*
*
*
*
*
*

From Baudelaire's *Journaux intimes*

(translated for Hui-Ling, May 1993)

***

I have found the definition of Beauty, of *my* Beauty. It is a thing fiery and sad, a bit vague, a thing leaving much to conjecture. I will, if I may, apply my ideas to a tangible object, for example to the most interesting of objects in society, a woman's face. A seductive and beautiful head--a woman's head, that is--is one which brings forth all at once--but in a confused manner--dreams of both voluptuousness and sadness; which carries with it the idea of melancholy, laziness, even satiety--let us say a contradictory idea, in other words an ardor, a desire to live, linked to an ever-returning bitterness, as if the result of privation or despair. Mystery and regret are also characteristics of the Beautiful.

A handsome man's head needn't carry with it--except, perhaps, in the eyes of a woman--this idea of voluptuousness which, in a woman, is a provocation all the more attractive the more generally melancholy is the face. But the man's head will also contain something both fiery and sad--spiritual longings, ambitions darkly suppressed--the idea of a deep and rumbling power without employ--sometimes the idea of a vengeful hard-heartedness (because the ideal type of the Dandy is not to be ignored when considering this subject)--sometimes also--and it is one of the most interesting characteristics of beauty--mystery; and finally (that I may have the courage to avow to just what point I feel myself to be modern and aesthetic) *misfortune*. --I do not pretend that Joy can have no association with Beauty, but I would say that Joy is one of its most vulgar ornaments; whereas Melancholy could be said to be its most illustrious companion, to the extent that I can hardly conceive of (is my head, then, an enchanted mirror?) a type of the Beautiful in which there would not be *Misfortune*. --On the basis of (others would say: *obsessed by*) these ideas, one concludes that it would be difficult for me not to come to the conclusion that the most perfect type of masculine Beauty is *Satan*--in the manner of Milton.

***

I.

Even if God didn't exist, religion would still be holy and divine.

God is the only being that, in order to rule, needn't even exist. [N1]

***

II.

The femininity of the Church, as a reason for its omnipotence.

The color violet (love restrained, mysterious, and veiled; the canoness' color).

***

The grandeur of the priest, because he leads people to believe so many astonishing things.

That the Church wants to do everything and be everything--a law of the human spirit.

The people adore authority.

Priests are the servants and sectarians of the imagination.

*Throne and altar*--a revolutionary maxim.

***

If a poet requested of the State the right to keep several bourgeois in his stable, it would cause quite an uproar, whereas if a bourgeois were to order a bit of roast poet [*poete roti*], it would be considered quite natural.

***

Protestant countries are lacking in two elements indispensable for the happiness of a man who is well brought-up: gallantry and devotion.

--------------

Notes

1. Baudelaire's thesis that God needn't exist for religion to be holy is only possible, or perhaps only probable, from a Romantic and aesthete such as he was. "God is the only being that, in order to rule, needn't even exist." This notion puts me in mind of another text from French literature, one appearing a couple generations later than Baudelaire's. It is a "detached dialogue" presented in the Appendix to the English translation of Gide's *The Counterfeiters*. Two characters discuss:

"I'll confess that I've never been able to understand what interest there could be in believing in sin, hell, or satanism."

"Just a minute, just a minute! The same with me--I don't believe in the Devil; except that--and here's what bothers me--whereas you can serve God only if you believe in Him, the Devil does not require you to believe in him before you can serve him. On the contrary, he is never so well served as when he is unperceived. It's always to his interest not to let himself be recognized; and there, as I said, is what bothers me: to think that the less I believe in him, the more I strengthen him.... Of course, in spite of all I have just told you, in perfect sincerity I do not believe in the Devil. I take him, such as he may be, as a puerile oversimplification, an apparent explanation, of certain psychological problems--for which my mind vigorously rejects any solutions other than the perfectly natural, scientific, and rational ones. But, let me repeat, the Devil himself would agree with me here; he is delighted; he knows he has no better hiding place than behind such rational explanations.... Indeed, in spite of everything I am saying about him, in spite of everything I think and am not telling you, one fact nevertheless remains: from the moment I admit his existence--and this happens in spite of me, if only for an instant now and then--from that moment everything seems to be clarified, I seem to understand everything; it seems to me that at one fell swoop I discover the explanation of my life, of all the inexplicable, of all the incomprehensible, of all the dark corners of my life. Some day I should like to write--oh, I don't know how to explain it to you--I see it in my mind in the form of a dialogue, but there would be more to it. In short, it might possibly be called 'Conversation with the Devil'--and do you know how it would begin? I have discovered his first remark, the first one for him to say, you understand; but just to find that opening remark you have to be already very well acquainted with him.... I am having him say at first: *Why should you be afraid of me? You know very well I don't exist.*"

This brief dialogue shows the Dostoyevskian side of Andre Gide. I find Gide's formulation much more compelling than Baudelaire's. One is led to pose the question of our contemporaries: *How many of them believe in the existence of the Devil?* The Devil himself is more than delighted at the answer to this question.

---------

HOME

---------

Email: inthemargins03@hotmail.com

---------

This page is at http://www.necessaryprose.com/

---------