This question is about the following stanza of Baudelaire's opening poem Au Lecteur to Les Fleurs du mal:
Sur l'oreiller du mal c'est Satan Trismégiste
Qui berce longuement notre esprit enchanté,
Et le riche métal de notre volonté
Est tout vaporisé par ce savant chimiste.
This “chimiste” is commonly translated to English as “alchemist”:
On evil's pillow lies the alchemist
Satan Thrice-Great, who lulls our captive soul,
And all the richest metal of our will
Is vaporized by his hermetic arts.
– James McGowan
Cradled in evil, that Thrice-Great Magician,
The Devil, rocks our souls, that can't resist;
And the rich metal of our own volition
Is vaporised by that sage alchemist.
– Roy Campbell
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.
– William Aggeler
Pillowed on evil, Satan Trismegist
Ceaselessly cradles our enchanted mind,
The flawless metal of our will we find
Volatilized by this rare alchemist.
– Jacques LeClercq
This seems fitting because Baudelaire invokes images / symbolism of alchemy. But if we consult a dictionary, “chimiste” does just mean “chemist” in English. Contrarily, the English “alchemist” would be “alchimiste” in French.
One rare translation of Au Lecteur which uses the dictionary translation, has a certain anachronistic vibe to it:
On the pillow of evil it is Satan Trismegistus
Who soothes a long while our bewitched mind,
And the rich metal of our determination
Is made vapor by that learned chemist.
– Eli Siegel
So the question is:
Are the translations by McGowan, Aggeler, Campbell and LeClercq basically just distorting the meaning? We're talking about a mid-19th century work, after Lavoisier and de Fourcroy; while in the 18th century the differentiation between “chimie” and “alchimie” may not have been fully complete, at this time it surely was?
If indeed a faithful translation of “chimiste” in this poem would just be “chemist”, i.e. “a rational man of science”, without hinting at an occult discipline, what could be an explanation (aside from lyrical technicalities) for Baudelaire's choice of this word? Was the anachronism intended?