Baudelaire's Mysterious `Enemy'


Intrigued by Charles Asselineau's statement that Baudelaire's poem "L'Ennemi" was "à lui seul la clef et la moralité du livre," a number of scholars have attempted to determine the identity of the "obscur Ennemi" that slowly devours the poet and grows stronger as he gets weaker. Their hypotheses, however, have been unsatisfying. Only when one considers "L'Ennemi" within its context in Les Fleurs du mal, i.e., as it is situated between "Le Mauvais Moine" and "Le Guignon," does the mystery surrounding the Enemy image begin to dissipate. All three poems deal with an obsession – Baudelaire's feared inability to produce something worthwhile before time ran out. The "Enemy" actually represents the many obstacles to the accomplishment of his work, most of which arose from his own moral state. In conclusion, Asselineau's judgment is probably accurate; for "L'Ennemi" presents one of the principal sentiments that inspired the composition of Les Fleurs du mal. (ASR)

Rosenthal, Alan S
Release Year:
1976 Spring; 4(3): 286-94.