Broken Presents: The Modern City in Ruins in Baudelaire, Cernuda, and Paz


N CONTRAST TO THE ENDURINC ANCIENT RUINS of baroque and romantic poetry, the ruins of modern urban poetry tend to be short-lived—the remains of the destruction and reconstruction of a city's streets, houses, public buildings, and factories rather than broken monuments and statues, abandoned churches, fragments of temples, or other remnants of a distant past. In these poems nature ceases to be the principal force that slowly "overcomes" the works of "civilization": progress and war take over the role of ivy and time; spleen and ennui replace awe and nostalgia. AS Georg Simmel has argued, in the modern— and often traumatic—experience ofthe metropolis, 'Thefightwith nature which primitive man has to wage for his bodily existence attains . . . its latest transformation" (409). In the city, people survive traffic, crowds, and advertisements, not tigers and serpents. Modern poems on ruins also differ from their baroque and romantic counterparts both in their reading of history and in their representation of the poetic self. The speakers in these poems are not fixed or stable; they can be both melancholic and nostalgic, humorous and ironic. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Luis Cernuda (1902-1963), and Octavio Paz (1914-1998) all use poetic representations ofthe city in ruins to conceptualize and criticize modernity. In a space that is always redefining itself, always in reconstruction, ruins can easily be treated as merely waste. However, these poets see in ruins the emblems of the city's historical process, and in their poems they intend to rescue the remains of the past from the bulldozers of the future. Baudelaire's work, with its powerful review ofthe failures of urban progress, expresses the melancholy of Parisians who feel that their city is becoming unrecognizable; yet it also manifests a fascination with the bizarre new versions of modern beauty. In turn, both Cernuda and Paz explore Baudelaire's contradictory definitions of the modern city in their poetry, but without Baudelaire's nostalgia. Their disillusioned, pessimistic vision of the modern city is charged with social and political indignation. There are very few studies that examine in depth the connections among Baudelaire, Cernuda, and Paz, and I do not want to confine this essay to the appar-


ent influence of Baudelaire on these Hispanic poets. Rather, I will analyze in the work of these three poets the ways in which modern poetry prioritizes the role of literary and historical memory and employs representations of the changing city and its ruins to refiect upon a crisis of perception. Although in Cernuda's and Paz's poetry many cities, both abstract and concrete, abound, Baudelaire's Paris, the epitome of the nineteenth-century modern city, constantly casts its shadow upon the evolution of urban poetry.

Baudelaire's Pieces of Paris Why was Paris, in the second half of the nineteenth century and at the height of its reconstruction by Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann, paradoxically represented as a city in ruins? Although there are many possible answers to this question, we may start by noting that Haussmann's project to modernize the urban landscape was extremely unpopular within the working class and the bourgeoisie. Because this disapproval was accompanied by a longing for the lost Paris of revolutionary times, the ruined city came to symbolize the transformation of a Paris associated with liberty and fraternity into a well-organized structure of great stores, great avenues, trees, and lakes—all in the name of efficiency and social control.' A passage from Theophile Gautier's preface to Edouard Fournier's Paris Demoli is likely representative ofthe overwhelming sense of loss and dislocation felt by many Parisians at mid-century: "C'est un spectacle curieux . . . ces maisons ouvertes avec .. . leurs escaliers qui ne conduisent plus a rien . . . leurs eboulements bizarres et leurs ruines violentes" (2; It is a curious spectacle . . . those open houses with . . . their staircases that go nowhere . . . their bizarre collapsed buildings and their violent ruins; my translation).^ As a result, "le penseur sent naitre en son ame une melancolie, en voyant disparaitre ces edifices, ces hotels, ces maisons ou les generations precedentes ont vecu. Un morceau du passe tombe avec chacune de ces pierres" (3; the thinker senses that a melancholic feeling is born in his soul when he sees the disappearance of those buildings, those palaces, those houses where previous generations have lived. A piece of the past falls with each one of those stones). Although Baudelaire shares Gautier's melancholic feeling towards the changing Paris, unlike Fournier, whose project attempts to trace all the historical remains of the city, Baudelaire wants to capture
' Whether Haussmann's venture was a success or a failure is debatable and has been the subject of extensive research by T,J, Clark and Marshall Berman, among others, Clark notes that "By the end of the 1860s he [Haussmann] could boast that Paris had twice as many trees as in 1850 , , , it had policemen and night patrols, bus shelters, tap water, , ,"; however, Haussmann's project also failed because of his lack of faith in electric light, the cholera outbursts in 1867, and the "tuberculosis imminent threat" (38), In addition, "Haussmannization was unpopular in Paris: the defeat ofthe official slate in the city in the 1869 elections was bound to that fact, as was the decisive no which Paris gave the emperor's plebiscite in 1870" (Clark 41), ^ Although Cernuda's and Paz's urban poems are not situated in Paris, their critiques ofthe modern city's versions of progress convey a similar disappointment, Cernuda's poetry even uses the image of the broken staircase as a metaphor for progress in order to expose what he believes to be the nihilistic, empty ideals upon which modernity is built, Paz displays a similarly pessimistic vision —not through the metaphor of the staircase to nowhere, but through the metaphor of the street that leads to nothingness.


the evanescent "present" and its many new urban faces. Nowhere is this more evident than in his poem "Le Cygne" (The Swan). In the first stanza of that well-known work the speaker evokes the Andromache oiAeneid 3, who laments the death of her husband Hector beside an artificial reconstruction of the Simois, a river near Troy. The river reflects her pain, not her beauty, and is filled by her tears. In the baroque topos of ruins, the river is traditionally the symbol of eternity and nature, the witness of history who survives to tell the tale. Here, however, precisely because it is an imitation, the river does not represent "nature," nor is it a trustworthy witness (see Burton). The river is thus a metaphor of the poem itself; it "lies" and yet it is the source that makes the speaker's memory fertile.' In "Le Cygne" remembrance is the creative force that links the real and the unreal, the modern and the mythical. As Walter Benjamin states, "'Le Cygne' has the movement of a cradle rocking back and forth between modernity and antiquity."'' In this text Andromaque is not a symbol ofthe Ideal, but of pain, not only because she has lost her husband Hector but also because she has lost her freedom, like the black woman in the poem who searches for Africa on the horizon. Both women link antiquity and modernity in their displacement; both are characterized by the melancholic gaze that always looks back. Andromaque, des bras d'un grand epoux tombee, Vil betail, sous la main du superbe Pyrrhus, Aupres d'un tombeau vide en extase courbee; Veuve d'Hector, helas! et femme d'Helenus! Je pense a la negresse, amaigrie et phtisique, Pietinant dans la boue, et cherchant, l'oeil hagard Les cocotiers absents de la superbe Afrique Derriere la muraille immense du brouillard. Andromache, fallen from the arms of a great and noble husband. Common chattel in the hands of haughty Pyrrhus, Crouching, in ecstasy, over an empty tomb— Hector's widow, alas! Now the wife of Helenus! I think of a black woman, emaciated and consumptive. Floundering in the mud, and searching with a haggard eye For the missing palm trees of splendid Africa From behind an immense wall of fog.*

' Ross Chambers points to this reading of the river when discussing the structure of the poem: "For it is a 'stream poem' or 'poeme fleuve' itself a 'Simois menteur' . . . that it is remarkable for the double openness of its structure" (156). In Le peintre de la vie moderne Baudelaire argues that memory is the defining factor that molds perception and motivates the harmonious reunion of opposites. Baudelaire thus privileges memory as an artistic source for the painter/poet; "II dessine de memoire, et non d'apres le modele" {Oeuvres completes 2.698; He draws from memory, and not in front ofthe model [my translation]). Richard Terdiman, among others, provides a detailed historical and semiotic analysis of "Le Cygne." • The Arcades Project 356. Benjamin argues that for Baudelaire modernity is "marked with the * fatality of being one day antiquity" (22). Therefore, even though modernity is constantly reinventing itself, it is always marked by the past and what it evades. With the evocation of Andromache, Baudelaire seems to be signaling the antiquity of modernity. *The French text of "Le Cygne" is taken from Les Fleurs du mal (CEuvres completes 1.85-87). The English translation is by MaryTrouille and can be found in LesFleurs du mal: The Flowers of Evil, 91.


Antiquity and modernity share the same destructive elements; the text immobilizes the women with their nostalgia for a past that is buried in an empty tomb or stuck in mud, hiding in the fog.^ "Le Cygne" thus foresees modernity's own destructive nature by integrating the modern and the antique in a world where Andromaque, the swan, and the speaker coexist as symbols of pain and displacement within blocks ofthe new Carrousel and the Louvre.' In "Le Cygne" Baudelaire describes as traumatic this nostalgic process of remembering the old city:
A feconde soudain ma memoire fertile, Commeje traversais le nouveau Carrousel. Le vieux Paris n'est plus (la forme d'une ville Change plus vite, helas! que le coeur d'un mortel); Suddenly watered my fertile memory. As I crossed the new place du Carrousel. The old Paris is gone (the face of a city Changes faster, alas! than a human heart).

The comparison of the changing city to the changing heart of any mortal bestows an unsettling lack of permanence on those transformations. So, too, does the connection between Paris and the changing images of the animals and carriages on a moving carrousel. Baudelaire chose the phrase "Le vieux Paris n'est plus" ("The old Paris is gone") to echo the sentiments of so many Parisians who felt overwhelmed by their "new" city. The speaker also bints that the city bas its own mortality, its own capacity to "disappear."* Nonetheless, the thirsty swan is tbe symbol, not of a dead city, but of tbe chaotic Paris, botb beautiful and grotesque. Tbe lost swan and tbe overwbelmed speaker are exiles witbin tbis new Paris, linked by a melancholia wbose immobilizing effect causes it, as Ross Chambers argues, "to be experienced as an oppressive weigbt" (168) .^
" See Brombert: "At every level, the poem illustrates a nostalgia for the past, or rather an essentially hopeless effort of retrieval which—as Baudelaire himself seems to suggest—determines the allegorical process. Fall or exile: the present implies a distancing, as well as a telescoping of the before and the after. . . Slave, widow, and wife—all are telescoped in one image. The stanza, in its powerful figuration of pain, mourning, and beauty, immobilizes a statuesque Andromache in a pose that continues into an eternal present" (98-99). The immobility of Andromache also suggests that she is a symbol of melancholia, literally and metaphorically paralyzed in time. ' Terdiman notes that in 1859, when "Le Cygne" was written, Paris was still undergoing Haussmann's reconstruction: "In the moment of'Le Cygne,' the remaking of the city had not yet demolished the memory ofthe city it remade" (119). He also explains the historical implications ofthe allusion to the new Carrousel: "The Carrousel remembered in 'Le Cygne' in 1859 had been abruptly razed in 1852. Indeed, its demolition was the first, the founding act in the transformations that remade Paris under the Second Empire." Whereas the Second Republic wanted to demolish the old Carrousel in order to construct low-cost housing for workers. Napoleon III finally destroyed it as part of the grand remodeling of the rtie de Rivoli. At the old Carrousel, moreover, "a grotip of artists who had made a strategic investment in representing themselves as figuratively homeless in Paris/e/( at home. For this segment of the nascent avant-garde, the razing of the quartier was a symbolic eviction—an il"(116) 'Jauss reads in these verses the representation of urban estrangement: "After the paradoxical and abrupt change in expectation aroused by the sentimentally evoked "vieux Paris" ("Le Cygne," 1.78), that world appears as chaotic, smashed 'forme d'une ville,' as the disorderly, desolate burial ground of a vanished past" (249). ' In the edited notes on this poem, Claude Pichois indicates that in 1846 there was a newspaper story that reported that four wild swans had entered les Tuileries searching for the pond, and they stayed there until it wasfilledwith water {Oeuvres completes 1.1005).


In "Le Cygne" tbe new Paris is constructed and destroyed by tbe nostalgic gaze of tbe speaker, wbose memories weigh as mucb as tbe stones tba:t make these new pillars:
Paris change! mais rien dans ma melancolie N'a bouge! palais neufs, echafaudages, blocs, Vieux faubourgs, tout pour moi devient allegorie, Et mes chers souvenirs sont plus lourds que des rocs. Aussi devant ce Louvre une image m'opprime: Je pense a mon grand cygne avec ses gestes fous Comme les exiles, ridicule et sublime . . . Paris is changing. But nothing in my melancholy Has changed! New mansions, scaffoldings, blocks of stone. Old neighborhoods, everything becomes allegory for me. And my fond memories weigh heavier than rocks. Standing in front ofthe Louvre today, an image oppresses me: I think of my great swan, thrashing wildly. Like exiles, ridiculous and sublime . . .

The new palaces of Haussmann's Paris do not erase the "vieux faubourgs" because tbe metapbor of memories as stones provides tbe speaker witb tbe materials to "rebuild" tbe past of bis city. Benjamin puts it succinctly: "Allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, wbat ruins are in tbe realm of things" (Origin 178). Tbe ruins are the building blocks for tbe construction of a bistorical past, tbe allegorical ground from wbich tbe modern city emerges. In Baudelaire, tbe allegorical use of tbe modern city in ruins asserts bis political and bistorical reevaluation of progress. Altbough "Le Cygne" expresses tbe melancbolia so commonly associated with tbe romantic topos of ruins, tbis poetic self is not solipsisdc. He is neitber "stagnant" nor immobile, but walks tbrougb tbe city. Tbus, bis emotional state differs from tbat of both tbe swan and Andromacbe, wbo bave been interpreted as tbe two main figures of melancbolia and nostalgia in tbe text (see Starobinski 4748). Chambers, for example, reads tbis poem as a critique of tbe Second Empire:
Andromache . . . thus becomes the figure for a certain sense of history—the melancholy that turns memory into a remembrance ofloss and links the present to a feeling of repetition and inauthenticity. The fate ofthe widowed queen, wrapped in the "immense majesty" of her grief but simultaneously "fallen" with the fall of Troy. . . makes her symbol easily applied to the recent history of republican France.(159)

Andromache's pain symbolizes tbat of France; fallen over ber husband's fake tomb, ber melancholy immobilizes ber, but not tbe poem or the speaker. Although tbe speaker, like tbe swan in tbe lake of dust, is lost in Haussmann's Paris and frustrated botb by tbe failures of tbe revolution of 1848 and by tbe authoritarian Second Empire, it is no accident, as Chambers emphasizes, tbat tbe poem is dedicated to Victor Hugo, one of tbe most famous political exiles of tbe regime. Indeed, tbe dedication confirms tbat tbe text is a "disguised expression of revolutionary regret and of solidarity sbown by someone exiled witbin an oppressive regime toward tbose wbo were exiled outside France after 1851" (161).'"
'" Terdiman emphasizes that, because in 1859 Napoleon III offered amnesty to the opponents of the regime, Hugo could have returned, but instead chose exile. As Terdiman so eloquently suggests:


Does the process of destruction and reconstruction of the city provoke and intensify tbe "spleen," tbe internal exile? Or is tbe melancholic simply looking for motives tbat will justify his emotional state? Tbe socio-political context conditions tbe text, but the poem cannot be reduced to its historical referent (Starobinski 65). Baudelaire's internal exile is botb a political and an aesthetic position. For Baudelaire, beauty is always strange and its poetic subjects must be estranged. Tbe speaker connects bis own melancholy, determined by tbe cbanging space of Paris, witb tbat of multiple nostalgic figures—tbe swan witbout a lake, Andromache witbout Troy, the black woman witbout Africa, the orphans witbout a home, the sailors without a ship, tbe prisoners, tbe vanquished, and the exiles—wbo also desire the impossible: to return to tbeir place of origin. Ricbard Terdiman reads the poetics of exile and loss of "Le Cygne" as a historical production: "Memory signifies loss. Tbe memory crisis of post-Revolutionary Europe manifested itself in feelings of exile, anxiety, and displacement" (106). All the exiles in tbe poem are traumatized by tbe "witbout," the absence that determines tbeir present state, and tbat is why they cling to memory; it is their only anchor to the past, to that loss. But bow does Baudelaire change the way we read melancholy? Tbis is not a romantic melancbolia that emerges from his own existential conflicts; the speaker is botb moved by and stuck in melancbolia because Paris changes, bistory takes its course, and tbe new hollow monuments of the Second Empire reiterate the shallow fagade of progress." Can melancholia be a collective experience? Does tbe melancholic share bis melancholia witb otber social outcasts? In Loss, The Politics of Mourning, David Eng and David Kazanjian claim tbat melancboly is a "continuous engagement with tbe past" and tbat texts tbat focus on wbat bas been lost also value what remains: "This attention to remains generates a politics of mourning tbat migbt be active rather tban reactive, prescient rather tban nostalgic, abundant rather tban lacking, social ratber tban solipsistic, militant rather tban reactionary" (2). Because melancboly produces a politics of mourning, melancboly is not timeless. The poetic representations of ruins as remains ofthe past and tbe melancholy they provoke are in fact fundamental to the construction of bistorical memory. "Le Cygne" is a poem about remembrance, and witbin tbe context of an authoritative regime its melancbolia regarding the past is not a reactionary or conservative stand, but, on the contrary, it is a protest against collective amnesia.'^ Still, one may ask, bow is this approach to melancbolia particularly modern? How is this different from tbe romantic notion of ruins and anxiety about indus"Amnesty thus attempts to induce a State-mediated amnesia, to upset the process of rememoration, the story told about the past, the very substance of signification itself" (108). " Baudelaire's melancholia plays a crucial role in his critique of progress, which some critics like Elizabeth Wilson have read as an example of an "hostility to urbanization" that "was more likely to come from opposite extremes [both Left and Right] of the political spectrum" (91). '^ Baudelaire's criticism of Napoleon Ill's and Haussmann's versions of "progress" focuses on the marginalization of common but disturbing urban figures and icons. Hugo Friedrich proposes that "Baudelaire knew that a poetry suitable to his time could be achieved only by seizing the nocturnal and the abnormal: . . . [ to] escape the triviality of 'progress,' the disguise of a terminal era . . . Baudelaire defined progress as 'the progressive decay ofthe soul and the progressive domination of matter'" (25).


trialist progress? Baudelaire's aesthetics react to, but at tbe same time stem from, romantic visions of tbe extraordinary, even as he distances bimself drastically from tbe romantic vision of nature by imagining an artificial paradise and uncovering its fake nature. Metaphors of negation abound in Baudelaire's, Cernuda's, and Paz's works, because modern poetry constitutes itself as "negative" as it reacts against a previous tradition or canonical stance; tbis is wbat Paz bas called "la tradicion de la ruptura." Depersonalizadon, disintegration, and deformation are some of the negative terms tbat are appropriated by tbis poetics of disillusionment, wbere tbe romantic sublime and the predominant "I" tend to perisb, and the spleen, the grotesque, and tbe strange flourish.''

Cernuda's Hollow City Cernuda's poems on ruins exemplify tbis poetics of disillusionment in twentiethcentury Spanish literature. Cernuda bas often been called a "Neo-Romantic" or a "Post-Romantic" poet (see Serano de la Torre 100-101), yet I do not want to limit bis work to tbose categories. Like Baudelaire, Cernuda manipulated, parodied, and played witb romantic discourse, wbile at tbe same time incorporating many of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's aestbetie ideals and seeing in Becquer a romantic precursor. Nonetheless, Cernuda's poem "Otras ruinas" (Otber Ruins) enacts a critique of a decadent modern reality without nostalgically idealizing the natural and tbe mythical past. Cernuda's ruins are "otber" ruins, not tbe same, not tbe typical. Despite tbe great temporal gap between Cernuda and Baudelaire, in the texts I analyze they botb react in a similar way to modern urban progress and its social tensions. In 1928 and 1929, Cernuda spent an academic year as a lecturer in Toulouse. Although be was already an avid reader of Baudelaire and tbe Frencb literary tradition, bis visits to Paris and Toulouse were fundamental for bis development as a poet, especially in Un rio, un amor (1929). Indeed, Cernuda reveals bis early interest in, and admiration for, Baudelaire's poetry in botb Historial de un libro (1958) and "Baudelaire en el centenario de Las flores del mal" (1959).''' Wben confronted witb Baudelaire's representation of Paris and bis depiction of modern "details," Cernuda emphasizes the subtleties tbat characterize the Frencb poet's paradoxical poetics: "de un lado, la vida urbana moderna, de otro, la vida elemental inalterable. No se trata de aquel viejo poncif sobre la oposicion
" Rousseau, Coleridge, and Hugo, among others, explore diverse notions of grotesque beauty that influenced Baudelaire's own aesthetics of the bizarre and the grotesque. But, as Virginia E. Swain argues, "Baudelaire builds on and yet departs from Rousseau's theory and practice to create a new, modernist idiom . . . if Rousseau wanted to do away with the grotesque and, implicitly, the absolute monarchy that sponsored it, Baudelaire welcomed the grotesque, which he understood as a principle of instability or a destabilizing force. For Baudelaire, the grotesque was a subversive force in oppressive times" (6-7). ''' See, for example, his statement that "Baudelaire no pertenece ya solamente a la tradicion poetica y literaria de Francia, sino a la de todo el occidente . . . es el primer poeta moderno" {Prosa Completa 1037; Baudelaire does not only represent part of the French poetic and literary tradition, he is crucial for the Western canon . . . he is the first modern poet). All translations from Spanish into English are mine unless otherwise indicated.


ciudad y campo (Baudelaire, es bien sabido detestaba el verdor y lo natural), sino una oposicion mucbo mas sutil entre norte y sur, entre urbanismo y primitivism" {Prosa Completa 1046; on one side, modern urban life, on tbe otber side, the essential, unchangeable life. It is not about that old poncif about tbe opposition between city and country [it is well known that Baudelaire bated everything green and natural], but it is about something more subtle between north and south, urbanity and primitivism). Baudelaire's wild swan symbolizes tbe primitive and tbe bizarre in tbe great urban spbere, one of tbe many misplaced subjects in Tableaux parisiens. In Cernuda's version of tbe modern city, tbe primitive seems to be buried among tbe crumbled buildings, and tbe marginal figures of Tableaux parisiens are not really the protagonists of his poems. Tbe main character of "Otras ruinas," from bis book Vivir sin estar viviendo, is the city itself. Its aristocrats and its crowds come and go, and its streets are made for the passer-by's convenience: "Hecbas para los pasos del ocioso transeunte,/ El matinal jinete o la nocturna carretela" (Intended for tbe stride ofthe leisurely passer-by,/The morning rider or the night cab).'* "Otras ruinas" recaptures Baudelaire's paradoxical vision of a modern city in ruins, but takes a clearer critical position against tbe ambitions of capitalist progress. Cernuda's text also lacks the melancholic mood of "Le Cygne," in wbich the speaker feels lost and nostalgic in tbe new city but at the same time is enthralled with tbe ugly faces of urban life. In "Otras ruinas" there is no nostalgia, no melancbolia, and no allure. The ruins of this unnamed city are simply tbe remains of old buildings scattered unnoticed around tbe many new constructions of tbe modern city."' Wby are tbese poets looking at the past, anxious about its possible disappearance, instead of being mesmerized by tbe future? Cernuda's gaze is not anachronistic because it is multiple, contradictory, full of ambiguities, and perplexed by tbe paradoxical aspects of modernity. The first verses of "Otras ruinas" highlight Cernuda's critique of the paradoxical consequences of progress. Machines construct and destroy buildings, constantly re-shaping tbe urban landscape: "La torre que con maquinas ellos edificaron,/Por obra de las maquinas conoce la ruina" (Macbines turn into ruins, /That tower tbey built witb machines"). Cernuda's text tbus immediately distances itself from tbe baroque topos ofthe ruins, in whicb time and nature overtake the symbols of power and civilization. For example, a baroque poem like Rodrigo Caro's "Cancion a las ruinas de Italica" portrays the ruined bouses of tbe Roman imperial leaders as invaded by plants and inhabited by lizards. Tbe
"* Poesia Completa 401-403. The tinpublished translation of Cerntida's "Otras ruinas" is by Pedro Garcia Caro. '"In the second chapter ofmy book project, "Cities in Ruins in Modern Poetry," a more thorough study of the correspondences between Baudelaire's and Cernuda's works, I consider Becquer and Eliot as key readers of modernity, whose works bridge different time periods and cultural backgrounds. As Luis Fernandez Cifuentes suggests, Cernuda is not the first Spanish poet touched by this French poet's modern gaze, yet he is the one who reaches in his own way "(los) originarios extremos de Baudelaire" (Baudelaire's original ideas). Cernuda's gaze "podria parecerse anacroiiica si no aportara su propia variante . . . su propia adopcion de la multiplicidad" (Cifuentes 167; cotild seem like an anachronism . . . if it did not contribute its own vision . . . its own incorporation of multiplicity).


modern city in ruins is not overtaken by nature but by the epitome of tbe artificial: machines. Cernuda's text also eschews the romantic vision of ruins, where tbe external landscape is a melancholic reflection of tbe speaker's internal conflicts, bis ruined self. By contrast, these poems historicize tbe process of destruction, wbich is often caused by war and progress, not time and nature. Critics bave often overlooked "Otras ruinas," yet few poems by Cernuda exemplify so well the aestbetics of the modern city in ruins, crowded yet sterile, a victim of its own contradictions. The personified ruins in tbe second stanza claim possession ofthe city walls, rotten, broken, and perforated: "La ruina ha clamado por suyos tantos muros/Sobre buecos disformes bostezando" (Ruins have claimed for themselves so many walls/Yawning over shapeless boles). Theopbile Cautier's complaint about tbe abandoned staircases of Parisian houses is echoed in Cernuda's line "O tramo de escalera que conduce a la nada" (Or a flight of stairs leading nowbere). In tbe devouring project of reconstruction, progress as a rupture between tbe past and tbe future seems like an "old" staircase that leads nowhere. Altbough in Cernuda's text, time and nature are not tbe destructive elements within the city, "Otras ruinas" does bave a didactic purpose in common witb the baroque topos of tbe ruins: namely, to teacb its reader not to be vain and not to take for granted the emblems of imperial power. For tbe seventeenth-century eye (bere exemplified by Francisco de Quevedo's "A Roma sepultada en sus ruinas"), tbe classical ruins of Athens and Rome expose the fugitive nature of wbat migbt appear permanent and eternal: "jOb Roma, en tu grandeza, en tu hermosura/Huyo lo que era firme, y solamente/Lo fugitivo permanece y dura!" (Ob Rome, in your greatness, in your beauty/What was firm bas fled, and only/ The fugitive rests and lasts!). Cernuda also underlines the recurrent paradox that apparendy everlasting emblems of power inevitably disappear:
Intacto nada queda, aunque parezca Firme, como esas otras casas hoy vacias, Hacia cuyos salones las ventanas permiten El vislumbre de espejos, oros sobrecargados, Entre los cuales discurria la vanidad solemne De ilustres aristocratas . . . Nothing remains intact, although it seems Firm, like those other empty houses Windows in their drawing rooms allow A glance at their mirrors, ornate gold. In their midst took place the solemn vanity Of illustrious aristocrats . . .

Cernuda worked on "Otras ruinas" from January 1948 until January 1949, and be considered a variety of tides, among them "Londres" and "Babel" (see Harris and Maristany 809). He had in fact lived in England from 1939 until 1947, in London tbe last two years. Tbus, be witnessed the effects of the Cerman bombardments. Even though Cernuda decided not to particularize the city in "Otras ruinas," tbe metapbor of the sterile city as a desert clearly alludes to Eliot's The Waste Land. Indeed, Cernuda's "Como desierto, adonde mucbedumbres/Marcban dejando atras la ruta decisiva/Esteril era esta ciudad" (Like a desert, where mul-


titudes/March leaving behind tbe decisive route,/Sterile was tbis city) recalls Eliot's famous lines: "Unreal city... a crowd flowed over tbe London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many" (55). Eliot's verses, in turn, allude to Baudelaire's "Les sept vieillards" as well as to Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno, wbere Dante encounters "a crowd of Neutrals," those who were barely admitted into Hell." Cernuda's critique of a capitalist society sustained by colonial products is intensified by tbe city's inability to produce food:
Toda ella monstrtiosa masa insuficiente: Su alimento los frutos de colonias distantes Su prisa lucha inutil con espacio y con tiempo, Su estruendo limbo ensordecedor de la conciencia. A whole monstrous insufficient mass: Its food are the fruits of distant colonies. Its hurried life a futile fight with time and space, Its roar the deafening limbo of conscience.

The speaker feels lost and disturbed, like the swan in Baudelaire's "Le Cygne,""* and the fast pace and deafening noise ofthe city numb the people's conscience, creating a crowd analogous to the Neutrals so despised by Dante. Unlike Baudelaire's text, however, wbere men are captive victims, Cernuda's poem finally blames men for being accomplices in tbe city's absolute ruin: "El bombre y la ciudad se corresponden/Como al durmiente el sueno, al pecador la transgresion oculta" (Man and city suit each other,/Like dream and dreamer, tbe sinner and tbe secret/Transgression). The city and modern man are joined by a destructive symbiosis; they are connected to each otber like the dreamer who bides in tbe dream and is ultimately defined by tbe dream, or tbe sinner who is defined by his transgression. Cernuda's "Otras ruinas" projects tbe emptiness and hopelessness symptomatic of "el yo en crisis." Nevertbeless, tbe apocalyptic end of "Otras ruinas," "Del dios al hombre es don postrero la ruina" (From god to man is a belated gift the ruin) lacks in my view a melancholic feeling. The melancholic subject tends to be self-absorbed and to drown in his own miseries, while Cernuda's speaker is not looking for a reflection ofthe self in tbe city in ruins. Tbe past, represented by the once-luxurious houses, is parodied not idealized. It epitomizes what Manuel Ulacia described as "un castillo medio en ruinas, con un interior lleno de comodidades (la edad moderna)" (51; a castle partly derelict, witb an interior full of comforts [tbe modern age]).

" Emilio Baron shows how Eliot and Cernuda share a strong interest in Baudelaire, although he compares their poems without analyzing them in a formal way. Eliot's influence on Cernuda's work has been thoroughly examined by (among others) Fernando Ortiz, C.G. Bellver, and Octavio Paz ("La palabra edificante"). "This also resembles the situation of the speaker at the end of "Les sept vieillards": "Et mon ame dansait, dansait, vieille gabarre,/Sans mats, sur une mer monstrueuse et sans bords" ("My soul like a dismasted wreck went driving/over a monstrous sea without a bourn"; The Flowers of Evil, trans. Roy Campbell, p. 113).


Crossing the Threshold: Baudelaire's and Paz's Urban Trips Although in his essay on Baudelaire, Cernuda complains tbat the Hispanic literary world has failed to pay homage to tbe 100th anniversary of Les Fleurs du Mal, at tbe end of the essay be mentions one contemporary poet who recognized Baudelaire's giant footprint: "Baudelaire fue 'un poeta de la poesia' (como escribio Octavio Paz)" (1047; Baudelaire was a "poet of poetry" [as Octavio Paz wrote]). Particularly important for botb Cernuda and Paz was tbe way in wbich Baudelaire's keen consciousness of self generated poetic works that constantly reflect upon tbe present and its defining elements. For Paz, Baudelaire epitomized tbe contradictory nature of modernity, "la tradicion de la ruptura": "Fue el primer poeta de la modernidad y su crftico, su apologista y su detractor. Nuestra modernidad no es la de Baudelaire, pero sin ella la nuestra no existiria . . . Fue el primero en sefialar que el arte moderno esta fundado no en principios eternos o metabistoricos sino en la temporalidad misma" ("Rupturas" 193; He was tbe first poet of modernity and its first critic, apologist, and its detractor. Our modernity is not Baudelaire's, but without his, ours would not exist. He was tbe first to indicate tbat modern art is not based on eternal or metabistoric values, but in temporality itself) .'^ Paz also aims to grasp tbe bistorical evolution of tbe city, and, like Baudelaire, be seems to be disturbed by nocturnal visions of tbe repercussions of modern progress. Paz's "Crepusculos de la ciudad" (The City's Twilights) establishes a dialogue with Baudelaire's "Crepuscule du soir" and "Crepuscule du matin," not just through tbe titles of tbe poems, but more importantly through the tone and imagery they share. Broken staircases and unfinished buildings are not tbe only ruins in tbe metropolis. Tbere are also human ruins, epitomized in tbese three poems by prostitutes. Tbe texts are framed by tbe beginning and the end ofthe day, tbus situating tbe speaker in a city tbat still "sleeps" at tbe threshold of awakening. In "Crepuscule du soir" tbe reductive comparisons of prostitutes to ants and to gaslights that illuminate tbe nigbt are open to a variety of interpretations. In any case, Baudelaire seems to refer to prostitution as an institution ratber tban to the prostitutes tbemselves: "La Prostitution s'allume dans les rues;/Comme une fourmiliere elle ouvre ses issues" ("Prostitution spreads its light and life in the streets:/Like an anthill opening its issues it penetrates").^" Tbe prostitutes are the main workers of tbe nigbt because tbey "rule" over tbe commerce of their
'^ In this passage Paz stresses Baudelaire's consciousness of time and describes the French poet as double-sided, both fascinated and horrified by modernity. In doing so, Paz evades the other Baudelaire, the poet who was equally obsessed with capturing the "eternal" within the "ephemeral" elements of the modern city—the depiction of the stamp of time, "la representation du present." Benjamin also recognized that Baudelaire's hunt for a lyric poetry that would seize modernity "by the neck" is a historical endeavor: "His work cannot merely be categorized as historical, like anyone else's, but it intended to be so and understood itself as such" ("On Some Motifs" 168). Baudelaire's work thus constantly reflects upon how history determines our ways of perceiving reality and aesthetically interprets it. See also Susan Blood's comment that "The distinction Benjamin makes here is crucial. . . . a poetry that may be categorized as historical should not be confused with a poetry whose constitutive category is historicity" (99). ™The translation for Baudelaire's "Crepuscule du soir" (Comes the Charming Evening) and "Crepuscule du matin" (Morning Twilight) are by David Paul in The Flowers ofEvil.


own bodies, and, like the commodities in tbe arcades, tbey are displayed throughout tbe streets of Paris.^' In "Le Crepuscule du matin," Baudelaire depicts tbe prostitutes'pbysical degradation after a bard night's work;
Les femmes de plaisir, la paupiere livide, Bouche ouverte, dormaient de leur sommeil stupide, Les pauvresses, trainant leurs seins maigres et froids, Soufflaient sur leurs tisons et soufflaient sur leurs doigts. Women ofthe streets, sunk in stupid sleep. Seemed all raw eyelid, and gasping lip. —And the poor's womenfolk, hugging the chilly droop Of lank breasts, blew on their fmgers, and their soup.

The description is grotesque: tbe prostitutes' open mouths bespeak the hunger, exhaustion, anguish, and horror of tbe devouring capitalist project. Nonetheless, as Christine Buci-Clucksmann argues, there is considerable ambiguity in tbe stereotypical representation of women in Baudelaire's poetry: "Partout l'obsession baudelairienne de la prostituee inscrit un imaginaire masculin de la femme ambivalent—ange ou bete-, oti Benjamin dechiffre I'angoisse de l'impuissance masculine, les stations de croix du melancolique" (84; Baudelaire's obsession with prostitutes everywhere inscribes an ambivalent male image of women, angel or beast, in wbich Benjamin sees tbe anguish of male impotence, the melancholic's stations ofthe cross [my translation]). Baudelaire's texts always depict prostitutes tbrougb a male lens; tbey are poetic imagery, part of tbe urban landscape, botb tbe producers and tbe products of modernity. ^^ The decrepitude ofthe city in "Crepuscule du soir" and "Crepuscule du matin" represents tbe metaphorical and literal twilight of Paris. Tbe prostitutes and tbe sick disappear witb tbe arrival of sunlight. It is undeniable, of course, that Baudelaire's discourse here (and elsewhere) is misogynistic, but I do not want to disregard it or empty it just because of that fact.^' Baudelaire's ambivalence to^' See Weinbaum: "Woman is a commodity who harbors a peculiar secret about the constellation of social relationships in which she is ensnared . . . As Baudelaire insists, the working woman labors to transform her substance into surface . . . In contrast with the idealized woman who's born and bred into her role as superficial bauble, the working woman's value lies in her ability to market herself as a commodity, for it is her job to transform her body into a living showcase displaying the economic relations of production and exchange . . . In contrast to the idealized woman, prostitutes inhabit the city streets and the world of fmancial transactions" (404-405). And we may add that, in contrast to the working woman, the idealized woman does not inhabit any world; her unreal, impalpable self seems as aestheticized and artificial as the depiction of prostitutes as modern commodities seems "real." ^^ In Elizabeth Wilson's words, "Prostitutes became, in any case, a metaphor for the whole new regime of 19th century urbanism. Both Baudelaire and Benjamin view the metropolis as the site of commodity and commodification . . . Prostitution comes to symbolize commodiflcation, mass production and the rise of the masses" (105). '•" For a comprehensive discussion ofthe ways in which Baudelaire contributes in this poem to the misogynistic literature of modernity, even as he incorporates marginalized women into his representations of the city, see Wolff: "The prostitute . . . elicits a similarly ambivalent attitude of admiration and disgust. . . . More unequivocal is Baudelaire's sympathy for those other marginal women, the old woman and the widow. . . . But none of these women meet the poet as his equal. They are subjects of his gaze, objects of his 'botanizing'" (42). Wolff also argues that by equating the modern with the public, male thinkers such as Baudelaire, Benjamin, Simmel—and, more recently, Berman and Sennet—have ignored the experiences of women, restricting them to the private realm. For a convincing critique of Wolff, see Wilson 99-100.


ward women as subjects of modernity complicates his discourse and permits him to write a text like "A une passante," where the woman in black is both an object and a subject of desire.^"* Paz's second sonnet of the five that comprise "Crepusculos de la ciudad" depicts an urban landscape similar to Baudelaire's, where the prostitutes also arrange themselves in the sick body of the city, described as leprous stones and walls full of sores. Paz's poem portrays a modern city in ruins, illuminated by a violent burning sunset:
Arde el anochecer en su destrozo; cruzo entre la ceniza y el bostezo calles en donde, anonimo y obseso, fluye el deseo rio sinuoso. Dusk burns in its wreck; among ashes and yawns, I cross streets from where, anonymous and obsessed, desireflows,devious river.

The open-mouthed figures of Baudelaire's poem and the yawing ruins of Cernuda's poem are connected here to the dead-end street in which death and sleep mingle, "entre la ceniza y el bostezo." The ashes and the yawn serve as metonymies of death and sleep, both encountered in the darkness ofthe night. The topos of ruins is usually accompanied by the presence of a river as the witness of history. Here Paz compares desire to a devious river running through the streets, like the underground current ofthe sewers. From this disturbing scene, death and the prostitutes emerge:
la domestica muerte cotidiana, surgen, petrificadas en lo oscuro, putas: pilares de la noche vana. from the domestic, daily death, they emerge, petrifled in darkness, whores: pillars of vain night.

Death loses its aura. There is no grandeur in domesticity, in the daily chore of dying. The petrified prostitutes are not mere sculptures decorating the urban night. They are the pillars of the night, ironically the mainstays of a vain society —the emblems of a petrified present. But Paz's representation of prostitutes is just as misogynistic as Baudelaire's: they do not talk, look, or listen. They are the ultimate objects of the night; they are the unmovable stones of the urban landscape, petrified by social immobility and economic injustice. In both Baudelaire's and Paz's poems, the crepuscules represent a threshold in time, tinged by the violence of change. In Baudelaire's "Crepuscule du matin" the duel between the artificial and natural light is evident in the depiction of the red sun as both a bloody eye and a big blinding lamp, the beating heart of the
^* Wilson eloquently explains how Baudelaire's representations of marginal female figures—outcasts that seem artiflcial, mysterious, and beautiful—eroticize the changing city: "In Baudelaire's writing, women represent the loss of nature, which appeared a key feature of urbanization. The androgynous woman, the lesbian, the prostitute, the childless woman, all indicate new fears and new possibilities, raising questions—even if they don't provide answers—as to the eroticization of life in the metropolis" (106).


city: "comme un oeil sanglant qui paipite et qui bouge,/la lampe sur le jour fait une tache rouge; ou l'ame . . . Imite les combats de la lampe et du jour" (When, quaking and cringing like a blood-shot eye,/The lamp stains the coming day with its dye;/When . . . The soul, like the lamp, renews its unequal fight.) In nineteenth-century Paris, gaslights were still very much a source of fascination; by depicting the sun as an artificial cultural product, Baudelaire is also signaling the tensions raised by modern progress.^'^ As in Baudelaire's poem, Paz's depiction ofthe sky in "Crepusculos de la ciudad" is bloody: "El cielo se desangra en el cobalto" (The sun bleeds to death in the cobalt). Here the predominant symbol of a ruined nature is the sky, obsessively portrayed as broken, empty, heavy, "fosa," "piedra y pozo" (a grave, a stone, and a well). Paz's paradoxical imagery of the sky as a grave or a well underlines its symbolic meaning as a place for the dead, but by substituting for the elevated nature of the sky the hollowness and the concreteness of a stone, he is treating the sky as another broken piece of this artificial landscape of urban ruins. Finally, Paz's poem stresses the speaker'sjourney through the ruined city, while in the two poems by Baudelaire the speaker appears mainly at the end of "Crepuscule du soir." This dazed speaker emphasizes his need to stop hearing the roaring city in order to be able to refiect, retire, and "gather" himself: "Recueille toi, mon ame, en ce grave moment,/Et ferme ton oreille a ce rugissement" (Collect yourself, my soul, this is a serious moment,/Pay no further attention to the noise and movement). The call for introspection demonstrates the level of selfawareness of the poet, who needs to speak to himself ("mon ame") to reflect upon the city and the social decline it projects. In a similar move, Paz's speaker in the last sonnet tries to face himself: "Hacia mi mismo voy; hacia las mudas,/ solitarias fronteras sin salida" (I move towards myself; towards the mute,/lonely frontiers, with no way out). The journey through the city has evolved into a journey into the self, and in that sense the speaker seems to share the romantic view that ruins are a reflection of the self in crisis. However, as in Baudelaire's and Cernuda's texts, these ruins are not merely a reflection ofthe speaker's internal turmoil; they are also the producers, the provokers, of the crisis of the modern subject. Finally, In the post-world war context, Paz's pessimistic vision ofthe modern city in ruins is closer to that of Baudelaire, Eliot, and Cernuda's "Otras ruinas" than to, say, Neruda's poetics of solidarity and poems on ruins, which were products ofthe Spanish Civil War. Paz's "Crepusculos de la ciudad" and Baudelaire's "Crepuscule du soir" and "Crepuscule du matin" portray a modern city that devours itself, an overbearing modernity entangled in an endless process of destruction and reconstruction.
^^ In The Arcades Project, Benjamin notes that "On Baudelaire's 'Crepuscule du soir': the big city knows no true evening twilight. In any case, the artificial twilight does away with all transition to night. The same state of affairs is responsible for the fact that the stars disappear from the sky over the metropolis" (343). In the artificially illuminated modern city "technological" products seem to replace nature. The lack of stars implies a lack of hope, a lack of vision. In Les tableaux parisiens the stars are usually perceived through the eyes ofthe ideal, ofthe beloved, and through her eyes the speaker seems to see in the night. But in the poems discussed here, there is no particular subject besides the poet or the speaker himself. The prostitutes, the sick, the workers, the robbers: they are all collective subjects without a face.


And in the twilight zone of this modern city, the emphasis is not so much on its reconstruction endeavors as on its dark corners and its desolate, shadowy modern suhjects. Cernuda's and Paz's poetics of disillusionment reveal their critique of the failing promises of urban progress. The mystery and the fascination that Baudelaire had found in modern ruins seems to be exhausted and erased by the middle ofthe twentieth century.

The Modern City in Ruins In her book on Benjamin, Susan Buck-Morss notes that, while the Baroque allegorists considered "the ruin . . . emblematic ofthe futility, the 'transitory splendor' of human civilization, out of which history was read as a 'process of relentless disintegration,'" Benjamin used the ruin in The Arcades Project as "an emblem not only of the transitoriness and fragility of capitalist culture, but also its destructiveness" (164). Cernuda's "Otras ruinas" is an allegory of the destructive nature of modernity. Nonetheless, the constant reinvention and reconstruction of the city contrasts with its sterility and lack of productivity.^^ Paz's "Crepusculos" also serves as a criticism ofthe new versions of progress, where "todo, se arrastra, inexorable rio, hacia la nada, sola certidumbre" (everything [is] dragged by the inexorable river towards nothingness, our only certainty). As Paz suggests in his essay "Rupturas y restauraciones," "Se ha quebrantado nuestra vision de la historia como un proceso lineal... La estrella del progreso se desvanece en el horizonte" (193; Our vision of history as a linear process has broken . . . The star of progress vanishes in the horizon). "Crepusculos de la ciudad" exemplifies his interpretation of modern poetry as "la tradicion de la ruptura." By constructing a poem out of five sonnets, Paz inscribes his text in a traditional form, even though he also distances himself from tradition. In the only essay that Paz exclusively dedicates to Baudelaire, "Presencia y Presente," he also remarks on the tensions produced by Baudelaire's paradoxical definitions of modernity:
No es dificil comprender la reticencia de Baudelaire ante las definiciones: . . . lo moderno y lo bizarro son realidades cambiantes e imprevisibles . . . la reflexion de Baudelaire desemboca en una paradoja insostenible . . . la victoria de la modernidad es su ruina . . . (47)

^'' Francisco Ruiz Soriano emphasizes the destructive side ofthe modern city and how Baudelaire, Eliot, and Cernuda evade it through a melancholic gaze: "La ciudad moderna aparece . . . como elemento destructor de los valores humanos positivos y de las mismas personas, por eso los poetas proyectan su ideal y amor hacia el pasado mitico o lugares lejanos: en "Le Cygne" de Baudelaire, la negra tisica busca con la mirada los ausentes cocoteros . . . detras de la pared de bruma; Eliot en The Waste Land, mira hacia los jardines de Munich donde se tomaba cafe y charlaba un rato . . . ; y Cernuda en Un rio, un amor, proyecta su amor hacia lugares lejanos como Daytona o Nevada" (49; The modern city appears . . . as destructive ofthe positive human values, and of people themselves, that is why poets project their ideal and their love towards a mythic past and far away places: in Baudelaire's "Le Cygne," the sick black woman searches with her gaze the absent palm trees . . . covered by the fog; in Eliot's The Waste Land, he looks at Munich's gardens, where he chatted and drank coffee . . . ; and in Cernuda's Un rio, un amor, he projects his love towards forlorn places such as Daytona or Nevada). There is indeed a nostalgic vein in the poems Ruiz Soriano mentions, but they are also characterized by an ironic distance that recognizes the impossibility of reaching the past, mythic or not.


It is not diffictilt to tmderstand Baudelaire's reluctance when it came to definitions: . . . the modern and the bizarre are changing and unpredictable realities . . . Baudelaire's reflection culminates in an untenable paradox . . . the victory of modernity is its own ruin . . .

In short, the paradoxical representation of the modern city in ruins is an allegory of modernity's self-devouring process of constant reinvention and self-destruction. As Anthony Stanton has argued, because Paz and Cernuda are "dos poetas conscientemente modernos" (224; two poets consciously modern), they are in a constant dialogue with the modern tradition. Stanton also emphasizes that for Paz and Cernuda "el exilio no es un fenomeno historico que empieza en un momento determinado sino que es la condicion esencial, ontologica, del poeta moderno" (225; exile is not a historical phenomenon that begins in a determined moment in time; it is the essential, ontological condition of the modern poet). Baudelaire, Cernuda, and Paz thus convey through their different lenses and diverse poetic traditions a similar preoccupation in their portrayal ofthe modern city in ruins; all three want to prevent the historical remains of the city from being treated as waste. Although they participate in a dialogue with their respective French, Spanish, and Mexican literary circles, they all also cross national borders. Baudelaire's conceptualization of modernity's destructive nature provides the allegorical ground from which Cernuda's and Paz's poetics of disillusionment stem, and Baudelaire's, Cernuda's and Paz's poems ofthe city in ruins bear their strongest political critique of modernity's versions of progress."
University of Oregon

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" I wotild like to thank Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, Luis Fernandez Cifuentes, Leah Middlebrook, Fabienne Moore, and Pedro Garcia Caro for their generous comments on earlier versions of this essay. This essay is dedicated to the memory of Esteban Tollinchi (1932-2005), Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the University of Ptierto Rico, Rio Piedras.


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