Hell’s harmonies fade in the twilight

WP_20150730_005As I write, it is evening in Liverpool and the daylight is fading. ‘Minds exhausted by the toils of the day settle, and their thoughts bathe in the tender half-tones of the twilight’.  This quote is from a translation of a piece of Charles Baudelaire’s prose poetry, called ‘Evening Twilight’ published original in French in 1855.  Although it’s a short piece the translation is copyright so I can’t reproduce it here.  Baurelaire continues to describe two friends who were made ill by twilight.  One who saw coded insults in everything and was unable to enjoy twilight as the prelude to feasts of pleasure; and the other who was frustrated by ambition and became increasingly ‘sour, moody, short-tempered as [the] day waned’.  He contrasts the reaction to twilight of his friends to the calm induced himself, the stilling of his thoughts, thoughts startled by hell’s harmonies.

Perhaps today’s hell’s harmonies are the constant stream of digital communication and information transmitted to us by our constantly-connected devices and so many of us read, write and think deep into the night after our friends and colleagues have settled from the toils of the day and ceased to communicate (at least those in the same time zone).  Perhaps nothing changes except the form of hell’s harmonies.


Baudelaire, C., ‘No. 22 Evening twilight’ in Paris Spleen, Martin Sorrell (trans.), Richmond, UK: Alma Classics Ltd, 2010.

1 thought on “Hell’s harmonies fade in the twilight

  1. Beverly Johnson

    The new translation you refer to is copyrighted, but there is an older one in the public domain which isn’t. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/47032/47032-h/47032-h.htm#Page_49

    I took “Reading French” as an elective in college, hoping I could read Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” or Flowers of Evil as he is constantly being retranslated. He has a poem there also called “Evening Twilight,” so here’s his advice:

    “Collect yourself, my soul, in this grave hour
    And shut your ears against the din and stour.”


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