Two Prose Poems by Baudelaire: Le Vieux Saltimbanque and Une Mort héroïque

In "Le Vieux Saltimbanque" and "Une Mort héroïque," Baudelaire meditates on the failings of the artist, not on the failure of art. Art is powerful, but the artist is vulnerable – if he seeks success (like the saltimbanque), or attempts to deny his isolation, or even if he identifies too completely with his art (like Fancioulle). The poet-narrator identifies imaginatively with the figures he portrays, but also maintains a symbolic distance from them, thereby asserting his difference. Through the narrator, Baudelaire both rejects the inevitability of inertia and failure and reaffirms the power and continuity of art: though artists perish, art continues. (VLR)

Rubin, Vivien L
Volume 1985-1986 Fall-Winter; 14(1-2): 51-60.