The fallen artist

The Albatross

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew
Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds
That indolently follow a ship
As it glides over the deep, briny sea.

Scarcely have they placed them on the deck
Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed,
Pathetically let their great white wings
Drag beside them like oars.

That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is,
So beautiful before, now comic and ugly!
One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe;
Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!

The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky
Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.

Charles Baudelaire L’Albatros translated by William Aggeler

It is  in Charles Baudelaire‘s L’Albatros that the poet becomes clearly the martyr of common ignorance and blindness. Mankind, just like in Coleridge is represented by a crew of coarse men and the Albatross, which stands in this case for the poet himself, floats by. In his flight the Albatross is magnificent and elegant with his vast wings, he is “the prince of sky and clouds“, but when the men of the crew catch the Albatross and place him on the deck, well ,everyhting changes. The bird has to walk now and  he seems to have lost all its confidence and  becomes pathetic,clumsy, ashamed and his beautiful wings which used to take him up to the sky seem like oars that drag him down. This fallen angel has become so gauche and weak that seems like a cripple. But the men feel no pity, but quite the contrary, they sneer at him. The poet/Albatross belongs to the sky and he is used to facing the tempest. Only up there he is the king that laughs at the(bow)man. But when he is on the earth, when he is exiled among the jeering men, his wings are useless because they “prevent him from walking“. Modern society is no longer for poets. Men don’t understand them and so laugh at them. Any attempt of communicative effort is destined to failure. Poetry, just like the wings of the Albatross, is useless. The earth is no place for poets.