"To the Reader" is a poem written by Charles Baudelaire as part of his larger collection of poetry Fleurs du mal(Flowers of Evil), first published in 1857.
Au Lecteur (To the Reader)
Folly, error, sin, avarice
Occupy our minds and labor our bodies,
And we feed our pleasant remorse
As beggars nourish their vermin.
Our sins are obstinate, our repentance is faint;
We exact a high price for our confessions,
And we gaily return to the miry path,
Believing that base tears wash away all our stains.
On the pillow of evil Satan, Trismegist,
Incessantly lulls our enchanted minds,
And the noble metal of our will
Is wholly vaporized by this wise alchemist.
The Devil holds the strings which move us!
In repugnant things we discover charms;
Every day we descend a step further toward Hell,
Without horror, through gloom that stinks.
Like a penniless rake who, with kisses and bites,
Tortures the breast of an old prostitute,
We steal as we pass by a clandestine pleasure
That we squeeze very hard like a dried-up orange.
Serried, swarming, like a million maggots,
A legion of Demons carouses in our brains,
And when we breathe, Death, that unseen river,
Descends into our lungs with muffled wails.
If rape, poison, daggers, arson
Have not yet embroidered with their pleasing designs
The banal canvas of our pitiable lives,
It is because our souls have not enough boldness.
But among the jackals, the panthers, the bitch hounds,
The apes, the scorpions, the vultures, the serpents,
The yelping, howling, growling, crawling monsters,
In the filthy menagerie of our vices,
There is one (that's) more ugly, more wicked, more filthy!
Although he makes neither great gestures nor great cries,
He would willingly make of the earth a shambles
And, in a yawn, swallow the world;
He is Ennui (Boredom)! — His eye watery as though with tears,
He dreams of scaffolds as he smokes his hookah pipe.
You know him, Reader, that refined monster,
You! Hypocrite reader — my fellow, — my brother!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Connection to The Waste Land
The last line in Burial of the Dead ends with a reference to the Baudelaire's "To the Reader". In his poem "To the Reader", Baudelaire stated that more or less, humans are always tainted with the scent of evil. Sometimes evil guides us unconsciously, other times we willingly give ourselves to the devil. The first 8 stanzas is a depic-
tion of our dark and foul nature. When darkness comes, it is not in our nature to fight it, but to welcome and to live it. It is harder to stay virtuous than succumb to vice. As a result, man wrong-doings are the result of his nature, that on earth it is neither wrong nor right, but a way of living. The last 2 stanzas, however, offer something different. Baudelaire says, "There is one more ugly, more wicked, more filthy!" - that there is something more grave than death, than darkness, than the devil Satan himself. It is the state of inaction, of apathy, of boredom. Baudelaire is not criticizing those who are evil, rather those who live in boredom and vanity. He is saying it is better to live and do evil things than to live and not live at all.
The last line 'You! hypocrite lecteur! - mon compagnon - mon frere!' sums up the message of the first chapter in "The Waste Land." The message is not exactly the same as Baudelaire, but the intention is similar. Humans are constantly on the quest of searching for life. "Burial of the Dead" depicts a death scene of nature, of culture, of civilizations. When something dies, it should be buried. Burial does not mark the end, rather a new beginning. Life will spring once more out of the dead. But we, the reader, must keep it away from the dog, or else it will dig it up again. We must mourn and wait, pray and remember that which has given us life. Treasure those who have departed, as well as Death himself, for it is them who bring us life.