“By Association” details one of the many forms of departure that tempted Baudelaire throughout Flowers of Evil prior to his ultimate departure in “The Trip.” The poem was published in the 1857 edition of Flowers of Evil, as well as in the 1861 edition, where it was situated between two other poems, “Hymne à la Beauté” (“Hymn to Beauty”) and “La Chevelure” (“The Head of Hair”), on the general subject of the beauty of women. “By Association” also exemplifies Baudelaire’s technique of developing both ideas and imagery through a sequence of related poems.
“Hymn to Beauty” addresses beauty in general, though clearly in female form, and reflects the dualism that Baudelaire recognized in this subject. The opening lines, “Do you come from deep heaven or from the abyss/ Oh Beauty?” recognize the danger of woman. Yet by the end of the poem, the poet willingly takes whatever risk that he must: What does it matter, if you—velvet-eyed fairy/ Rhythm, perfume, light, my only queen—you make the universe less ugly and time less heavy?” The attributes that Baudelaire ascribes to the woman reflect her duality. The allusions to “rhythm, perfume, light” recall the multiple sensory stimuli that contributed to the poet’s vision in “Correspondences.” Yet the reference to her eyes, the instruments by which women often overpower the poet elsewhere in Flowers of Evil, alludes to her potential dominance and links this poem to the...
(The entire section is 612 words.)