950) in 1919. The poem “Sappho,” exhibited here and translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg, has the particularity of being an inverted sonnet, that is, a pseudo-sonnet, exclusively composed of feminine rhymes like the other sonnets of the volume, in which the order of the quatrains and the tercets is reversed, to underline the lesbian theme of the collection.

Link first edition


Furious, hollow-eyed and stiff-nippled,
Sappho, impelled by exhausting desire,
Runs like a wolf along frozen stretches of shore.

Dreaming of Phaon, casting Rite now aside,
And seeing her tears unavailing,
She tears out her hair in measureless handfuls.

Then she recalls, with no soothing regret,
Days when the pure youthful glory of love
Shone in verses she sang and that memory
Now in the soul will recite to virgins asleep.

Now she shuts livid-lidded eyes tight
And leaps, summoning Fate, into the sea;
Overhead there appears, torching the darkness,
Selene, blue-pale, avenger of Lovers.

Translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg


Verlaine, Paul. Femmes. Imprimé sous le manteau et ne se vend nulle part [Brussels: Kistemaeckers], 1890. Lilly Library: PQ2463 .F329.


Verlaine, Paul. Chair (dernières poésies). Frontispiece by Félicien Rops. Paris: Bibliothèque Artistique & Littéraire, 1896. Lilly Library: PQ2463 .C434.

FemmesChair, and Hombres by Paul Verlaine (1890-1903)

In the last years of his life, Paul Verlaine (1844-96) mainly composed erotic poems, some of which mildly sensual, like those included in the posthumous collection Chair [Flesh], illustrated with a frontispiece by Félicien Rops, others downright obscene, like those included in the pornographic (in the etymological sense of pornography: writing about prostitutes) collection Femmes [Women] and the homoerotic collection Hombres [Men], clandestinely printed, the former in 1890 and the latter in 1904. Hombres ends with a sonnet composed in collaboration with Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) in 1872, Le Sonnet du trou du cul [Sonnet on the asshole], translated here by Samuel N. Rosenberg. According to Verlaine, he himself composed the quatrains (Verlaine fecit) and his younger lover composed the tercets (Rimbaud invenit).

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Verlaine, Paul. “Hombres” (hommes). Imprimé sous le manteau et ne se vend nulle part [Paris: Messein, 1904]. Lilly Library: PQ2463 .H764.

Le Sonnet du trou du cul par Paul Verlaine et Arthur Rimbaud

Obscur et froncé comme un œillet violet
Il respire, humblement tapi parmi la mousse
Humide encor d’amour qui suit la fuite douce
Des fesses blanches jusqu’au bord de son ourlet.

Des filaments pareils à des larmes de lait
Ont pleuré, sous l’auteur cruel qui les repousse,
A travers de petits caillots de marne rousse,
Pour s’en aller où la pente les appelait.

Ma bouche s’accouple souvent à sa ventouse
Mon âme, du coït matériel jalouse,
En fit son larmier fauve et son nid de sanglots

C’est l’olive pâmée et la flûte câline
C’est le tube où descend la céleste praline
Chanaan féminin dans les moiteurs éclos.

Sonnet on the asshole

Dark and puckered like a purple carnation,
It breathes, humbly nestled in a setting of moss,
Still damp with a love that gently descends
The cheeks of white that slope right to its rim.

Threads that look like strings of milky tears
Wept, under a blast of cruel opposing wind,
Past what tiny clots of earthy rust were there
To drip then toward the slope’s ensuing stop.

Often my mouth sought yours for our delight;
My soul, though, eager for the coupled thing,
Tore through the teary duct and the bed of sobs.

It’s the olive in a swoon, the flute in tight caress,
It’s the tube that’s lined with almond cream—
A woman’s promised land with a passage all our own.

Translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg