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.

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3 thoughts on “The fallen artist

  1. ”His giant wings prevent him from walking”
    This is a problem that troubles my generation, in my opnion. Everyone that is particularly different (or unique, like teacher prefers) are left alone and judged, maybe because common men cant understand him/it… just like romantic poetry! This Albatross is considered clumsy, ugly, despite he is the king of the sea with his huge wings. Perspective is changed, the albatross is no more interesting and the men no longer, like in Blake, have a name, they are all the same and they exist because part the crew.The crew makes the albatross seem like them, with no more huge wings, but only with his ‘great white wings drag beside them like oars’. Everybody has to be like the others, there is no place for imagination, but only rational schemes that have to show us how to behave and even how to be, without making mistakes or odd things. I think that this is the beginning of the way that will lead to racial discrimination, xenophobia and to the death of thousand people. The non-acceptance of the difference will never lead to something sane. So, we can understand the frustration of romantic poese, left alone with their ‘odd’ ideals and thought, just because too much sensitive than the others.This is so sick.

      • Maybe, sometimes, when I was younger, I was afraid of being judged by the others, now I am stronger but rumors and teasing sometimes hurt me too. I know that I have to select taunt, consider who is criticizing me and then I have to question myself. But it is hard to be in this rational scheme, sometimes I find myself with my arms dragged beside like oars just because I’m hurt. I have to work on this!

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