Liberalism, Inebriated 

Does liberalism have poems? Are there liberal poets? John Stuart Mill, who loved Shelley and who celebrated “human feeling,” thought so: “Although a philosopher cannot make himself, in the peculiar sense in which we now use the term, a poet, unless at least he have that peculiarity of nature which would probably have made poetry his earliest pursuit; a poet may always, by culture, make himself a philosopher.” But a philosopher of liberalism?  Charles Baudelaire, a contemporary of Mill, died in 1867. In 1869, a collection of his prose-poems — a form that he helped to invent — was published under the title Le Spleen de Paris, a phrase that Baudelaire had himself used for a selection of these texts. The title has been translated as Paris Blues. (The original title was much better.) Baudelaire believed that life is a struggle between spleen and ideal, and in his work he studied the former and championed the latter. Among the prose-poems in the posthumous book was one called “Enivrez-vous,” which first appeared, in February1864, in the newspaper Figaro. It has been translated into English by Michael Hamburger as “Be Drunk.”  Here it is, in full:  One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters; that’s our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time’s horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without ceasing.  But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.  And if, at some time, on the steps of a palace, in the green grass of a ditch, in the bleak solitude of your room, you are waking up when drunkenness has already abated, ask the wind, the wave, a star, the clock, all that which flees, all that which groans, all that which

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