The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Benediction” is composed of nineteen quatrains written in regular Alexandrine, or twelve-syllable, lines with an alternating abab rhyme scheme. Charles Baudelaire’s choice of this traditional verse form contrasts with his innovative use of imagery that was to inspire a new symbolic form of expression in French poetry.

While the poem uses the third person, the poet it describes clearly represents Baudelaire himself. The autobiographical elements, however, are generalized enough for the poet to represent at the same time the romantic archetype of the poet as an inspired figure misunderstood by society.

The first five quatrains form the most clearly autobiographical section of the poem and emphasize the irony of the title, “Benediction.” The idea that a blessing from God is associated with the poet’s birth is suggested in the first line, where his appearance is said to be “by a decree of supreme powers.” Yet the child is anything but blessed when, immediately after his birth, his mother rejects him.

The mother’s rejection echoes Baudelaire’s own feeling of abandonment when, after his father died when Baudelaire was only six years old, his mother remarried, choosing a military man with whom the future poet had little in common. As this experience is translated into the poem “Benediction,” however, the mother rails against the defects of her child, whom she calls the “damned instrument” of God’s...

(The entire section is 486 words.)