by Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)
Translation © by David K. Smythe

Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes...
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG HUN ITA
Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes d'équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule !
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid !
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait !

Le Poëte est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer ;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

E. Chausson sets stanzas 1-2, 4

About the headline (FAQ)

Confirmed with Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1861, in Spleen et Idéal, pages 11-12.

Note: modern French spelling would change "Poëte" (stanza 4, line 1) to "Poète"


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CZE Czech (Čeština) (Jaroslav Haasz) , "Albatros"
  • ENG English (David K. Smythe) , "The albatross", copyright © 2003, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Tamás Rédey) , "’Z albatrosz", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Árpád Tóth) , "Az albatrosz", written 1918
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "L'albatro", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • POL Polish (Polski) (Bronisława Ostrowska) , "Albatros", Kraków, first published 1911
  • POR Portuguese (Português) (Delfim Guimarães) , "O albatroz"
  • ROM Romanian (Română) (Alexandru I. Philippide) , "Albatrosul"

Research team for this text: Ted Perry , Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 16
Word count: 123

The albatross
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
Often, to amuse themselves, the crewmen
Would catch albatrosses, huge birds of the seas,
Which would follow, lazy voyage companions,
The ship gliding over the briny chasms.

Hardly had they settled on the deck,
Then these kings of the skies, clumsy and ashamed,
Would let trail piteously their great white wings
Like oars beside them.

[This winged traveller, how awkward and weak he is!
He, quite recently so beautiful, how comic and ugly he is!
One annoys his beak with a short-stemmed pipe,
Another mimics, teasingly, the disabled one who used to fly!]

The Poet resembles the prince of the clouds
Who haunts the storm and laughs at the archer;
Exiled on Earth in the midst of the booing audience,
His giant's wings prevent him from walking.


  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2003 by David K. Smythe, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on:


This text was added to the website: 2004-03-25
Line count: 16
Word count: 127