Translated from Lettres d’un poète parisien, by Udolphe de l’Ennui.

My dear L——,

The summer breezes puff gently through my window this evening, carrying the sweet scents of a thousand blossoms from the tiny walled garden below. How I hate gardens, walled or otherwise! They are small outcroppings of paradise, and a poet has nothing to do with paradise; a poet must be damned to hell for eternity, or he is a mere bourgeois doggerel-monger. How I wish the world would despise my poetry, so that I should know myself to be a true poet! Yet the latest review in the Artichaut quotidien calls my poetry “damnable.” You see how impossible it is for a poet to rise up against the establishment, when the establishment appreciates him for what he is….

The bourgeois scents of the bourgeois flowers Mme La Salle has planted cause me to think of death. A thousand times a day I think of death: death, whose embrace is sweeter than the madeleines in the Rue du Nom Disyllable; death, whose icy breath I feel even now on my knee (for you must know that I have infernally cold knees, even at the height of summer); yet death will not come, and I am compelled to live. To live! What a hollow endeavor it is to live, when every attempt at it must at the last end in failure! Only a bourgeois mind could find satisfaction in mere living. Yet sometimes I wonder whether, when it finally comes for me, death will not prove to be bourgeois as well….

The world grows darker, and for a moment I think my bosom-companion death has remembered me at last; but no, it is merely that the sun has set, which by some cruel law of nature which no one understands deprives me of the light from my window. There are philosophers who make the bold claim that they understand this thing, but they understand nothing. Only in poetry is there truth: in poetry and in death, wherefore to know the truth it is necessary to be either a poet or dead, and preferably both….

I must end this letter now. The light is failing; and, if I light a lamp, Mme La Salle will know that I am at home and will pester me with her endless bourgeois questions about the rent. Does she suppose that such a mundane subject as rent would be of interest to me? Farewell! I must now sit in the darkness and think of death, and of madeleines. Perhaps there is hope; perhaps it is possible to die of a surfeit of madeleines. I must attempt the experiment….

Yours in misery of soul,

P.S.—I hope Mme L—— and all the little L——s are well.


  1. Jared says:

    Alas, all that proceeds from a surfeit of madeleines is evocative memories of Combray. Which is unusual, inasmuch as I’ve never been to Combray, and the guilt I feel at having taken the Méséglise Way seems not entirely my own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *