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Reuven Tsur

The Aesthetic Potential of a Carcass

Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. [...] Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning from inferring, and saying perhaps, "Ah, that is he". For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the colouring, or some such cause (Aristotle, Poetics. Chapter 4).

A Carrion

Recall the object that we have seen, my soul,
On that beautiful summer morning so sweet:
At the turn of a path, an infamous carrion
Upon a bed sawn with pebbles,

With its legs in the air, like a lustful woman,
Burning and sweating poison,
Opened in a nonchalant and cynical fashion
Its belly full of exhalations.

The sun shined upon this rotting thing,
As if to cook it [medium] on the spot,
And return to great Nature a hundred times
All that it had joined together;

And the sky looked at this superb carcass
Blossoming out as a flower.
The stink was so strong that, on the grass,
You thought you would faint.

The flies were buzzing on this putrid belly,
From which black battalions were emerging
Of larves, that were flowing like some thick liquid
Along these living rags.

All this ebbed and swelled like some billow,
Or rushed forward with crackles,
One would say that the corpse, inflated by some vague breath,
Was living and multiplying.

And this world rendered a strange music,
As the running water or the wind,
Or the grain, which the winnower with a rhythmic movement
Moves and turns in his winnowing-basket.

The forms faded away, and were no more than a dream,
Some lingering image, a sketch
Forgotten upon the canvass, which the artist is to complete
Merely from memory.

Behind the rocks a worried bitch
Watched us with an angry eye,
Looking out for the moment to resume [have a second helping] at the skeleton
The bit it has left.

Yet, you will resemble this ordure,
This horrible infection,
Star of my eyes, sun of my nature,
You, my angel and passion!

Yes! like this you will be, oh queen of graces,
After the last sacraments,
When you go under the grass and the rich blooming,
To rot amid the bones.

Then, oh my beauty! tell the worms
That eat you with kisses,
That I have preserved the form and divine essence
Of my decomposed loves.

"Une Charogne" and the Critics
Baudelaire's poem "Une Charogne" has attracted much attention among readers and critics of poetry. However, mostly they consider it as a typical instance of Baudelaire's cruel realism, or as some kind of "practical joke" the purpose of which is nothing but "épater le bourgeois", to shock the conventionally-minded. Both these attitudes point at some conspicuous feature in the poem, but neither of them amounts to an aesthetic appreciation of it. Nonetheless, some of the best characterizations of the bulk of Baudelaire's poetry readily apply to this specific poem as well:

The realism of his Fleurs du mal is bitter, insistent, and can be gruesome. We may acquit him of any cynical intent to shock the reader merely in order to satisfy an itch for scandal. His purpose is complex. He was determined to show things as they are; and this resolve fastens naturally on aspects of life ignored by conventional art. Moved by a disgust that does not spare himself, since his knowledge is gathered from experience, the poet evokes images of debauchery and all the excesses that welter behind the decent veil of civilization, and the flowers of the poet's hot-house are defiant, sinister, and poisonously scented (Cazamian, 1960: 342).

Baudelaire's "Une Charogne" is very often quoted as a notorious instance of its author's cruel realism, itch for scandal, and so forth. It has received excessive praise on the one hand, such as in Faguet's (1910) enthusiastic article on Baudelaire: "Une Charogne" is "forceful and vivid, has a great image and is admirably placed [...] and has movement, a very beautiful movement [...] this is perhaps Baudelaire's only poem that may be said to be on the move"; on the other hand, Gide (1910) takes issues with Faguet, accusing him of being too much of a traditionalist for understanding Baudelaire's novelty; Faguet has chosen, according to Gide, Baudelaire's poorest poems, one of them being "Une Charogne". Or, as one of the more moderate critics put it some forty years later, "Une Charogne does not seem to deserve all the praise that it has been given, but technically it is one of the most influential of Baudelaire's poems" (Turnell, 1953: 297). It is difficult, however, to find a close reading of this poem, or a detailed discussion of the aesthetic conception underlying it. Cargo's (1968) bibliography appears to be quite representative of this state of affairs. In eighteen years' crop of Baudelaire criticism only three entries have been listed for this poem, all of them devoted to influence-hunting (two are tracing possible influences on this poem, and one its possible influence on Flaubert's Bouvard et Pécuchet). At most, it receives a one-or-two-page long discussion in a wider monograph. It would appear that the scandal associated with the poem appeals to the critics more than its possible aesthetic quality. In what follows, I am going to offer a fairly detailed close reading and consideration of the underlying aesthetic conception of this poem. Toward the end of this paper I am going to discuss the possible mental processes involved in the pleasure derived from a poetic description of the disgusting.

The Ugly and the Disgusting
One assumption of the present paper is that Baudelaire's cult of beauty and his cult of the repugnant deeply imply each other; that his poem "Une Charogne" is implied by such poems as his "La Beauté":

According to this conception, a poem like "Une Charogne" pursues the Romantic conception of imagination to its extreme logical consequences, formulated by Coleridge, for instance, in Chapter XIV of his Biographia Literaria, as follows:

Doubtless, as Sir John Davies observes of the soul--(and his words may with slight alteration be applied, and even more appropriately, to the poetic Imagination)

Doubtless this could not be but that she turns
Bodies to spirit by sublimation strange,
As fire converts to fire the things it burns,
As we our food into our nature change.

From their gross matter she abstracts their forms,
And draws a kind of quintessence from things;
Which to her proper nature she transforms
To bear then light on her celestial wings.

Thus does she, when from individual states
She doth abstract the universal kinds;
Which then re-clothed in divers names and fates
Steal access through the senses to our minds.

Now, when we consider the Baudlairean Aestheticist cult of ugliness and repugnance, we may suggest that it merely pursues precisely this Romantic conception of imagination to its extreme logical consequences: the grosser the matter, the greater the achievement in drawing "a kind of quintessence from things". Indeed, we are told,

The emphasis on the power of imagination could also suggest that imagination can render anything artistically acceptable, however wicked or repulsive it might commonly be considered. Thus Swinburn praises Baudelaire for his ability to "give beauty to the form, the expression to the feeling, most horrible and most obscure to the senses or souls of lesser men". This raises another possible implication of "art for art's sake"--that art constitutes a segregated world of its own, to which ordinary values are quite irrelevant (Johnson, 1969: 39).

Now, as far as this aestheticist principle of "art for art's sake" is concerned, the "wicked or repulsive", or the "most horrible and most obscure" rendered "artistically acceptable", endowed with beauty, is to be preferred to what is inherently beautiful; "ordinary values" are relevant to beauty, though one may encounter it rather rarely in our ordinary world. It is the "wicked or repulsive", or the "most horrible and most obscure" rendered beautiful "to which ordinary values are quite irrelevant".

This focusses attention on the beauty arising from the poet's art rather than on the beauty of the subject matter. This, again, pursues another age-old aesthetic principle--which, ultimately, goes back to Aristotle--to its extreme logical consequences. This issue has extensively been discussed by Eighteenth Century aesthetics and literary criticism. Addison, in his Spectator Papers (No. 418) elaborated on this issue:

for not only what is Great, Strange or Beautiful, but any Thing that is Disagreeable when look'd upon, pleases us in an apt Description. Here, therefore, we must enquire after a new Principle of Pleasure, which is nothing else but the Action of the Mind, which compares the Ideas that arise from the Words to the Ideas that arise from the Objects themselves [...]. For this Reason therefore, the Description of a Dunghill is pleasing to the Imagination, if the Image be represented to our Minds by suitable Expressions; [...] we are not so much delighted with the Image that is contained in the Description, as with the Aptness of the Description to excite the Image (Addison, 1951: 822).
Notwithstanding, it would be absurd to assume that Addison would have commended a poem like "Une Charogne". He makes the distinction between the delight with a beautiful object to be described and the delight with the aptness of description, implying that the proper pleasure of literature arises from the apt description of a pleasing object. "It is the part of a Poet to humour the Imagination in its own Notions, by mending and perfecting Nature where he describes a Reality, and by adding greater Beauties than are put together in Nature, where he describes a Fiction" (loc. cit.). Whereas the aestheticist conception underlying a poem like "Une Charogne" implies that the more disagreeable the object, the more it forces the aptness of the description upon the reader's attention. And "if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the colouring, or some such cause"; and this may further heighten the aesthetic value of the work.

The foregoing discussion may be illuminating of the aesthetic principle underlying a poem like "Une Charogne", and may even yield some significant insights into the poem as an aesthetic object. But it is rather unsatisfactory, as far as cognitive poetics is concerned, as it makes no distinction between the aesthetic purpose of the poet and his success to realize it. In other words, it gives no account of the perceived affects of the poem. In still other words, it suggests that the poet may have sought to arouse aesthetic pleasure by focussing attention, of all things upon the "wicked or repulsive", or the "most horrible and most obscure", but leaves to the reader's discretion to imagine, how such an "impossible" task may be accomplished.

Again, Eighteenth Century aesthetic thought offers some illuminating discussions of the mental processes that may render the ugly aesthetically acceptable in poetry.

The harmonious interaction of many parts which produces beauty can be destroyed by a single unfitting part, without, however, making the object ugly. Ugliness demands also a number of unsuitable parts, which we must be able to take in at one glance if we are to feel the opposite effect of that which beauty produces.

According to this, then, ugliness by its very nature could not be a subject of poetry [...]. Is not the effect of ugliness destroyed by the successive enumeration of its elements just as much as the effect of beauty is destroyed through a similar enumeration? (Lessing, 1962: 121).

In poetry, as I have already noted, ugliness of form loses its repulsive effect almost entirely by change from coexistence to the consecutive. From this point of view it ceases to be ugliness, as it were, and can therefore combine even more intimately with other qualities to produce a new and special effect (ibid, 128).

In another passage, Lessing quotes Moses Mendelssohn on feelings of disgust, which too are indisputably relevant to Baudelaire's poem.

Representations of fear, of melancholy, terror, compassion, etc., can arouse our dislike only insofar as we believe the evil to be real. Hence, these feelings can be transformed into pleasant ones by recalling that it is an artificial illusion. But whether or not we believe the object to be real, the disagreeable sensation of disgust results, by virtue of the law of imagination, from the mere mental image. [...] Our dislike did not arise from the supposition that the evil was real, but from the mere mental image of it, which is indeed real. Feelings of disgust are therefore always real and never imitations (ibid, 126).

If Mendelssohn is right in assuming that feelings of disgust are always real and arise from the mere mental image, its effect cannot be destroyed by the successive enumeration of its elements. This, however, seems to contradict some of the major implications of the foregoing three passages for the aesthetic acceptability of Baudelaire's poem. One possible solution to the problem is that descriptions of the disgustful differ only in degree and not in kind from descriptions of the ugly, and that their effects can be destroyed by the successive enumeration of their elements. However, the disagreeable sensation of the emotional disorientation to be discussed below, certainly arises from the "mere mental image", and its effects cannot therefore be destroyed by the successive enumeration of its elements. What is more, this precisely seems to be one reason that Baudelaire does not confine himself to the description of the disgusting, but has recourse to the description of incompatible elements that arouse a feeling of emotional disorientation. Toward the end of the present paper I shall attempt to account for the co-presence of these two apparently incompatible principles in "Une Charogne".

Another passage in Lessing's Laocoön contains an interesting criticism of Aristotle's suggestion that objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity. "The pleasure which arises from the stilling of our thirst for knowledge is a momentary one, and merely incidental to the object through which it is satisfied. Displeasure, on the other hand, which accompanies our contemplation of ugliness, is permanent, and inherent in the object that awakens it" (op. cit. 127). The solution offered to this problem by Lessing is, in an important sense, in Aristotle's spirit: it transfers the focus of the issue from the physical to the psychological domain.

To judge from the examples which Aristotle gives, it would seem that he had no intention of including bodily ugliness in those displeasing objects which can afford pleasure in imitation. These examples are ferocious beasts and corpses. Ferocious beasts incite terror, even though they may not be ugly, and it is this terror rather than their ugliness which is transformed into a feeling of pleasure in their imitations. So it is, too, with corpses: It is the keener feeling of pity, the terrifying thought of our own destruction, that makes the real corpse repulsive to us; but in imitation this pity loses its keenness through our awareness that it is a deceit, and the addition of soothing circumstances can either divert our thoughts from this fatal recollection or, by uniting itself inseparably with it, cause us to believe that we can see in it something more desirable than terrible (op. cit., 127-128).

I shall ignore the discrepancy between the translations ignoble animals and ferocious beasts. Certainly, the former term could not afford Lessing his analysis. What is important for our discussion is that in Baudelaire's poem "soothing circumstances" are carefully avoided, and painful perceptions are as forcefully amplified as possible. What is more, "the terrifying thought of our own destruction" is explicitly forced upon the beloved (as well as upon the reader) in the last three stanzas. At the same time, by virtue of the closing two verses,

Que j'ai gardé la forme et l'essence divine
De mes amours décomposés!
"this pity loses its keenness". I shall return to this issue toward the end of the present paper.

"Une Charogne" renews some of the most notorious elements of the Mediaeval tradition of the dread of death.
The awareness of death in the late Middle Ages has three great motives: the question where are the great and the beautiful of the past; the decay of the human body; and the dance of death, "de Macabré la danse". [...] The danse macabre presents in engraving, statue or poem, a skeleton Death leading away with dancing steps everybody, pope, king or poor peasant; all are equal before death. [...] It is plausible that originally it was not Death, but the shrunken, rotting corpse itself, swarming with worms, [...] that was dancing amid grotesque gestures (Szerb, 1943: I. 257-258).

"Danse Macabre" in this aspect is felt to be particularly affective and repugnant. "Une Charogne" elaborates on two motives of the Mediaeval Death tradition, the decay of the human body and the danse macabre in this original sense of the rotting corpse, animated, as it were, by the worms. Death is repellent and frightening in most respects. And the dead corpse is thought of as repugnant even before it begins to disintegrate, with the olfactory corollaries of the process. In many cultures, the dead are felt to be contagious, not only because--as sometimes rationalized--they may have died of some contagious disease, or because of the unwholesome nature of the rotting process. It is as if the corpse embodied, metonymically or magically, death itself. Pierre in War and Peace instinctively shrinks away from the condemned to death who tries to hold fast on him as on a last straw. Pierre seems to have felt that the wretch embodied death and was contagious, so to speak, even before his actual execution. An awareness of the other physical processes, of really contagious nature, only reinforce this deep-rooted primitive response in us. Now, the repugnant effect of the macabre seems to go far beyond this. What appears merely to be the amplification of the disintegration process, is revealed, on closer inspection, as far more than that. Disquieting as death and the dead may be, there appears to be an acquiessence in the sharpening of the dichotomy between the dead and the quick, between death and life, with their opposite emotional tendencies. This seems to grant us some degree of what might be called "cognitive stability", at least. What appears to be much less tolerable than death itself is, when the distinction between the clear-cut, opposing categories is obscured; that is, when the dead body shows signs of life, as e.g. when it begins to move "of itself"; it presents a shock and arouses a sense of emotional disorientation (imagine, for instance, a dog or a cat on the street, run-over by a car, lifting suddenly its head). It is this anxiety, arising from the abolishment of these clear-cut categories of great existential significance, the anxiety evoked by the obscuring of the distinction between the conflicting emotional tendencies, that the macabre adds to the anxiety of death. Ehrenzweig (1965) put forward the fruitful suggestion that art-history reflects not only the strife of mankind for expression, but also the strife of mankind to defend itself from the anxieties arising from too strong expression. In the light of the foregoing, the traditional allegoric representation of Death leading away the dead may be regarded as the result of applying such defence mechanisms to the putative original version of the macabre (that is, of the corpses carried away by the moving worms). In this traditional allegoric representation, the movement of the dead (with only a minimum physical signs of being dead, such as paleness), is treated not as an ambiguous interim state of the dead behaving like the quick, but rather as an unambiguous visual metaphor of death, of "passing away"--literally.

One of the central poetic devices in this poem is precisely that Baudelaire reverts to what is conjectured to be the original version of the macabre, as in stanzas 5-6, where all the movement is due to the various kinds of buzzing and crawling insects, culminating in the lines
On eût dit que le corps, enflé d'un souffle vague,
Vivait en se multipliant.

Baudelaire is creating here, verbally, what appears to be even more disgusting than a rotting, stinking carrion. Now, what is more repugnant than a rotting, stinking, disgusting carrion? A rotting, stinking, disgusting carrion that shows signs of life. Furthermore, from the beginning, the carrion is characterized as "burning and sweating like a lustful woman", implying that the sight was disgusting indeed. Now, are lustful women such a "good example" of disgustfulness, that they may serve as an effective simile for the disgustfulness of a rotting carrion? I seriously doubt it. It is rather that, again, Baudelaire is arousing, by verbal means, the shock of a rotting, stinking, disgusting carrion that shows signs of life, and even contains ingredients that have claims for desirability. What seems to be so intolerable here is not merely the rot, but the rot together with what is emotionally incompatible with it; that is, emotional disorientation.

There are two further issues in which the poem poignantly arouses conflicting emotional tendencies. One of the archetypal oppositions in the region we are involved in concerns the opposition between the disgust aroused by rotting, harmful food, and the appetite aroused by fresh, healthy food. Now this opposition is, again, shockingly obscured by the description of the bitch longing to resume her appetizing meal on the carrion. Another issue in which the distinction between conflicting emotional tendencies is violated--on a less existential level, thoug--hconcerns the description of the most repugnant in terms of the quintessence of beauty. I mean such expressions as

Et le ciel regardait le carcasse superbe
Comme une fleur s'épanouir.

On the verbal level, the mixture of these conflicting emotional tendencies is reinforced by such ambiguities as " á point", meaning "just right, on the spot", or "[to cook] medium"; "reprendre" meaning "to resume" or "to have a second helping"; or "infâme", suggesting "morally deplorable", or the now cosiderably weakened sense, "repugnant"; or even "nonchalante", suggesting "lacking activity, indifferent" or "having some effortless grace".

Brooks's Irony and Beardsley's General Canons

I shall approach the aesthetic character of this poem from two vantage points: I shall consider the changes that the various elements (words, images) undergo when they become part of the aesthetic whole. Cleanth Brooks defined his key-term in literary criticism, irony, as "a general term for the kind of qualification which the various elements in a context receive from the context" (quoted by Wellek, 1963: 329). Likewise, I shall have recourse to Beardsley's (1958) three general canons of aesthetic appreciation: unity, complexity, and some intensive human quality. The intense percepts as well as the intense responses of "you" and "I" of the poem certainly count as "some intensive human quality". The various aspects of obscuring the distinction between opposite categories and conflicting emotional tendencies (reinforced by verbal ambiguities), briefly discussed above, may be regarded as one (rather perplexing) way of "reconcilement of incompatible or discordant qualities", to use Coleridge's notorious formulation, that is, unity in complexity. Hitherto I have discussed "unity in complexity" as what can be detected in any instance of the macabre; however, this tendency may also be detected in the fine-grained semantic texture as well as its organization into the over-all structure of this poem.

"Unity, complexity, and some intensive human quality" is significantly related in this poem with the maximal exploitation of the potentials of words and images. The multiplicity of potentials may be a source of the complexity of an image or a situation; the unity of the image or the situation bestows unity upon the various potentials and the various sense-impressions. An impression derived from a variety of potentials of a variety of images is mostly perceived as more than usually intensive; at the same time it can be regarded as having great unity and complexity. Some unified movement bestows unity upon a variety of elements; the effect of such unity increases with the increase of the variety of elements. The unified movement may be local, as in the fifth and sixth stanzas (see detailed discussion below), but may be perceptible also in the process that takes place from the beginning of the poem to its end. The internal "action" of the poem is drawn out from the physical-repugnant at its beginning, to the purified-spiritual at its end. At the same time, the reader witnesses a process of increasing disintegration, simultaneously with the opposite process: the crystallization of ideal form. Likewise, the gradual amplification of the intenseness of impressions is perceived as one "movement" from the beginning of the poem to its end.

Meaning Potentials
Words may have a wide range of potential meanings. These are actualized--one, or some of them--by the phrases in which they occur. The same is true, with the necessary changes, of poetic images and situations. The potentials of an image are derived from the properties of the object underlying it, or the situation or processes in which it participates. Potentials of images, when actualized, combine some sensory element with some property that may be denoted--as a rule--by some abstract noun. Thus, for instance, the most conspicuous potentials of a carrion are stink, repugnance, repulsion (the carrion stinks, is repugnant, arouses repulsion); decay of the body (the carrion is a disintegrating body); the recycling of matter in nature (the matter that constitutes the disintegrating corpse participates in nature's cycle); the destruction of form and return to chaos (the carrion's form is gradually destroyed); the stemming of new life from the disintegrating corpse (the disintegrating organic matter serves as food for insects and fertilizer for vegetation).

In a poem in which some of these potentials, or all of them, or even more than them, are actualized, the carrion becomes the intersection of heterogeneous properties, situations and processes. It is in this sense that the carrion becomes a symbol in this poem (the word symbol is derived from Greek symbolon meaning a piece of an object broken into two, intended as a sign of recognition between two persons). It "symbolizes" nothing; each of its properties (or "potentials") is, rather, a part of the whole object, and serves to evoke the other potentials of the whole. A potential of an image is actualized, when there is another element in the poem (image or word), one of whose potentials may be subsumed under one concept with it. In this way, then, the potentials of the various images actualize one another. Since it is impossible to predict all the elements that will occur in a poem, or to limit their number, unexpected potentials may be actualized in any image--after the event. Let us illustrate this by the first two stanzas of this poem. The phrase "with its legs in the air", referring to a carrion, suggests casualness, unstableness, helplesness, etc. The next phrase, "like a lustful woman", actualizes another potential of "with its legs in the air"--a "good example" of a lustful gesture or posture. The potential a place to lie upon for the carrion is actualized in the phrase "a bed sawn with pebbles"; in that perspective, the phrase "sawn with pebbles" suggests that the place is covered with pebbles. On the other hand, the phrase "a bed sawn with pebbles", in the perspective of "a lustful woman" suggests indifference of the carrion, lying as comfortably upon the pebbles as upon a bed. This is reinforced by the relevant meaning of nonchalante. On the other hand, "lustful woman" actualizes the main meaning of bed--a place for humans to lie upon.

Infâme, in the context of a lustful woman suggests "morally deplorable", whereas in the context of a carrion--to which this meaning cannot apply--it suggests "repugnant". Likewise, brûlante et suant in the context of charogne, poisons and matin d'été suggest physical heet and secretion; in the context of une femme lubrique they are construed as "burning with desire" and "sweating, perspirating". In this context, the phrase "suant les poisons" becomes metaphorical, deleting from poisons the meaning-components suggesting "serious harmful interference with biological functioning", retaining only a general attitude of repellence. Finally, even objet changes its meaning, from a neutral and rather pale sense of "that which is presented to the senses or thought" (instantiated by the two verbs related to it, Rappelez-vous ... que nous vîmes), to the pejorative sense of "some base thing, not worth the trouble to identify it" (instantiated by une charogne infâme).

Baudelaire's poem exploits the potentials of its underlying image by way of using a complex system of refuted expectations and unexpected impressions appealing, at one and the same time, to as many of the (mind's) senses as possible. On these impressions unity is imputed (1) by twelve stanzas of identical prosodic structure and rhyme scheme; and (2) by a series of situations imposed one upon the other, so as to increase or decrease psychic distance: a. the carrion rotting in the sun; b. the lovers looking at it; c. the lovers recalling the event; d. the reader contemplating the poem, and through the other situations--the carrion.

A Reading of the Poem
The poem begins in an atmosphere of lovers endulging in some pleasurable memories, against a background of "that beautiful summer morning so sweet". "At the turn of a path" is a metonymy for, say, a garden, and as such it suggests a concrete scene for "beautiful summer morning". The reader may expect, in literary descriptions, that in such circumstances some pleasurable experiences follow; but what follows instead, is "an infamous carrion". It is the unexpectedness of the item that generates a most intense effect. The carrion seems to be thrown in a casual position: this is suggested by the phrase "with its legs in the air", which is a "good example" of an unstable position. The description of the carrion as a whore exploits another potential of "with its legs in the air". Although "charogne" does have, in popular usage, such meanings related to whores, this simile exploits one of the less expected potentials of the situation. However, the unexpected description is anything but unmotivated: if we return to the first stanza (prompted by the syntactic structure of the run-on sentence), we shall find there some faint anticipation of the simile. Infâme, introduced here for its now considerably weakened sense "repugnant", denotes, as its main sense, "morally deplorable" (it means, etymologically, "ill-famed"). This is reinforced by an extra internal rhyme, femme-infâme. There is here, furthermore, an antithesis between the lovers having their morning stroll in the vein of Sixteenth Century French Pléiade, and the sight to which they are exposed; this antithesis, as I shall suggest below, already holds the seeds of the comparison of the beloved to this rotting carrion. The epithet "burning (with desire)" bestows intense vividness ("energeia"--in Aristotle's term) upon the carrion, brings it nearer to the human world and, as I have suggested above, amplifies its repugnance.

The sun (suggested by summer morning) is explicitly mentioned at the beginning of stanza 3, amplifying the appeal to the thermal sense as part of the description of the summer morning, or of the "heated" carrion. The simile "comme afin de cuire", drawing upon the thermal sense, emphasizes the "meat"-aspect of the carrion, thus contributing, as I have earlier suggested, to its repugnance. Lines 3-4 of this stanza "And return to great Nature a hundred times / All that it had joined together" foreground another kind of activity of the sun: it stimulates the re-cycling of matter in nature, actualizing another potential of the carrion-image. Thus, the basic attitude to the process of rotting is changed: the process is chemical, and the attitude to it is "objective", almost "scientific".

The simile "Comme une fleur s'épanouir" (blossoming out as a flower), referring to a carcass, foregrounds at the present stage several aspects: 1. explicitly, it seems to elaborate Ouvrait two stanzas earlier: the legs and belly of the carcass were "opened" like an opening flower; 2. the simile introduces into the image information that is emotionally incompatible with it, and contributes to the effect of emotional disorientation; 3. the sky admired the disintegration of the "superb" carcass, which, from the point of view of the natural cycle is no less valuable than the blooming out of a flower; 4. the sky regards the process with indifference--it does not distinguish a rotting carcass from a blooming flower; 5. the speaker has achieved sufficient aesthetic distance to contemplate intently the carrion. According to 3 and 5, the epithet "superbe" is to be understood literally, according to 1, 2 and 4--ironically. The fifth aspect is an antithesis to the girl, who was about to faint. Thus, the first appeal to the (mind's) olfactory sense is foregrounded to a considerable degree, while the stanza alludes both to intent "contemplation" and intense repugnance.

"The flies were buzzing" (stanza 5) arouses disgust by way of appealing to the senses of hearing and sight, while "putrid belly" suggests smell too. The phrases "black battalions", "flowing", "thick liquid" appeal, at one and the same time, to the visual, kynetic and tactile senses, arousing the sensations of blackness, thickness and vivid sight. Haillons (rags) is another element suggesting filth. Its poetic potentials include shapelessness and feebleness, and being torn to pieces. Accordingly, the phrase "vivants haillons" (living rags) is a periphrasis for something like "torn flesh", generated in a special way: the noun rags denotes lifeless things, suggesting a more remote relationship to life than flesh; at the same time it implies the information conveyed by torn; on the other hand, living denotes "that has life". Thus, the phrase sharpens the opposition life~lifeless, skipping--but suggesting--the proper term torn flesh. It suggests, at one and the same time, 1. flesh that was once living, and now is deformed; 2. flesh that is capable of sensations (and may feel the touch of the crawling creatures); 3. flesh that has a texture with no resistence, like rags, set into motion by the insects. The comparison of the black battalions of larves to the flowing of some thick liquid points up the difference between an image "seen" by the "mind's eye" and one seen by the "real" eye. Some thick, black liquid may be considered beautiful, if one knows that it is, for instance, tar melted in a furnace. The black mass seen by the flesh's eye can be either black battalions of larves, or some thick, black liquid, but not both at one and the same time, whereas in a figure of speech the two may be present together, and "preserve their warring identity".

In stanza 5, the number as well as the intensity of senses involved has been amplified; at the same time, a unified motion has been suggested, in which the various sense impressions are assimilated. The impression of a unified motion is amplified in stanza 6, where the first syntactic subject is Tout cela. "All this" refers, then, to flies, larves, rags as well as the stink--the motion attributed to them is total, all-pervasive. The sequence descendait, montait comme une vague amplifies the image of flowing liquid, attributes to it the impetus of the sea, which is amplified, in turn, by ou s'élançait en petillant: the rushing forward is impetuous, the movement is unified, in spite of the swift, small particles thrown separately. Accordingly, the reader becomes aware of the over-all pattern of the movement and the minute particles that constitute it. The verb pétiller means "to burst forward with repeated, small, dry noises", with connotations of sparkling; consequently, it appeals to the visual, kynetic and thermal senses, involving a tension between water and sparkles of fire. This transfers the focus of attention from the filth to what may be pure. In the second half of the stanza, "inflated by some vague breath" amplifies the sense of vitality incarnate in the dead corpse, but also the sense of totality and unity of the movement. It also arouses, as I have suggested above, macabric anxiety. The rest of the stanza, vivait en se multipliant (was living and multiplying) illustrates and amplifies the feeling of total, over-all movement on the one hand, and a multiplicity of minute, bounding particles, arousing at the same time macabric anxiety (in harmony with the beginning of the stanza).

The clause le corps ... vivait en se multipliant means "the corpse ... lived by multiplying itself". Corps means "dead body", or "the body, the flesh, as opposed to the spirit"; the present predicate tends to activate this second meaning. However, the image of the lustful woman at the beginning of the poem, and that of "la vermine / Qui vous mangera de baisers" at its end activate in se multipliant sexual components. This sexual ingredient seems to be extended to the corpse's wavy movement at the beginning of the stanza, with connotations of sexual intercourse.

Stanza 7 too mobilizes many of the senses in the perception of the situation. This time it is the flowing water and the wind that attribute the strength of natural forces to the perceived impressions, reinforce the awareness that we witness here some natural process, and that the process is purifying and purified--rottenness is mentioned no more. The new syntactic subject, ce monde, denotes an abstract entity that imputes an heightened sense of unity upon the distinct sense impressions. No more the vague tout cela, but a coherent world, in which the various conflicting forces and discordant elements act in harmony. The sense of an over-all unity is reinforced by étrange musique, and the ensuing rhythmic movement elaborated in the next two lines. Nonetheless, the reader does not lose the awareness of minute particles, owing to the grains bounding and rebounding in the winnowing-basket, that constitute the rhythmic movement.

Stanza 8 changes the point of view: it appeals to the visual sense only. After the intense impression of a well-organized rhythmic shape in the preceding stanza, some kind of antithesis is brought to attention: an awareness of the fading away of visual shapes; after a reality perceived so intensively, some unreal, dreamlike, obscure world is presented; after a coherent world--chaos and shapelessness. However, chaos appears only so that another world be created from it, with the help of the artist's memory. Now a sense of beauty--artistic beauty, this time--is reintroduced into the poem, for which the ground has been prepared in the preceding stanza, by the strange music and rhythm. There appears another important element that has been suggested to be required for the generation of psychic distance--memory, serving as a semantic echo of the very first word of the poem, Rappelez-vous. Stanza 9 constitutes an anti-climax, with the vile appetite of the bitch longing for the repugnant food.

Stanza 10 brings a surprise--nay, a shock--greater than any of its predecessors. "Et pourtant vous serez semblable à cette ordure". This stanza is an "oddman out" in the poem in another respect as well, that has certain artistic repercussions. This is the first time, that in two consecutive lines the shocking repugnance of the carrion is directly described in general, abstract terms ("this ordure", "this horrible infection"), with no attempt to present fresh and specific sense impressions. Lines 3-4 pile up vocative phrases directed to the belovéd, a series of Petrarcan clichés abounding in the poetry of Ronsard and the French Pléiade. Surprisingly enough, the two parts of the stanza, that are equally devoid of concrete imagery, impute vitality to each other, by virtue of the opposition and irony implicit in their mere juxtaposition.

The last three stanzas, for all their shocking unexpectedness, make ample use of elements that have occurred throughout the poem, beyond the explicit comparison. The lines "you go under the grass and the rich blooming, / To rot amid the bones" recapitulate the motive of life stemming from rot, and exploit certain potentials of the return to "grand nature". "The vermin / That eats you with kisses" recapitulates the astounding combination of rot with "carnal" desire, as it occurs in the first few stanzas, as well as the bitch's longing to eat the rotting meat. In retrospect from the present stanza, a kind of dramatic irony is generated in stanza 4: the person who was about to faint owing to the strong stink, is to become like "this ordure, this horrible infection". There are also some verbal allusions to stanza 4 in stanza 11: sous l'herbe et les floraisons grasses call to mind "sur l'herbe" and "une fleur s'épanouir". Stanza 4 anticipates the end in an additional respect: it is here that the rotting carrion is compared to a conventional symbol of youth and beauty: a flower blooming out. Another line leads from here to the ending, through stanzas 7-8, where the process of disintegration and fading of forms is shading into the opposite process of crystallizing artistic form. From here it is only a short route to the last stanza, where the destruction of the form of matter gives way to the abstraction and crystallization of the ideal essence. And if we cast another eye from here to the first line of the poem, we find there the vocative mon âme (my soul), which we have treated there as a mere cliché for "my love", or "my darling". From the present vantage point we may regard it as some faint anticipation of the "divine essence" that will remain of the belovéd, after the decomposition of her body.

The carrion is, then, not merely an image illustrating the decay of the body and of beauty; nor is it merely a means to shock the bourgeois. For this, a two-lines long epigram would have been enough. The poem actualizes a long series of potentials implicit in the image. These potentials are actualized one after the other in an unexpected but plausible, even necessary way--to paraphrase an Aristotelian formulation. Every aspect makes use of earlier aspects, with which it is in conflict at first sight. Thus, for instance, the carrion appears unexpectedly after the "beautiful summer morning so sweet". But later, the poem exploits many of the potentials of the morning sun for such processes as "burning" with desire, stimulating the process of rotting, recycling matter in nature. The units of the poem appear in opposition to preceding elements. Frequently, however, they imply at the same time their own opposites. The carrion rotting in the heat of the sun is burning, as it were, with desire. The carrion opening its belly and legs is compared to an opening flower. The corpse decomposed by the vermin appears as if it were informed by some living spirit. The gradually fading form of the carrion becomes the ground of artistic shape. As a result, a coherent, self-sufficient and vivid world is generated, in which the rotting process is perceived in its various aspects at one and the same time, as a repulsive process, as an emotionally neutral chemical process, as a vital process of the natural cycle, as full of inherent beauty only for him who is capable of intently contemplating it from an appropriate psychic distance. The reader witnesses a mass of intense repulsive sense impressions. Their intensity increases from stanza to stanza, with the advancement of the rotting process. Nonetheless, the description becomes more and more purified. Simultaneously, the descrete impressions gradually assume a highly unified form. This process reaches its peak in stanzas 7-8.

In several of my writings I have argued that the descriptive terms of criticism may become meaningful only within some theoretical framework or model. The foregoing description of "Une Charogne" was intended to become meaningful within some theoretical framework or model of more or less traditional aesthetics, that may be epitomized as "the reconcilement of opposite or discordant qualities", "unity, complexity and intensive human quality", "the exploitation of potentials", "multiple relationship", or "the kind of qualification which the various elements in a context receive from the context". From the point of view of Cognitive Poetics, however, it is most significant that the same description can also fit into a different theoretical framework, that can be epitomized in Ehrenzweig's (1965) terms (partly derived from William James), as "thing-destruction", "thing-free qualities", and "the secondary elaboration of some superimposed pattern". The gradual destruction of the "thing", the carrion, constitutes at one and the same time the poem's contents and artistic structure. The "superimposed patterns" consist, in the present case, in the pattern of gradual purification; the gradual replacement of "things" with "thing-free qualities", upon which artistic shape is "superimposed" in turn; and the decay of the body that leads to the extraction of the quintessence of spiritual love. By the foregoing terms Ehrenzweig meant, first and foremost, the creative process, and perhaps also the re-creation of the work of art by the art consumer. As I have suggested elsewhere (e.g., Tsur, 1978; 1983), such processes restructure information in a way that is very similar to the structure of information in emotional processes. Thus, the emotional import of the information conveyed by Baudelaire's description is strongly reinforced by an emotional structure, vastly amplifying the emotional impact of the poem.

Literary Traditions
Now a few words on the poem's relationship to French poetic traditions. Rodin, in his conversations on art with Paul Gsell mentions this poem together with Villon's "La Belle Haulmière"; this points up a kinship with Mediaeval Macabre poetry, that reached its peak with Villon (we have seen above the implications of this). Let us compare for a minute Baudelaire's poem to an almost randomly chosen piece of cruel macabric realism, from Villon's Testament:

Et meure Paris ou Helaine!
Quiconques meurt, meurt à douleur.
Cellui qui perd vent et alaine,
Son fiel se creve sur son cueur,
Puis sue, Dieu sçait quelle sueur!
Et n'est qui de ses maulx l'allege:
Car enfans n'a, frere ne soeur,
Qui voulsist lors estre son pleige.

La mort le faict fremir, pallir,
Le nez courber, les veines tendre,
Le col enfler, la chair mollir,
Joinctes et nerfs croistre et estendre.
Corps feminin, qui tant est tendre,
Poly, souef, si precieulx,
Te fauldra-il ces maulx attendre?
Ouy, ou tout vif aller ès cieulx. (XL-XLI)

[Whether Paris dies or Helen! / Whoever dies, dies in pain. / He loses his wind and pant, /His bile bursts into his heart, / Then he sweats, God knows what sweat! / And there is none to alleviate his ills: / Neither child, nor brother or sister, / Who would stand in for him.

Death makes him tremble, pale, / The nose bend, the veins tighten, / The neck swell, the flesh rot,/ Joints and nerves loosen and extend. / Now, female body, that is so tender, / Polished, soft and so precious, / Must you suffer all these wrongs? / Yes, unless you go sraightaway to heaven].

Both stanzas give a merciless description of the pains of death-agony, each one suggesting at its end, that there is no hope to escape such an end, and nothing of worth remains after death. The relentless description of the "Belle Haulmière" too leaves her with a deformed, repulsive body at her old age, after a life of prostitution. At another restatement of the macabre-theme, contemplating the dead at the St. Innocents graveyard, Villon explicitly states, what remains after death:

Tantost faillent telles plaisances,
Et la coulpe si en demeure. (CXLVIII).

[Before they had much fun, / And it's only sin that stays on.]

Villon prefers to focus attention on the human body when deformed by old age or death agony; when he finds his way to the spirit, he has nothing more consoling to offer, than the sin that stays on. Baudelaire sharpens these effects. On the one hand, he describes the end of all flesh not only as ugly, painful and frightening, but as most disgusting; on the other hand, he also offers a Platonic consolation: the preservation of the belovèd's divine essence through his poetry. This difference between Villon and Baudelaire will make ample sense in the light of Lessing's criticism of Aristotle, quoted above: "So it is, too, with corpses: It is the keener feeling of pity, the terrifying thought of our own destruction, that makes the real corpse repulsive to us". If the preceding description of the carcass was not repulsive enough, Baudelaire reminds the belovèd (and through her, any human being reading the poem) of her own destruction; at the same time, he alleviates this "keener feeling of pity, [...] terrifying thought", by promising (in the spirit of Renaissance poetry) to preserve her divine essence in his poems. Thus, Baudelaire's poem is more cruel and offers, at one and the same time, greater consolation.

Thus, Baudelaire's poem has, at once, elements from the macabric tradition, as well as from what appears to be its opposite, the Platonic poetry of the French Pléiade. A comparison of this poem to the French Pléiade may enhance our understanding of it. It has been suggested above that stanza 10 made an ironic use of the love clichés of the poetry of Ronsard and the Pléiade. First, Ronsard's poetry too contains elements inherited from the macabre tradition; one may even find some illuminating verbal affinities between two lines of our poem, "Quand vous irez, sous l'herbe et les floraisons grasses, / Moisir parmi les ossements", and Ronsard's words in his famous sonnet to Helen ("Quand vous serez bien vieille"): "Je serais sous la terre, et fantôme sans os, / Par les ombres myrteux je prendrai mon repos". Just as this comparison points up the sharpening of the image in Baudelaire's poem, it also points to the similar combination of certain motives. On the other hand, we may compare this poem to Ronsard's famous poem, "Mignonne, allons voir si la rose". Here too, a couple of lovers recall their morning stroll in the garden. Here too, they encounter in the garden an object that by way of describing it the poet is reminded of his belovéd. Here too, the object becomes a symbol of the transience of beauty and of youth in general, and the future decay of the mistress in particular. In Ronsard's poem, however, this object is a rose. We have seen in stanza 4, that the flower makes its appearance in this poem too, as a symbol of beauty and a simile for the symbol of decay, the carrion. In the light of this comparison, one might expect a similar ending after stanza 11. Here, however, as at other points of the poem, such possible expectations of the reader are blatantly refuted. Ronsard ends his poem with

Cueillez, cueillez votre jeunesse!
Comme cette fleur, la vieillesse
   Fera tenir votre beauté.

(Gather, gather your youth! / Like this flower, old age will wither your beauty).

Baudelaire's speaker, however, does not entreat his coy mistress "enjoy your day while it lasts", but rather offers her consolation in the promise to preserve "the form and divine essence / Of my decomposed loves", recapitulating and amplifying the Renaissance cliché

So long as men can breath or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Thus, the poem that begins with an indulging in shocking descriptions of carnal reality at its most repugnant, ends with the quintessence of spirituality; the poem that in its first eleven stanzas can be construed as a reaction against sixteenth century Neo-Platonic love poetry, in its last stanza outplatoes Plato. The insidious and detailed description of the decomposition of the corpse is suddenly reinterpreted as purification, as ridding the spirit of the corruption of flesh. Thus, an enormous tension between cruel carnal realism and pure spirituality is generated in "Une Charogne".

Description, Explanation, Evaluation
Looking now back upon what we have done till now, we may distinguish, in the spirit of analytic aesthetics, three types of critical statements: description, explanation (or interpretation) and evaluation. Those statements that were intended to pinpoint information explicitly given in the poem, or relationships between its elements, including its linguistic structure, are descriptive. Some statements, on the other hand, are intended to pinpoint some "crucial recommendation" (in Morris Weitz's terms) to direct attention toward certain aspects of the description. Both kinds of statements are in the indicative, but what is characteristic of explanatory statements is that they are logically compatible with statements that direct attention toward different, even opposite aspects. Those passages in which I presented the aesthetic conceptions of Aristotle, Addison, Lessing, Coleridge, Beardsley and Brooks were intended here to serve as a theoretical framework in which the descriptive and explanatory statements assume evaluative significance. This suggests that although this triple distinction is clear in theory, in critical practice the border lines may be rather fuzzy.

Thus, for instance, my suggestion that the simile "Comme une fleur s'épanouir" (blossoming out as a flower) introduces into the image of the carcass information that is emotionally incompatible with it--is descriptive; the suggestion that this information becomes part of a pattern of gradual purification is explanatory, and it does not "contradict" other statements (in other explanations) that deny the poem such a pattern. It does not pinpoint a "fact" about the poem, only a possible aspect of the description. The capability of understanding a crucial recommendation to direct attention toward a certain aspect of a description is similar to the capability of understanding "the request to pronounce the word 'till' and mean it as a verb" (Wittgenstein, 1968, 214e). It certainly does not contradict our capability of understanding the word "till" as a conjunction.

Let us compare, for instance, the following two critical passages on this poem:

The issue here is not the capacity for transfiguring things, for changing their value, the capacity which we have called the poetic fiat. We wish to talk of ugliness or horrors which the poet evokes without disguising them at all. [...] Baudelaire, in order to arouse horror, begins with two amorous and springlike verses; from the second stanza on, he increases horror by mingling sensuous associations in it ("Les jambes en l'air comme une femme lubrique...") and then with a more just instinct he mixed, so as to remain readable, the theme of death with that of fecundity. The seventh and eighth stanzas offer us almost the victory of poetry; the images are deliberately vague, and bring us back to the noble spectacles of nature and art [...] the poet gave the last word to decay; the whole poem may have possibly changed its tone, may have left us with a purer fervour [...] had he inverted the ideas of the last two lines (Prévost, 1964: 290-291).

Une Charogne [...] is not just a brilliant piece of macabre elaboration but is constructed to lead up to the last two lines [...]. The decaying body becomes a heap of seething particles, forced on all the senses by the thick ooze, loathly movement and sound of buzzing flies. But slowly each of these sense-impressions takes its place in a pattern of loveliness. And this is not ingenious aestheticism but part of the essential meaning. The end of the poem is no sudden switch in feeling; it has been working out slowly in the implications of the imagery [...]. To Baudelaire, conquest of terror and decay can come only if the full disgust has been faced and expressed. [...] The poem has a bitter and cruel originality, but the tiniest details assert, over decay and destruction, the victory of memory and creation (Fairlie, 1960: 41- 42).1

The two passages refer to roughly the same details in the poem (this would be even more apparent had I not omitted here some of the parts). Both passages would agree that "the full disgust has been faced and expressed" in the poem. However, according to Prévost, decay is tiumphant in the poem over the "divine essence", whereas according to Fairlie, "the tiniest details [of the poem] assert, over decay and destruction, the victory of memory and creation". According to Prévost, the poet "mixed [...] the theme of death with that of fecundity" so as to remain readable, a kind of "tender [by analogy with comic] relief"; whereas according to Fairlie, this and other images take their "place in a pattern of loveliness", which lead "up to the last two lines". Now, who of the two is right, she who asserts the victory of the divine essence over decay, or he who asserts the victory of decay over divine essence? Both critics imply that their statements are factual statements. However, these are best handled as crucial recommendations rather than factual statements. The poem leaves a substantial margine indeterminate in this respect, and each of the critics--rather than discovering the truth--makes a recommendation according his or her own preference. This is not as bad as it sounds; in fact, this is the most we can expect of criticism in such instances.

As it may be apparent from my own reading of the poem, I tend, nevertheless, to prefer Fairlie's crucial recommendation; not because Prévost's recommendation is "illegitimate", but because I am not altogether happy with his reasons given for this recommendation. It would appear that Prévost wishes to emphasize that "the full disgust has been faced and expressed" (but so does, obviously, Fairlie too). But it seems to me unacceptable to treat the poetry reader's responses as absolutely conditioned by the last words rather than, for instance, by the last sentence of a poem or, for that matter, by the emerging pattern "of loveliness" pointed out by Fairlie. The issue at stake seems to be, what is the effect of the "decomposed loves" at the end of the poem: whether it enhances "the full disgust", or leaves the divine essence pure, divesting it of the flesh, so to speak. One could possibly make out a good case for any one of the two positions, but not in the mechanical way of checking, which is the last word or line of the poem. Moreover, the "pattern of loveliness"-reading, culminating in the "victory of memory and creation", integrates more completely the elements of art, beauty and fecundity in the emerging interpretation of the poem. However, such a reading does not reject on the threashold the reading that denies "the capacity for transfiguring things, for changing their value". The reader's capability of switching from one reading to the other seems to be very much similar to one's capability of pronouncing the word "till" and mean it as a verb or a conjunction, alternately.

The Ironic Situation
Having now a second look at stanza 4 as a whole,

Et le ciel regardait le carcasse superbe
Comme une fleur s'épanouir.
La puanteur était si forte, que sur l'herbe
Vous crûtes vous évanouir.

we may make another crucial recommendation, some of the implications of which have already been explicitly suggested in the course of our discussion of this stanza, namely, to mean the situation described as an instantiation of the "archetypal ironic situation".

From this point of view the pure or archetypal ironist is God [...]. He is the ironist par excellence because he is omniscient, omnipotent, transcendent, absolute, infinite, and free. [...] The archetypal victim of irony is man, seen, per contra, as trapped and submerged in time and matter, blind, contingent, limited, and unfree--and confidently unaware that this is his predicament (Muecke, 1970: 37-38).

Certain aspects of this "archetypal ironic situation" foreground certain aspects of the situation described in the stanza. One major aspect of the girl's repulsion from the carcass up to the point of almost fainting will be emphasized by this "archetypal situation", presenting her as one who is "trapped [...] in [...] matter, [...] contingent, limited, and unfree". This is further emphasized, by contrast, by the presence of the speaker who appears to have some of the superiority and freedom of the "archetypal ironist", being--if not omniscient and omnipotent--capable of contemplating the situation from above and making observations on its minute details. What is more, the girl may seem to have little idea that she will look and smell similar to this carcass after her death. This aspect would concern her being "blind [...] and confidently unaware that this is her predicament". This "blindness", however, is de-emphasized to a considerable degree, since one may readily grant that the overwhelming immediate perception of the situation is the stink rather than some detached memento mori. The reader himself is not more aware of this possibility, and the speaker's "revelation" in stanza 10 comes as a shock for him as well. This aspect of ironic blindness "dawns", if at all, only in retrospect from stanza 10. On the other hand, the speaker in the poem is capable of "transcending" the immediate repugnant sensations of the situation. "In earthly art Irony has this meaning--conduct similar to God's" (Muecke, loc. cit.).

Now notice the following. Illuminating as the "archetypal ironic situation" may be for the poem, it is not "given" in it. It depends, to a considerable degree, upon the relative weight we bestow upon the various details; whether, for instance, we regard the speaker as a more or less conventional auctorial voice, as one who happens to know all the information given in the poem, with some indication on what occasion he acquired that knowledge, or whether we regard him as a flesh-and-blood person who, by contrast to the girl, could overcome the enormous natural disgust and observe the tiniest details of "the thick ooze, loathly movement and sound of buzzing flies"; or in a different respect, whether we accept the girl's repulsion as the most natural response in the situation described, without further considerations, or we regard the carcass' processes of decay as metonymies, or instances, of some more general principles.

At this point of the poem, Moses Mendelssohn's observation mentioned above may be relevant, with the twist that "we believe the evil to be real" for the girl in the situation described by the poem, but not for the reader of the poem. "Hence, these feelings can be transformed into pleasant ones by recalling that it is an artificial illusion" for the reader. Moreover, many readers find themselves at this point identifying their point of view with that of the "archetypal ironist" speaking in the poem; and also "recalling that it is [merely] an artificial illusion", they may feel a sense of relative superiority and freedom, and find the detailed description of repellent sights and smells pleasurable. This is one, rather persistent, reason for this poem to be capable of arousing pleasure with its repulsive descriptions. One might conjecture that it is this underlying attitude that may facilitate many readers' acceptance of Prévost's "wish to talk of ugliness or horrors which the poet evokes without disguising them at all", without "transfiguring" them. But it is relevant to Fairlie's reading as well.

Let us turn now to Mendelssohn's suggestion concerning "the disagreeable sensation of disgust", that "our dislike did not arise from the supposition that the evil was real, but from the mere mental image of it, which is indeed real. Feelings of disgust are therefore always real and never imitations". There is little doubt that considerable parts of "Une Charogne" are not just ugly, but right away disgusting. What is more, the author appears to deliberately aim at arousing the mere mental image of the disgusting. This mental image, notwithstanding Mendelssohn and Prévost, is still capable of arousing artistic pleasure, and the disagreeable "feelings can be transformed into pleasant ones". I have suggested above that the difference between the ugly and the disgusting may be one of degree rather than of kind. In matters of perception, for instance, certain crucial differences that to consciousness appear to be strictly qualitative, are in fact differences between "rapid" and "delayed closure", or between "rapid" and "delayed categorization". It may be the case that the ugly and the disgusting too differ in the relative speed with which the disagreeable feelings can be transformed into pleasant ones. It may well be the case that with the disgusting the transformation is delayed for a considerable span of time, so that the reader is exposed to the painful mental image for a longer period. Perhaps Prévost's notion too, that "The issue here is not the capacity for transfiguring things, for changing their value [...]," but "ugliness or horrors which the poet evokes without disguising them at all" refers, in fact, to the appearance in consciousness of such a delayed transformation. In terms of the present paper, Prévost's factual statement is to be understood as a crucial recommendation to delay transformation in the course of reading this poem.

The foregoing speculation may also bear, mutatis mutandis, on another related issue. Let us consider Fairlie's suggestion, that "slowly each of these sense-impressions takes its place in a pattern of loveliness". As I have suggested above, Baudelaire resorts for his descriptions of disgusting processes to images that are emotionally incompatible with them, such as flowers, artistic creation, appetite, or sexual lust. When Baudelaire uses the image that the carcass "opens up its belly", its effect is to render the repugnant sight more "vivid" in the reader's imagination. When he adds the simile "blossoming out like a flower", he introduces into the image an element that is emotionally incompatible with it, thereby dealing to the reader a shock of emotional disorientation. When Baudelaire describes the disintegrating body as having lost its shape, it again makes the process of decay more vivid; but when he uses the simile of artistic creation, it deals to the reader another shock of emotional disorientation. These shocks reinforce the shock of the "mental image" of the disgusting carcass. At the same time, there emerges an overall pattern, for which the term "gradual purification and disembodiment" rather than "loveliness" appears to be an appropriate description, leading up to the disembodied divine essence in the last two lines. It would appear that this aspect of the pleasurable images dawns upon the reader only as a faint possiblity, and receives its full weight only in retrospect, from the last stanza. Thus, the emergence of this pattern may serve as an illustration of the process of "delayed transformation". Now, how does this process of "delayed transformation" affect the reader of this poem? For one thing, the shift is from an extremely painful perception to an extremely pleasurable perception. The mere occurrence of such a shift may be the structural source--according to the Freudian conception--of a high degree of pleasure. For another thing, the reader undergoes an experience of great flexibility, the gist of which is characterized by ability or readiness to shift from one aspect of the situation to another; in the present instance, from the disorienting aspects of the images to their purifying aspects. In terms of the archetypal ironic situation, this would suggest that the exercising of one's capability of shifting from one aspect of the situation to another arouses and enhances a feeling of relative freedom and superiority, which, again is experienced as pleasurable (as a matter of fact, it is not merely a feeling of relative freedom and superiority; the reader does exercise relative freedom and superiority).

"Une Charogne" is a problematic poem to many readers. One notorious problem about it is, whether it is a mere practical joke, or a poem of some aesthetic merit; whether the pleasure derived from the extensive disgusting descriptions is due only to some readers' pleasure seeing the poet deal out an overwhelming blow to the conventionally-minded, or there is something in the details and overall pattern of the poem, by virtue of which it deserves close critical attention and can arouse artistic pleasure. In the center of the present paper there is a fairly detailed reading of the poem, giving a close description and explanation of its texture and structure. Within the theoretical conception presented here, these also assume a positive evaluation of their artistic merits. It will be noticed that in my many quotations I have carefully avoided quoting from Baudelaire's own brilliant statements of his aesthetic conceptions, and have confined myself to a single quotation on aestheticism in general. The reason for that is that my purpose in this paper was to account for the fact that the sustained disgusting descriptions seem to arouse artistic pleasure in a great variety of readers for over a century, not by appealing to the fact that the poem makes sense in terms of its own aesthetic conceptions, but in the wider perspective of critical theory from Aristotle through Neo-Classic and Romantic Criticism, to more recent "New Criticism", and later "Reader-Response Criticism".

1. I was surprised to discover, that Fairlie had anticipated by about eight years, in her succinct way, my argument in an early Hebrew version of the present paper.


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