In the 1860s Baudelaire
The poet with a rhyming flair
Sojourned in hôtel Miroir
And considered Brussels rather dour.
Its twisty streets, its river dank
Its women, heavy set, who stank
Its Faro beer, its smoky dives
Its, in a word, provincial lives...
Strapped for cash, the poet spoke
In glowing terms of men of note
In the King's House upper hall
But public interest was small...
He took a trip to Waterloo
And dined on Hugo's famed menu
Observed the landscape, drenched with rain
And contemplated that "morne plaine".
He admired the city's Baroque past
Was there when Leopold breathed his last
Saw flight of Nadar's air balloon
Wrote poems in his hôtel room...
A Namur excursion proved too much
A malaise at Saint Loup was such
His health, once robust, now declined
He left 'La pauvre Belgique' behind.
But his verse encapsulates a time
When early photos showed the grime
Of working lives by river bed
Where cholera reared its ugly head.
On the cusp of visions new
Vast enterprise of Leopold II
A modern Brussels, tree-lined, free
This, Baudelaire did not live to see...
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) in Brussels 1864-66.