Why There Are No Stars In Baudelaire

“Baudelaire’s abyss is starless…”
Walter Benjamin[1]

The light that obscures Baudelaire’s poetry is one that eluded him, and yet one that he could not fail to see. Its diffusion opens reading to darkness. There the Platonic sun is a myth, as is the world seen in the light of its good. The light neither burns nor shines, but lingers, distorted: a poetics of the afterglow, then[2]—of a light no longer to clear the opaque, to enlighten, to blossom in a photo-synthetic dialectic, resolving the darkness that turns against it. The chiaroscuro between the good light and opaque matter, the evil that resists it, no longer obtains. The morality play of good and evil reflected in specular metaphor, between light and darkness, day and night, sun and cave, work and prodigality, is itself doubled along the mirror’s edge that created it, put en abîme so that the opposition between good and evil is revealed to be already a reflection of the good, so that evil no longer therefore opposes the light, but issues from its redundancy. This light illumines the darkness not by clearing it away, but by suffusing with it in a cold modern lamplight, or in the gulf illumined by it of a shopwindow’s reflction where “tout est abîme,[3].

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