Charles Baudelaire – Seven Olympians 5
Venue: Cafe Sladers, West Bay Road, West Bay, Bridport, Dorset DT6 4EL
Walking with Baudelaire in Paris, it is tempting to think of Wilde’s inspirational assurance that ‘we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” and understand how for Baudelaire the lure of stars and gutter acted on him as a tidal ebb and flow.
Like his English contemporary Dickens, Baudelaire read the city as a state of mind too, as place personified into mind and, hot on the heels of that, like a reverse-angle shot in film – mind de-personified into place.
It is absolutely compelling to set alongside him the no less disquieted Rilke’s habit of going for succour to Baudelaire’s prose-poems about Paris as bed-time comfort reading. Rilke had discovered that Baudelaire’s gloriously unselfcensored voice chimed with his own revulsion for the place. For Rilke
as for us, Baudelaire’s is a personal triumph of daring to meet that Paris at the cross-roads at midnight and offer his very soul to what he famously called that ‘swarming city, city full of dreams’.
Simply because Baudelaire is a truth-teller, a realist on his own terms, those dreams, far from cocooning him, are the breeding-ground of an unremitting stream of images, his images of recognisable life from the gracefully winged to the awesomely graphic.
The zest with which he finds his own life through what he feels and says is almost enviably volatile, free as the wind. No wonder Gustave Courbet saw it in the poet’s face. “I don’t know how to finish Baudelaire’s portrait”, said Courbet. “His face changes every day”.
Tickets £12.50 or £30 with dinner (served from 6pm)
Top picture: Statue of Charles Baudelaire by Pierre Félix-Masseau, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Middle picture: Photograph: Apic/Getty Images
Bottom picture: Charles Baudelaire, by Gustav Courbet (1849)