The Way He Saw It
In spite of the fact that the genius is the godsend, such is his trail in the world that at times he has to speak of the devil. And, as the old proverb says, the Satan does not hesitate to appear as he is spoken of. The specifics of the concept of the devilish which has been spoken in Baudelaire’s poem The Litanies of Satan and in his narrative story called The Generous Gambler provides a deep insight on his idea of what, or who, the Satan is and what concept lies underneath the scary and impressive image.
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Does the devil keep his positions once taken in the Middle Ages as the seat of the creature so full of evil that he exists outside the concept of good or bad? Baudelaire suggests another idea of the Satan, no less frightening and impressive, yet suggesting some other ideas.
The non-conformist’s attitude starts to show up in the work of Baudelaire’s as he starts treating the image of the Satan as something that a man cannot withstand. Since the resistance to the temptations which the devil has been making a man to succumb to was worshipped by the church adepts as the most righteous behavior of a true Christian, the new ideas were greeted with rather chilly air.
This, however, never embarrassed the great master and even added the specific scent of recklessness to his poems and works. Depicting the Satan as the power which is terrible and dazzling in the terror which he brings over the souls of the sinners, Baudelaire creates the image which is completely new to the people of his era, yet he does not go that fat so as to show that his idea of Satan goes beyond the allowed boundaries. It is just a play on the shadows and images that Baudelaire suggests.
“Oh, Satan, have pity upon my long distress!” Baudelaire exclaims in a mournful cry, as if the Lord of the Darkness ever had one. This is the very detail which distinguishes the author from the rest of the writers which depicted the Satan before. Baudelaire lays a shade of humanity on the evil spirit, and makes him closer to the mankind, as if suggesting that, once people are apt to sin, there must be a part of a man in the Satan as well, and thus it is easier to speak to him than to the quire of angels, shining with their virtue.
Here Baudelaire comes close to the topic raised by Turner, who arranges a guided walk along the estate of the underneath. In creating a true picture of the dark kingdom, the latter makes the hell seem not in the light which has been imposed on it by the church since the times immemorial, but creates the image of the creature which possesses the powers greater than a man can even imagine. In contrast to what has been written before, this image sets a vision being so much different form what has been created before.
In this respect, the poem approaches the concept of hell and Satan which has been represented by Sartre in No Exit. The haunting, stinging flies which persecute the sinners turn into the strings of moral sufferings in Baudelaire’s understanding of the Gehenna and the tortures which sinners suffer there. Sartre makes it even clearer that a man’s life depends only on the man himself: “You are your life, and nothing else” (43). For those who sin, this is rater cold comfort, though.
The Good Intentions Which Paved His Road
In comparison to the poem, The Generous Gambler, being a narration, leaves much less to the imagination and reveals a little bit more than the readers might have wanted to. However, the mystic shade which the topic sheds on the novel still leaves a plenty of thought so ponder over. Whether Baudelaire expresses the same point of view characterizing the Satan and the dark powers in The Generous Gambler is another important question.
At the first sight, the situation and the mood in the story being quite different from the poem, it must give another idea of the Hades and its dwellers. Approaching the idea of the close connection between the devil and the mankind, Baudelaire builds the image of a pal to a man, the spirit which soaked with despair over his own desolate situation, not to mention the treatment of the people which the devil gets.
The idea of the Satan as the creature who has lost its glitter and now is doomed to spend the rest of its days – the rest of the eternity, as a mater of fact – in miser and loneliness, since it has become rather a laughingstock for the mankind than the master of fear and the king of tortures.
The precise and sharp phrases which are the style of the writer, give a quick and clear idea of the Satan, making it evident that he has lost the glitter of his magnificence, and that his days as the times of the most impressive and powerful lord of the underworld are counted.
Of course, such ideas could not but set Baudelaire on quite harsh conflicts with the church. It must be noticed, however, that, among a number of the displeased with the new idea of the devil, the Satan himself was the only one who did not object.
Comparing the two works of Baudelaire’s to another one by Marlow, which preceded the former, but was actually pursuing the same topic, it can be said that the work of Marlow had anticipated Baudelaire’s ones. Although Mephistopheles still remains the spirit of evil which is petrifying in the power which he seizes over people’s souls, it becomes quite clear that Marlow already emphasizes the idea of the devil as the creature whose reputation is far less impressive than the one of God.
Although the devil in Marlow’s understanding is far from being tamed the way Baudelaire showed it, he already creates the settings which show that a man’s will already poses a counterforce to defeat the harming influence of the Lucifer. However many names and allies the devil could have, the man’s souls stays untouched as long as he knows that he can struggle with the Satan inside him.
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For when we hear one rack the name of God
Abjure the Scriptures and his Saviour Christ,
We fly in hope to get his glorious soul,
Nor we will come unless he use such means
Whereby he is in danger to be damned. (Marlow 12)
Although Mephistopheles’ words stir a dreadful racket in the world of the mere mortals, the devil still cannot help admitting that his powers are restricted. The image of the devil approaches to the one suggested by Baudelaire – though not that shattered yet, it already possesses the features of the decay which the Satan is going to face soon.
His entire power based on a single emotion of a man, the fear, devil quickly loses all his might as the mankind gets rid of the terror of hell. Fearing the abyss of fire no more, people broke the throne of the Satan and shook the empire of his to the core.
Next to the “strict mortality” of people spoken by Plato in Phoedo, the idea which Baudelaire pursues proves much deeper than it could seem from the very beginning. While Plato makes it understood that the immortal soul is not merely a concept, but something completely true, Baudelaire takes this idea further and drives people to the fact that a man is the only owner of his immortal soul, and it is only him who can be in charge of the fragile substance.
Then when death attacks a man, the mortal portion of him may be supposed to die, but the immortal goes out of the way of death and is preserved safe and sound? True. (Plato 83)
However, taking the issue even further, to the place where the good and the evil have no meaning and where the eternity begins, Baudelaire makes the grateful audience see that the way in which a man can handle his soul can be far worse than it could have been, once the soul is in the hands of the Satan himself.
The people coming so close to the edge of the vice that they do not fear even the Satan are a perfect example of the misery impersonated. What Baudelaire is trying to say is that the good and the evil are not the concepts which exist outside a man’s mind, but the notions hidden within a man’s soul. These are only us who can handle them, and people, have the pity on your long distress…
Marlowe C. Doctor Faustus. London: Nick Hern Books, 2001. Print.
Plato. Phaedo. New York, NY: Forgotten Books, 1959. Print.
Sartre, J.-P. No Exit and Three Other Plays. New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1989. Print.
Turner, A. K. The History of Hell. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace & Co, 1995. Print.