Saturday, 7 April 2018

France 1951 - Modern Poets (Part 1)

Poetry can capture the mind, ensnare the soul, and grip the heart. It is the language of love and sorrow, the artistic expression of our deepest emotions. 


Charles Baudelaire, born 9 April 1821, was a French poet who possessed an original style of what can be considered prose-poetry. For the 19th century it was a radical, almost brutal, new style. Indeed, he himself is said to have coined the phrase "modernity". He uses this phrase to illustrate the fleeting nature of life in an ever-growing urban metropolis, in this instance Paris. He points out that it is the responsibility of the poet to capture this experience through the beauty of words. This theme is most evident in what can be considered his most famous collection of poems, entitled Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). According to one commentator at the time, his work was:
"immense, prodigious, unexpected, mingled with admiration and with some indefinable anxious fear". (Wikipedia)
If nothing else, Baudrlaire's work was bold. Indeed, in a poem entitled Au lecteur (To the Reader), which he uses as a preface to the collection, he actually goes so far as to accuse his readers of hypocrisy and of being as guilty of sins and lies as he himself. Pretty audacious!
... If rape or arson, poison or the knife
Has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff
Of this drab canvas we accept as life—
It is because we are not bold enough! (Wikipedia)
Baudelaire was not only a poet. He was a skilled essayist and art critic. He was also a fan of the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and he spent quite a deal of his time translating his work into French. Baudelaire's unique style and honest approach to the modern lifestyle in his work has inspired a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé to name just a few.

Baudelaire's addiction to laudanum, opium, and excessive drinking finally took  its toll on his body. In 1866 he suffered a massive stroke. He lived a further year in a semi-paralysed state. He died in Paris on 31 August 1867, aged just 46. Most of his poetry we are now familiar with was published posthumously by his mother to help recover some of the substantial debts he incurred due to his life  of "excesses".


On 27 October 1951, France issued a set of three stamps celebrating modern French poets. The 8f, and lowest, value of the set depicts Charles Baudelaire. This stamp was designed by Paul-Pierre Lemagny and engraved by Jean Pheulpin. I believe this is the first time I have featured a stamp engraved by Pheulpin in this blog. What a dreadful oversight. This engraver oozes talent, as you can see in the gorgeous stamp below.

The surreal, dreamlike quality of this design is truly breathtaking. There is detail in every nook and cranny. From the rather poignant depiction of a pensive Baudelaire to the owls off the right. And from the tall ship powering toward the left border of the stamp to the feral, somewhat demonic creature floating at the top left of the composition. Wow! Below I have included a few detail pictures, simply because I think this amazing design deserves some close-ups. Enjoy.

Until next time...

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