National Poetry Day

My internet connection is now up and running again after 3 weeks of temperamental hissy fits …hurrah!  So to celebrate, here is an edifying poem on a perfume theme in honour of National Poetry Day.

Flower Vase – Fleurs du Mal
(image credit:

Welcome,  ‘Le Flacon” from Fleur du Mals, by Charles Baudelaire.   Since my French is very basic I have also included an English translation  … however, it is much more fun to read it with a French accent even if you have no idea what it means!

Le Flacon

II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière

Est poreuse. On dirait qu’ils pénètrent le verre.

En ouvrant un coffret venu de l’Orient

Dont la serrure grince et rechigne en criant,

Ou dans une maison déserte quelque armoire

Pleine de l’âcre odeur des temps, poudreuse et noire,

Parfois on trouve un vieux flacon qui se souvient,

D’où jaillit toute vive une âme qui revient.

Mille pensers dormaient, chrysalides funèbres,

Frémissant doucement dans les lourdes ténèbres,

Qui dégagent leur aile et prennent leur essor,

Teintés d’azur, glacés de rose, lamés d’or.

Voilà le souvenir enivrant qui voltige

Dans l’air troublé; les yeux se ferment; le Vertige

Saisit l’âme vaincue et la pousse à deux mains

Vers un gouffre obscurci de miasmes humains;

II la terrasse au bord d’un gouffre séculaire,

Où, Lazare odorant déchirant son suaire,

Se meut dans son réveil le cadavre spectral

D’un vieil amour ranci, charmant et sépulcral.

Ainsi, quand je serai perdu dans la mémoire

Des hommes, dans le coin d’une sinistre armoire

Quand on m’aura jeté, vieux flacon désolé,

Décrépit, poudreux, sale, abject, visqueux, fêlé,

Je serai ton cercueil, aimable pestilence!

Le témoin de ta force et de ta virulence,

Cher poison préparé par les anges! liqueur

Qui me ronge, ô la vie et la mort de mon coeur!

— Charles Baudelaire

Lalique Perfume Flacon – I want one of these!
(image credit:

The Flask

Perfumes there are which through all things can pass

And make all matter porous, even glass;

Old coffers from the Orient brought, whose locks

Grind sullenly when opening the box,

Or, in an empty house, some ancient chest, 

Where time and dust and gloom were long compressed, 

May yield a flask where memory survives, 

And a soul flashes into future lives.

A thousand thoughts, funereal larvae, laid 

Shuddering softly under palls of shade, 

May suddenly their soaring wings unfold, 

Stained azure, glazed with rose, or filmed with gold.

Intoxicating memory now flies 

Into the dusk, and makes us close our eyes: 

Vertigo draws the spirit which it grips 

Towards some dark miasma of eclipse:

Beside an ancient pit he makes her fall, 

Where Lazarus, sweet-scented, tears his pall 

And wakes the spectral corpse of some now-cold, 

Rancid, sepulchral love he knew of old.

So when I’m lost to human memory, thrown

In some old gloomy chest to fie alone,

A poor decrepit flask, cracked, abject, crusty

With dirt, opaque and sticky, damp and dusty,

I’ll be your pall and shroud, beloved pest! 

The witness of your venom, and its test, 

Dear poison, angel-brewed with deadly art — 

Life, death, and dear corrosion of my heart.

Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

About The Perfume Mistress

"If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then the nose is the doorway to your imagination" The Perfume Mistress Hello, by day I am a clinical aromatherapist and tutor, with over 10 years of working with natural materials and essential oils, by night I delve into the art of botanical perfumery, reading and smelling all things olfactory. I have set up the 'Nosetrodami Club' offering scentsory talks, discussions and master-classes on all topics and themes olfactive. I also offer one and two day workshops in the art of natural perfumery, natural and organic body & skincare. My inspirations range from the mundane to the metaphysical, the hum-drum to the hyperbolic which you may see reflected in my posts.
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