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The Rhyme Maker
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire

Theme:  Bad Times

Special Rhyme List:  Copyrighted poetry

Le Vin de chiffonniers (original French)

S. H. Bass also contributes original poetry to

In the 19th Century, the term "rag-picker" referred to the same socio-economic group we refer to today as "the homeless".  Like our modern day “rag pickers”, they drew the scorn and the fear of the general public, while at the same time standing as a symbol for poverty, a rallying point for social change. They were often a subject or a “character” in 19th Century literature.

stanza 7: Pactolus: legendary river famous for the gold washed from its sands.
- S. H. Bass 

Translator's Note:
“English verse by S.H. Bass . . .” is the translator's credit line that accompany seven (7) poems that are posted here at  As I struggled to choose poems for this site (and the anthology, Bottled Poetry: Verses from the Vine), the public domain translations (if any) that I discovered, I found lacking in some respect or another.  Frustrated, I thought “I could do a better job myself” – and so I did! 

There is an established tradition for poets using other's and/or verbatim translations to transmute foreign language poems into English verse. 

- S. H. Bass  

more Charles Baudelaire at

from Les fluers du mal (The Flowers of Evil):

Hymn To Beauty  * A/V
The Soul Of Wine
The Wine Of Lovers * A/V
The Wine of the Murderer  *
The Wine Of The Solitary*

Prose poems:
Be Drunk* A/V
The Thyrsus:  To Franz Liszt

* multiple Englsh translations


Les Fluers du Mal (The Flowers of Evil)
 by Charles Baudelaire 
 Richard Howard (trans.)

  French and English.  
  Award-winning translation
The Wine of the Rag-Pickers
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), French poet
English verse by S.H. Bass (b. 1956), American writer/poet

Often, in the red light of a street lamp's blaze
When the wind whips its flame, rattling its cage,
In the heart of this labyrinth of mud and cement
Where humanity crawls amidst the scum and

One sees a rag-picker amble by, reeling –
A stumbling poet, hitting walls without feeling.
He begins his diatribe, no longer wary of cops,
Pouring out his heart to empty alleys and shops.

He takes solemn oaths, dictates laws sublime
Bolsters the victim, list the wicked their crimes
And taking the dark firmament as his
preacher's tent
He gets only drunker with the splendor he vents.

Yes, these folk who are harassed by domestic
Ground down by a life which distorts their age
Battered and buckling – the load that they
cart is
The spittle and vomit of enormous Paris.

Smelling of wine, they come home in the night
Followed by veteran comrades, whose whiskers
of white
Stream like flags they followed in long-ago marches
Amid banners and flowers and triumphal arches.

Rise up in salute – it is magic you see:
A deafening, sun-drenched welcoming orgy
Of clarions and drums, and shouts from above,
They bring glory to a nation drunk with love!

Thus wine, through human life does unfold,
Like Pactolus, a fountain of dazzling gold;
By men's own throats, his exploits will sing
And reign by such gifts like a venerable king.

To smooth their bitterness and ensure their
To provide these who die silenced, a momentary harbor
God, in remorse, made sleep – Man added wine,
Child of the sun, immortal and divine.

from Bottled Poetry: Verses From The Vine, edited by Stephen H. Bass (Robinsonville, MS: Spilt Wine Publishing Co. 2013).   English translation copyright 2013 Stephen H. Bass.  All rights reserved.  Posted at with the permission of Stephen H. Bass.  

pic of two "rag pickers".
Parisian Rag Pickers
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection. Call Number LC-D416-22976 REPRODUCTION NUMBER LC-D416-22976 DLC (b&w glass transparency)


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