Below I have posted two of my favorite prose poems by French decadent poet Baudelaire. He is considered by many to be a pioneering master in both decadent and prose poetry. He lived life as he pleased, was infamous for his drug use and indulgences, and much of his work reflects the beauty that can be found in death and decay. His work was considered shocking for its time, often called Satanic, obscene, and heretical, but ultimately he was revered by some literary critics. Despite his infamy, he was unhappy and most often poor due to his refusal to work. His highly over-indulgent lifestyle eventually caught up with him, and he died of general paralysis (most likely from his huge appetite for hashish and opium).
~ Twenty Prose Poems, Translated by Michael Hamburger, Grossman Publishers Cape Editions, London
~ The Flowers Of Evil And Other Writings, Translated by F.P. Smith, W.J. Robertson, and Joseph T. Shipley, Barnes & Noble, New York
The versions I have posted here were translated by Michael Hamburger in 'Twenty Prose Poems Charles Baudelaire'.
One should always be drunk. That's all that matters; that's our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time's horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without ceasing.
But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.
And if, at some time, on the steps of a palace, in the green grass of a ditch, in the bleak solitude of your room, you are waking up when drunkenness has already abated, ask the wind, the wave, a star, the clock, all that which flees, all that which groans, all that which rolls, all that which sings, all that which speaks, ask them what time it is; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock will reply: 'It is time to get drunk! So that you may not be the martyred slaves of Time, get drunk; get drunk, and never pause for rest! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose!'
The Old Woman's Despair
The little, shriveled old woman felt quite overjoyed when she saw the pretty child whom everyone wished to amuse, whom everyone tried to please; that pretty creature, so fragile, like herself, the little old woman, and, like her also, without teeth and without hair.
And she approached the child, wishing to smile at it and make faces pleasantly.
But the terrified child struggled against the caresses of the good, drecepit woman, and filled the house with its yelping.
Then the kind old woman retired into her eternal solitude, and cried in a corner, saying to herself: 'Oh! for us wretched old females, the age when we could please, if only the innocent, is past; and we fill with horror the little children whom we wish to love!'