‘Je n’ai pas oublié’, the ninety-ninth poem in the second edition of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (1861), involves the narrator reminiscing about his impoverished childhood in his mother’s small house near Paris. In the following piece, ‘La Servante au grand cœur’, the narrator suggests to his mother that they should take flowers to the tomb of his nursemaid, whose nigh forgotten body lies beside other neglected corpses suffering the passage of the seasons. These two vignettes of memory highlight a burgeoning awareness of new prosodic and ecological systems, making them ripe for ecopoetic analysis. This article suggests that the evocation of Baudelaire’s modest pre-metropolitan existence offers the key to understanding the diminished human and non-human presences that figure in the surrounding 16 poems of the ‘Tableaux parisiens’ series, marked by the melancholic metrocentrism that suffuses Baudelaire’s later poetry.
- city/cities, poverty, transience, childhood, French versification, ecopoetry