.
.
The Remorse of the Dead
Remords Posthume
A Poem From Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil)
By Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
A Study Guide
Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site
.
Type of Work
Poem in French
Prose Translation
Poem in English
Themes
Verse Format
Rhyme Scheme
Figures of Speech
Study Questions
Writing Topics
Biography of Baudelaire
Index of Study Guides
.
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2011
.
Type of Work and Publication

.......Charles Baudelaire's "The Remorse of the Dead" is a French lyric poem. The Paris firm of Poulet-Malassis and de Broisse first published it 1857 as one of more than one hundred thematically related poems in the first edition of Baudelaire's, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). The poem appeared under its original French title,"Remords Posthume," in a section entitled "Spleen et Idéal" ("Spleen and the Ideal"). 
.......Les Fleurs du Mal was one of the most influential and controversial works of the nineteenth century. Among the themes are beauty and ugliness in life, boredom, death, disillusionment and despair, the role of the poet, and cultural decadence. The book frequently uses symbols to represent themes and ideas. After Baudelaire published the first edition of the poems in 1857, a court decreed that several of them were obscene and blasphemous. He had to remove six poems before publishing the second edition. 

Remords Posthume
Par Charles Baudelaire

Lorsque tu dormiras, ma belle ténébreuse,
Au fond d'un monument construit en marbre noir,
Et lorsque tu n'auras pour alcôve et manoir
Qu'un caveau pluvieux et qu'une fosse creuse;

Quand la pierre, opprimant ta poitrine peureuse
Et tes flancs qu'assouplit un charmant nonchaloir,
Empêchera ton coeur de battre et de vouloir,
Et tes pieds de courir leur course aventureuse,

Le tombeau, confident de mon rêve infini
(Car le tombeau toujours comprendra le poète),
Durant ces grandes nuits d'où le somme est banni,

Te dira: «Que vous sert, courtisane imparfaite,
De n'avoir pas connu ce que pleurent les morts?»
— Et le ver rongera ta peau comme un remords.

Prose Translation
By Michael J. Cummings

.......The speaker addresses a woman as if she were present. He tells her the following.

.......One day you will sleep, my dark beauty, under a monument of black marble. For your bedroom and country house, you will have a damp coffin in a deep grave. The stone will press down on your shuddering breast and cold thighs, and it will arrest the beat of your heart and the exercise of your will. Moreover, it will keep your feet from running their wayward course.
.......The tomb—privvy to all my endless dreams (because the tomb and the poet have always been good friends)—will say to you during your eternal sleepless night: "What folly it was for you, imperfect courtesan, not to have learned while you were living why the dead weep."
.......Then you will learn that lesson as the worm of remorse gnaws at your breast.

English Version of the Poem

Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks
Flowers of Evil
New York: Ives Washburn, 1931

when thou wilt sleep, dark girl of shadowy gaze,
down in the cold black marble of a tomb,
a dripping vault thine only tiring-room,
thine only bed a grave where all decays,

when rock shall press thy paling breast and graze
thy limbs now languorous-lovely in the gloom
—shall crush thy faltering heart, thy will consume
and halt thy feet in their adventurous ways,

the Grave, that knows what infinite dreams I keep,
(o Grave, the poet's friend forever, thou!)
all through the night bereft of exiled sleep,

shall ask: "art sorry, wretched wanton, now,
not to have learned why dead men weep, perforce?"
—and worms shall gnaw thy breast like sharp remorse.

tiring-room: Dressing room, attiring room.

Theme

Remorse

.......The theme of poem is the strong sense of guilt and regret a sinner will feel after he or she dies. In "The Remorse of the Dead," the sinner is a prostitute who feels no remorse while practicing her trade. 

Seize the Day

.......The ancient Latin expression carpe diem (seize the day) sums up another theme of "The Remorse of the Dead." The prostitute lives for the moment—that is, she seizes the day—without regard for the spiritual consequences of her sinful life. 
.


 
.
.
Verse Format

.......Baudelaire wrote "Remords Postume" in a traditional French format, Alexandrine. In this verse format, each line consists of twelve syllables. Syllables 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are unaccented. Syllables 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 are accented. In the middle of the line, between syllables 6 and 7, is a brief pause, called a caesura. Occasionally, an Alexandrine line contains thirteen syllables, the last one unaccented. In English versification, an Alexandrine line is equivalent to iambic hexameter. The third line of the poem demonstrates the format of twelve alternating unaccented and accented syllables:

1... .2..  ..3. . .4. .. 5. ...6. ...7. .. 8... .9.. .10...11. . 12
Et  lor  sque  tu  n'aur  as  pour  al  côve  et  man  oir

Rhyme

The rhyme scheme of the first two stanzas is abba. The rhyme scheme of the last two stanzas is cdc and dff. Here is an illustration of the rhyme scheme.

Lorsque tu dormiras, ma belle ténébreuse,
Au fond d'un monument construit en marbre noir,
Et lorsque tu n'auras pour alcôve et manoir
Qu'un caveau pluvieux et qu'une fosse creuse;

Quand la pierre, opprimant ta poitrine peureuse
Et tes flancs qu'assouplit un charmant nonchaloir,
Empêchera ton coeur de battre et de vouloir,
Et tes pieds de courir leur course aventureuse,

Le tombeau, confident de mon rêve infini
(Car le tombeau toujours comprendra le poète),
Durant ces grandes nuits d'où le somme est banni,

Te dira: «Que vous sert, courtisane imparfaite,
De n'avoir pas connu ce que pleurent les morts
— Et le ver rongera ta peau comme un remords.

Figures of Speech
Les Figures de Rhétorique

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.

Allitération (Alliteration)

monument construit en marbre noir (line 2)
Qu'uncaveau pluvieux et qu'une fosse creuse (line 4)
Et tes pieds de courir leur course aventureuse, (line 8)
Apostrophe
The speaker addresses a woman presumably absent
The swan addresses water (eau) and lightning (foudre).
Métaphore (Metaphor)
tu n'auras pour alcôve et manoir
Qu'un caveau pluvieux et qu'une fosse creuse
Comparison of alcôve (bedroom) to miroir (mirror)
Personnification (Personification)
le tombeau toujours comprendra le poète
Comparison of the tomb to a person. (The tomb will always understand the poet.)
le tombeau . . . te dira: «Que vous sert, courtisane imparfaite,
De n'avoir pas connu ce que pleurent les morts?»
Comparison of the tomb to a person. (The tomb questions the courtesan.)
Study Questions and Writing Topics
  • If you are studying French, write your own English translation of "Remords Posthume." Keep Baudelaire's rhyme scheme.

  • What is the difference between a lyric poem and a ballad?
  • Write an informative essay that explains Alexandrine verse. Use library and Internet research.
  • What are other examples of alliteration besides those listed above?

.


 

privacy policy