Charles Baudelaire Hymn to Beauty An Interpretation
There is a famous remark by Baudelaire that beauty is always made up of two elements. One is its timelessness and the other is its peculiarity when it is specific to the present moment. For example, a true painting of modern life as per him had to cover something which is both transient and exclusive to its own time frame and something which is indeterminate in both space and time. The intangible something goes much beyond our fashions and belongs to the imaginary world.
The Hymn to Beauty is reflecting on the outer shell of beauty which is fragile. It can hold power but it can also become easily disfigured. It can never be fully understood. It remains mysterious. “Pure mirrors that make everything more beautiful: My eyes my wide eyes by the light eternal!” This shows that without mirrors (eyes), beauty would not be the light eternal that it is.
The representation of art and beauty by Baudelaire in his poetry is unique in its own way for it embraces the French ideals of its decadent period. The reader is meant to understand art better in Baudelaire’s paradoxical representation and his overall personification in his Hymn to Beauty. The paradox is in the juxtaposition that beauty can also be found in all forms like wretchedness, well-being, goodness and baldness to name a few. Baudelaire is trying to demonstrate that the purpose of beauty cannot be determined by the form it takes but by the immediate experience of it that makes life what it is.
The initial stanza of the poem begins by asking beauty itself with a question whether it arrives from heaven or hell. In the final stanzas, Baudelaire states, “Bestows both crimes and kindnesses” and therefore “acts on us like wine”. Here, the poet is representing beauty both as being fickle and unpredictable.
By writing “your eye contains the evening and the dawn”, the poet is trying to show how time is not affecting beauty because it presents both day and night. “That can make heroes cold and children warm” shows that beauty can provide mercy to the helpless and yet wears away while being powerful. This uses imagery effectively to present a vast spectrum of the whims of beauty.
The fourth stanza, in particular, is dedicated to the awful ways of beauty. The main purpose is to present beauty in a way that is often not associated with it. It is to say that beauty should not always be sought in good but also in evil; in fact, he poet tries to say that beauty may come out more from its evil associations.
The fifth stanza presents two moments related to death, associating the horrible side of beauty; it is explained with poetic imagery and with a deep meaning. First, it is done with Mayfly’s demise “in flames, blessing this fire’s deadly bloom” – the image of a candle which is momentarily bursting in light, assigning meaning to the death of the mayfly. The second illustration can be shown - “the panting lover bending to his love” shows beauty in love and in the bond which the lover has with a departed person by stroking the corpse of his lover “like a dying man who strokes his tomb.” It gives significance to a moment which may not be considered pleasant by many. It is in reality an awful moment.
The final two stanzas talk about how the broad range of forms that beauty can take will not be of great matter by saying, “what difference, then, from heaven or hell.” In whatever form beauty is experienced by a person, its purpose is to make “the world a less dreadful place and the time less dead.” The poet brings the paradox out with a twist that even in darkness and death, beauty makes the moment less horrible and adds meaning to that particular moment.