Song of Autumn by Charles Baudelaire

In the poem, Song of Autumn I, written by Charles Baudelaire and translated by C.F. MacIntyre, there are many important poetic and literary devices that help the reader to analyze what the author is saying. The author has a very interesting background and has written many other poems, the author shows the romantic period very well in many of his poems, including this one. The narrator discusses his feelings towards and opinions of three of the four seasons in a year. Although this poem is very short, the author manages to put a lot of detain into it and he is very specific throughout it.

The romantic period began sometime around the 1770’s and had many different parts to it that made it as relevant and important as it was. In the romantic period, people were constantly striving for something beyond their reach, or anyone’s reach at that. Everybody was always thinking outside of the box. They had high goals, most of which were impossible to reach, but they were determined to prove themselves while trying to reach these goals.

During this time, contentment was never the goal, everybody always wanted more. In this period, people were aware or the limitations of what is in books and they expand outside of the knowledge that they give. In romanticism, everyone believes that reputation is a sham because reputations will limit what someone will strive for and then they will not try to pursue more. During this time period, people were constantly seeking experience and feelings and they always approached life’s mysteries by active participation and not reflection of what others have actively experienced in the past. Additionally, romanticism includes faith in nature as a creative source and a source of comfort and energy. Romanticism was the begging of individualism and “Romantics generally called for greater attention to the emotions as a necessary supplement to purely logical reason” (Melanie online).

On the 9th of April in 1821, in Paris, Charles Baudelaire was born to François Baudelaire (sixty years old at the time) and Caroline Dufayis (twenty-six-years-old at the time) and he was their only child. Baudelaire’s father passed away when he was only six years old and his mother soon remarried to a man that he could not get along with at all.

Due to the death of his father, at the age of twenty-one Baudelaire inherited a very large fortune from him and he started to spend the money at a ridiculously fast speed and this led to the “establishment of a board of guardians that was to control Baudelaire’s financial fortunes for most of his adult life” (poetry foundation online) and this led to Baudelaire being completely humiliated as he lived off of an allowance for the rest of his life. In his older years, Baudelaire was surrounded by prostitutes quite often. Baudelaire and his step father were not always on bad terms. It was not until Baudelaire was sent away (and escaped back home) that he began to dislike his step father because he blamed him for his family’s intervention on his life.

Around the 1850’s Baudelaire translated the works of Edgar Allan Poe. These two shared a dedication to beauty, a fascination with death, and his passion for perfectly crafted writing (Puchner 466). Baudelaire’s first poem appeared in 1857 when he was thirty-six-years-old. He wrote The Flowers of Evil with the intended to “scandalize its readers” and it succeeded (Puchner 466). The Flowers of Evil was seized by the French authorities and Baudelaire was fined and made famous as a result of this (the fame was not necessarily positive, he was not very admired for this). During Baudelaire’s time, most French poets were focused around the natural world. However, Baudelaire was more focused around the social life of the city.

At this time, Paris was filled with beggars and prostitutes, however, in the 1850’s the streets were transformed, and the poor were evicted and moved to the suburbs. In his works, Baudelaire gave explicit images of the body (this was something that was forbidden at the time) he also connected sexual desire to the horrors of sadism and putrefaction, others were horrified that he was willing to make this connection. Baudelaire liked traditional metrical forms and rhyme schemes, he manages to connect “the shockingly foul with the traditionally lovely” and it is very interesting (Puchner 467).

In Song of Autumn I, Baudelaire is discussing three of the four seasons, summer, winter, and autumn. In this poem he is describe the emotions that he feels with each of these three seasons. Summer is seen as happiness and joy while winter is seen as dark times that bring pain and death. However, Autumn is seen as nothing but a place in between the two, he even describes autumn as a time where a coffin is made to prepare for when winter comes.

The tone that the narrator shows in this poem is the fear of winter and the coming death. This is seen in stanza two when the speaker discusses all the pain and darkness that is brought with winter and he uses words like “hate,” “anger,” “horror,” and “chills” (Baudelaire 473). Stanza three, however, discusses the destruction of man’s spirit, here he uses the metaphor “my spirit is like a tower whose crumbling walls the tireless battering-ram brings to the ground” (Baudelaire 473).

This metaphor is used to show how negatively impacted he feels by winter and death. The poet expresses a sad attitude throughout the poem, this is seen with all of the depressing descriptive words and literary devices that he uses. This poem has a rhyme scheme that is in couplets. The rhyme scheme that Baudelaire originally used is obviously important because the editor of The Norton Anthology purposefully used the translation by C. F. MacIntyre in order to keep the original rhyme pattern. In the first stanza the author uses imagery so the reader can see the beautiful sunlight being covered by the fog. Baudelaire mentions the falling of logs twice, this repetition is used to show the reader how important he thinks it is. The falling of logs represents death and shows nature at the same time.

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