I was introduced to Charles Baudelaire’s poetry when it was assigned to me in a college class I was taking. I re-read his poems repeatedly to notice the little nuances in his writing. His poetry tends to have dark metaphors that draw a vivid picture and clearly reveal his intentions. In the following poem, I was drawn to the symbols that Baudelaire chooses to depict hate, such as a drunkard in a tavern or the Danaides.
The Cask of Hate
Hate is the cask of the Danaides,
Vengeance, distraught, has red and brawny arms,
With which she hurls into her empty dark
Buckets of blood and tears from dead men’s eyes.
Satan makes secret holes through which will fly
Out of these depths a thousand years of pain,
Through Hate will use her victims once again,
Resuscitating them to squeeze them dry.
Hate is a drunkard in a tavern’s depths
Who feels a constant thirst, from drinking born,
That thrives and multiplies like Hydra’s head.
But happy drinkers know their conqueror,
And Hate is dealt a bitter fate, unable
Ever to fall asleep under a table.
Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris, France in 1821. He lost his father at the age of 5, and had a troubled life marked by poverty and illness. Aside from being a prolific poet, he was also a contemporary art critic. His most famous work, The Flowers of Evil, from which the above poem was taken, was published in 1857 and prosecuted for challenging public decency. He suffered a series of strokes in 1866, eventually leading to paralysis and aphasia. He died in Paris in 1867.
Source: Baudelaire, Charles. The Flowers of Evil Oxford University Press (New York) 1998.