The Dog and the Vial  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Le Chien et le Flacon" (The dog and the vial) is a prose poem by Baudelaire from the collection Le Spleen de Paris:

It tells how a dog will run away howling if you hold to him a bottle of choice perfume, but if you offer him some excrement, he will sniff round it joyfully, and will seek to lick your hand for gratitude. Baudelaire compared that dog and its warped sense of smell to the public.

In the poem, Baudelaire compares tale wagging to smiling or laughing.

Full French text

« — Mon beau chien, mon bon chien, mon cher tou- tou, approchez et venez respirer un excellent parfum acheté chez le meilleur parfumeur de la ville,»
Et le chien, en frétillant de la queue, ce qui est, je crois, chez ces pauvres êtres, le signe correspondant du rire et du sourire, s'approche et pose curieusement son nez humide sur le flacon débouché ; puis, reculant soudainement avec effroi, il aboie contre moi en manière de reproche,
« — Ah! misérable chien, si je vous avais offert un paquet d'excréments, vous l'auriez flairé avec délices et peut-être dévoré. Ainsi, vous-même, indigne compagnon de ma triste vie, vous ressemblez au public, à qui il ne faut jamais présenter des parfums délicats qui l'exaspèrent, mais des ordures soigneusement choisies, »

English translation

And a translation from Baudelaire, his prose and poetry by Thomas Robert Smith (1880-1942).

"My pretty dog, my good dog, my doggy dear, come and smell this excellent perfume bought at the best scent-shop in the city."
And the dog, wagging its tail, which is, I think, the poor creature's substitute for a laugh or a smile, appreached and curiously placed its damp nose to the opened vial ; then, recoiling with sudden fright, it growled at me in reproach.
"Ah! wretched dog, if I had offered you a mass of excrement, you would have smelled it with delight, and probably have devoured it. So even you, unworthy companion of my unhappy life, resemble the public, to whom one must never offer delicate perfumes, which exasperate, but carefully raked-up mire."

Both versions are public domain in the United States.

See also

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