Baudelaire: One Foot In The Grave

Which Is True? (translation by Arthur Symons)

I knew a certain Benedicta who filled earth and air with ideals; and from whose eyes men learnt the desire for greatness, beauty, glory, and for everything that strengthened their belief in immortality.

But this miraculous child was too beautiful to live long. She died only a few days after I had come to know her, and I buried her with my own hands, one day when Spring wafted the contents of its censer even as far as the graveyard. I buried her with my own hands, well sealed in a coffin of wood, perfumed and incorruptible as an Indian casket.

And as I stood gazing at the place where I had hidden my treasure, all at once I saw a little person singularly like the deceased. She was trampling on the fresh soil with strange hysterical violence, and was laughing and shouting:”I am the real Benedicta! and a vile slut I am, too! And to punish you for your blindness and folly, you shall love me as I really am!”

But I was furious, and I answered: “No! no! no!” And to add emphasis to my refusal, I stamped my foot so violently that my leg sank up to the knee in the earth over the new grave, and like a wolf caught in a trap, I remained fastened, perhaps forever, to the grave of the ideal.

by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Prose Poetry

A prose poem uses any and all poetic techniques except for line breaks.

Although most prose poems are in the ballpark of a page long, certain novels (such as Joyce’s “Ulysses”) have been considered “prose poems” based on their elevated language and poetic sensibility.

As a writer, the challenge of the prose poem is to create poetic qualities—music, imagery, meaning, etc.—without the aid of line breaks.

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