The collection “The Flowers of Evil” is the poetic peak of all Charles Baudelaire’s work. He conceived it as a poetic copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The first edition of the collection was published in 1857, but it was constantly supplemented by new poems. It is difficult to call “The Flowers of Evil” an ordinary collection: verses are read in a single work in which the development of a certain thought is clearly traced. This is a real confession of a wandering soul, its pain and suffering in life’s quest.
Chapter 1: “Spleen and Ideal”
The first chapter of the collection is the longest, but very important for understanding the essence of the concept. The author tells the reader what a terrible struggle is taking place in human souls, how they are torn by painful doubts. Serious sins and mistakes plunge the soul into the abyss of darkness and darkness, but lofty thoughts and aspirations ascend to its very heavens. The last poems of this chapter end with a quagmire from which the soul of the lyrical hero, who suffers from deadly longing and spleen, cannot escape.
Chapter 2: “Parisian Scenes”
In this chapter, the lyrical hero in longing, which stretches even from “Splin and Ideal,” roams the streets of vast Paris. And it turns out that the soul with all its problems and misfortunes is lonely even in such a populous city like Paris. Baudelaire raises here the theme of a little man, which is relevant for all European and Russian literature of the mid-19th century. The lyrical hero of the collection has enough days to understand and realize the pain of his loneliness in the middle of a soulless city.
Chapter 3: “Wine”
Unable to withstand the hardships of oppressive, painful loneliness, the lyrical hero of the collection is trying to calm down and find oblivion in drugs and wine, which only aggravate his condition. His consciousness is mistaken, he loses the ability to reason sensibly and can no longer distinguish good from evil. Minute pleasure passes very quickly, leaving bitterness, pain and a lasting feeling of undivided loneliness.
Chapter 4: “Flowers of Evil”
In this chapter, the lyrical hero appears before the readers even more weak and weak. He can not withstand those temptations of the world that simply fall upon him. He makes a mistake for a mistake, one sin after another: it is debauchery, and lust, and even murder. But the sweetness of sin is too fleeting, like drugs and wine, and the ideal of the lyrical hero of the collection was never found.
Chapter 5: “Revolt”
Aware of his own sins and his own weakness before temptations, the lyrical hero challenges the hated fate and the whole world. He openly complains about the imperfection of the world order, with which he cannot put up and will not. There are only three poems in the chapter, but they are very bright and shamelessly atheistic, the truth of life is exposed and exaggerated in them, which makes the lyrical hero a moral cripple who did not find his place under the scorching rays of the sun.
Chapter 6: “Death”
Finally, the tormented soul finds peace, but this peace marks death. Moreover, the lyrical hero of the collection never reaches the ideal for which he committed his mistakes, sins and passed all these tests:
test of love and art (1 chapter);
big city (2 chapter);
intoxication (3 chapter);
vicious pleasure (4 chapter);
riot (5 chapter).
“The Flowers of Evil” by Charles Baudelaire is a single poetic book in which no poem can be interchanged: its structure is so organic. It was in this collection that the French poet managed to realize his aesthetic program, showing the torment and suffering of a lonely human soul in search of an ideal.