"To the Reader" is a poem written by Charles Baudelaire as part of his larger collection of poetry Fleurs du mal (Flower of Evil) first published in 1857.
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 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! — His eye watery as though with tears,
He dreams of scaffolds as he smokes his hookah pipe.
You know him reader, that refined monster,
— Hypocritish reader, — my fellow, — my brother!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Connection to The Waste LandEditThe 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 unconciously, other times we willingly give ourselves to the devil. The first 8 stanzas is a depiction of our dark and foul nature. Will 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 succomb to vice. As a result, man wrong-doings are the result of his nature, that on earth it is not wrong nor right, but a way of living. The last 2 stanzas however, offers something different. Baudelaire says "There is one more ugly, more wicked, more filthy!", that there is something graver than death, than darkness than the devil Satan himself. It is the state of inaction, of apathy, of bordem. Baudelaire is not criticizing those who are evil but those who live in bordem and vainity. He is saying it is better to live and do evil things than to live and not live at all.
That last line "You! hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblably - mon frere!" sums of the message of the first chapter in The Waste Land. The message is not exactly same as Baudelaire but the intention is similar. Humans are constantly on the quest of searching for life. Burial of Dead depicts a death scene of nature, of culture, of civilizations. When something die, it should be buried. Burial does not mark the end, but the 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 what has giving us live. Treasure those has depart and Death himself, for he who brings us life.