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Charles Baudelaire was one of the most influential French poets of the 19th century; his highly original style of prose-poetry inn particular influenced a whole generation of poets. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience. He died in 1867. One of those most influenced by him was the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, whose work in turn inspired various revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. "A poet so difficult that only foreigners can understand him." In addition to his writings, he also held occasional gatherings of intellectuals at his home. The group became known as les Mardistes, and through it Mallarmé exerted considerable influence on the work of a generation of writers. Regular visitors included W. B. Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Valéry, Stefan George, and Paul Verlaine..In 1892, he presided over a committee to raise money for a tomb for Baudelaire, dead for a quarter century; to promote the project he asked its members to write poetic tributes for publication. His own contribution was "Hommage," later retitled "Le Tombeau de Charles Baudelaire." Without punctuation or clear syntax, its obscure allusions have always baffled readers and critics. Here are two attempts at translation:The first is by Henry Weinfield:The buried temple empties through its bowels,Sepulchral sewer spewing mud and rubies,Abominably some idol of Anubis,Its muzzle all aflame with savage howls. Or if the recent gas the wick befoulsThat bears so many insults, it illuminesIn haggard outline an immortal pubisFlying along the streetlights on its prowls. What wreaths dried out in cities without prayerOf night could bless like that which settles downVainly against the marble of Baudelaire In the fluttering veil that girds her absence round,A tutelary poison, his own Wraith,We breathe in always though it bring us death.And, by A. S. Kline:The buried temple shows by the sewer-mouth’sSepulchral slobber of mud and rubies,Some abominable statue of Anubis,The muzzle lit like a ferocious snoutOr as when a dubious wick twists in the new gas,Having, we know, to wipe out insults sufferedHaggardly kindling an immortal pubis,Whose flight strays according to the lampWhat votive leaves, dried in cities without eveningCould bless, as she can, vainly sittingAgainst the marble of BaudelaireShudderingly absent from the veil that clothes herShe, his shade, a protective poisonous airAlways to be breathed, although we die of her.
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