“Get Drunk.” After his expulsion from the Lycée Louis-le-Grand for lack of discipline in 1839, Baudelaire in his late teens embarked upon a literary life in the Latin Quarter and soon contracted syphilis—most likely from a prostitute nicknamed Squint-Eyed Sarah, whom he immortalized in his early verse. In 1848 he began translating Edgar Allan Poe, whose life and works he found “stamped with an undeniable seal of melancholy,” and in 1860, he translated some of the opium writings of Thomas De Quincey. Baudelaire published The Flowers of Evil in 1857 and was promptly tried for public indecency.
One should always be drunk. That’s the great thing, the only question. Not to feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and bowing you to the earth, you should be drunk without respite.
Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please. But get drunk.
And if sometimes you should happen to awake, on the stairs of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, in the dreary solitude of your own room, and find that your drunkenness is ebbing or has vanished, ask the wind and the wave, ask star, bird, or clock, ask everything that flies, everything that moans, everything that flows, everything that sings, everything that speaks, ask them the time; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, and the clock will all reply, “It is Time to get drunk! If you are not to be the martyred slaves of Time, be perpetually drunk! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please.”
© 1947, New Directions Publishing Corporation. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.