Poor Muse, alas, what ails thee, then, today?
Thy hollow eyes with midnight visions burn,
Upon thy brow in alternation play,
Madness and Horror, cold and taciturn.
Have the green lemure and the goblin red
Poured on thee love and terror from their urn?
Or with despotic hand the nightmare dread
Deep plunged thee in some fabulous Minturne?
Would that thy breast, where so deep thoughts arise,
Breathed forth a healthful perfume with thy sighs;
Would that thy Christian blood ran wave by wave
In rhythmic sounds the antique numbers gave,
When Phoebus shared his alternating reign
With mighty Pan, lord of the ripening grain.
(F. P. Sturm translation)
In this sonnet, Baudelaire offers praise to his muse: alcohol. The main metaphors are all references to different types of alcoholic drinks. Lemure is spirit, so the “green lemure” is a reference to absinthe. Likewise, the “goblin red” is red wine. These drinks inspire both love and terror in the poet.
I had to do a little searching online to find the meaning for “Minturne.” I discovered that this is the name of a swamp. So the implication here is that although alcohol provides inspiration, there is also the real possibility that it will trap the poet in a mire of darkness and nightmare.
In the third stanza, the mention of perfumes is a reference to the vapors given off from the various drinks, and “Christian blood” is another symbol for wine.
In the final stanza, Baudelaire evokes the old pagan gods. Apollo and Pan are both gods associated with music (hence poetry). I get the sense that Baudelaire is also using alcohol as an offering, a libation, to the old gods of artistic expression.
While I cannot deny the inspirational power of alcohol, I have also witnessed its destructive power. Too many of our great artistic souls have departed us too early due to alcohol abuse. But I suppose that is a sacrifice that some must make to advance artistic expression.
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