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Be Drunk

January 16, 2015

I have been drunk for more than a month–mostly on wine and poetry.

Be Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Louis Simpson

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way.
So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back
and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of
a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again,
drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave,
the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that
is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing,
everything that is speaking…ask what time it is and wind, wave,
star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to
be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On
wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

During Eleanor’s winter break, which ends tomorrow, we’ve been immersing ourselves in fictional worlds, reading a lot and catching up on movies and TV series that we like to watch together. We watched the newest Hobbit movie. We watched all the episodes of Agents of Shield, dipped into the most recent season of Dr. Who and started Breaking Bad. Eleanor and I passed James Morrow books back and forth, (in preparation for meeting him this March at a convention). My extended family went to the movies together to see Into the Woods, a show we have loved for years and found passable in this new version, although thought it’s a shame they left out the reprise of “Agony.” After we watched the David Tennant Richard II and talked about how we like it, a friend of mine came over and shared her access to an online version of the David Tennant and Catherine Tate Much Ado About Nothing. We have drunk many bottles of wine and eaten almost all of the pie.

And yet it’s not time for me to go back to any kind of real world. I see my friends who like their jobs marking off achievements, traveling to see each other at conferences, and gearing up for a new semester, but I am a wallflower at that party this year. One of my student managers, a guy I really like, asked me yesterday if I enjoy doing what I think is an important part of my job, a part I’ve fought hard for. Not much, I said at the moment. Later I asked myself why, and realized that I have been letting what other people think about me undermine what I used to do well and thought was important. Sometimes it takes being drunk to see that. It may take staying drunk for a while to decide what to do about it.

What have you been drunk on lately?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2015 11:29 am

    These guys. All the videos, all the music:

    • January 16, 2015 11:39 am

      Good one. I wish you didn’t understand these feelings so well, but am glad for the moment that you do.

  2. January 16, 2015 11:41 am

    I’ve been drunk on change and reacquainting myself with my self worth. And movies!

    • January 16, 2015 12:00 pm

      Maybe you can give me a lesson on how to improve one’s own sense of self worth after having it trampled on by others.

  3. Gwen Bailey permalink
    January 16, 2015 11:44 am

    I just want to tell now (in case I’ve not told you before) that I think you write beautifully.

    • January 16, 2015 12:02 pm

      Thank you, Gwen. That brought me to tears for a moment, considering you knew me when I could get drunk on virtue.

  4. Jenny permalink
    January 16, 2015 11:56 am

    I love Baudelaire. He’s one of my favorite French poets.

    I haven’t been drunk enough this month — this is good encouragement to find time at least to get a little tipsy.

    • January 16, 2015 12:02 pm

      It’s good to go overboard on something. Friday is a good day for it.

  5. January 16, 2015 4:16 pm

    Remember when you whispered to me that I was somebody? You are too, and I wish for you to get drunk on that.

    • January 18, 2015 12:10 pm

      Urgh, that’s neither poetry, virtue, or a rare liquor! But I do thank you for the reminder.

  6. January 17, 2015 2:40 pm

    I’m drunk on the silliest television show maybe ever, and a whole mess of nonfiction books. What’d y’all think of the two David Tennant shows? Especially Much Ado?

    • January 18, 2015 12:12 pm

      What is the silliest TV show ever? I love anything with David Tennant in it. The Much Ado was delightful. It depended more on the buddy comedy that David and Catherine do so well, and less on the idea that they were “in love.”
      Really, I don’t understand why any modern production tries to do the Hero and Claudius thing without cutting lines, at the very least the outraged father lines. Why update if you’re going to leave in the bits about how virginity is Hero’s whole worth and without it she is worthless? Gah.

  7. January 19, 2015 12:19 pm

    I’ve been drunk on getting back to a normal schedule, so far so good. I hope your work issue gets better; take to heart the fact you’re good at your job 🙂

    Glad you had a good (and long!) time with your daughter.

    • January 21, 2015 9:10 pm

      You know, I am good at my job. I’m not good at self-advertisement, though.
      If you’re drunk on getting back to a normal schedule, does that mean you’re drunk regularly? 😉

  8. January 21, 2015 2:20 pm

    Great poem. It sounds like you and Eleanor had a wonderful time together. Have you seen Broadchurch? It’s a crime series with David Tennant as the troubled chief investigator. Really good. I’m always drunk on books but lately I’ve been drunk on bicycling and garden planning too. I’m going to have one heck of a hangover, but I supposed the trick is to always be drunk and then no hangover. Is that how it works?

    • January 21, 2015 9:11 pm

      I have not seen Broadchurch. Sounds like we should put that on our list of things to watch.
      And yes, I think that Baudelaire would say the trick is to stay drunk.

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