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EXOTIC PERFUME

Charles Baudelaire

WHEN with closed eyes in autumn's eves of gold


I breathe the burning odours of your breast, Before my eyes the hills of happy rest Bathed in the sun's monotonous fires, unfold. Islands of Lethe where exotic boughs Bend with their burden of strange fruit bowed down, Where men are upright, maids have never grown Unkind, but bear a light upon their brows. Led by that perfume to these lands of ease, I see a port where many ships have flown With sails outwearied of the wandering seas; While the faint odours from green tamarisks blown, Float to my soul and in my senses throng, And mingle vaguely with the sailor's song.

For example, Baudelaire writes early on in the first section which is titled The Ideal about images of women and islands and flowers. In Exotic Perfume Baudelaire speaks about a woman when he writes: I breathe the warm dark fragrance of your breast, before me blissful shores unfold, caressed by dazzling fires from blue unchanging skies. The women acts as an intermediary into the ideal. Suddenly the narrator breathes the womans fragrance and becomes intoxicated. From here he is elevated to a feeling of happiness. In the ideal, the woman can bring a man to God (heaven). Similar to the images in Exotic Perfume, Baudelaire likens beauty to wine in the poem before it. This comparison of beauty and wine is understood because both beauty and wine are objects of the ideal. Wine which makes a person drunk leads them to a temporary intoxication--it is an escape from reality. So is beauty and love. In the early poems this is not revealed but just as the intoxication of wine wears off, so does love.
Each set of love poems describes an erotic cycle that leads from intoxication through conflict and revulsion to an eventual ambivalent tranquillity born of memory and the transmutation of suffering into art. Yet the attempt to find plenitude through love comes in the end to nothing, and "Spleen et idal" ends with a sequence of anguished poems, several of them entitled "Spleen," in which the self is shown imprisoned within itself, with only the certainty of suffering and death before it.