I'm reading the poem "Le Chat" of Charles Baudelaire.

On wiki, it says

Elle est toujours suave et profonde.

, while on another book, it reads

Elle est toujours riche et profonde.

May I ask, which one is the right version?

The full poem is as below:


Dans ma cervelle se promène,
Ainsi qu’en son appartement,
Un beau chat, fort, doux et charmant ;
Quand il miaule, on l’entend à peine,

Tant son timbre est tendre et discret ;
Mais que sa voix s’apaise ou gronde,
Elle est toujours suave et profonde.
C’est là son charme et son secret.

Cette voix, qui perle et qui filtre
Dans mon fonds le plus ténébreux,
Me remplit comme un vers nombreux
Et me pénètre comme un philtre.

Elle endort les plus cruels maux
Et contient toutes les extases ;
Pour dire les plus longues phrases,
Elle n’a pas besoin de mots.

Non, il n’est pas d’archet qui morde
Sur mon cœur, parfait instrument,
Et fasse plus royalement
Chanter sa plus vibrante corde

Que ta voix, chat mystérieux,
Chat séraphique, chat étrange,
En qui tout est, comme en un ange,
Aussi subtil qu’harmonieux.


1 Answer 1


Suave was in the first edition.

I guess readers questioned the validity of the octosyllable so Baudelaire replaced suave (2 syllables in classical poetry) by riche (1 syllable).

  • 1
    eh... pls could you elaborate a bit why suave has 2 syllables? the ve in suave doesn't count, same as the che in riche, right? do you mean sua has 2 syllables?
    – athos
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 23:34
  • 2
    Yes, the U and A of suave, merged in both old French (/swɛf/) and spoken French /sɥav/, are generally separated in classical poetry /su.av/. Suave still has these two syllables in careful speech: youglish.com/pronounce/suave/french?
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 7:32
  • Baudelaire also revised Au lecture, undoubtedly for the same reason, changing Dans nos cerveaux malsains, comme un million d’helminthes, to Serré, fourmillant, comme un million d'helminthes, I suppose poetry critics were really picky back then. Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 12:38
  • And now I'm wondering whether Baudelaire was trying to loosen the strictures of classical French poetry, the way Victor Hugo did with the alexandrin ternaire. If he was, he got so much negative feedback that he gave up. Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 16:04
  • @PeterShor Baudelaire did certainly innovate in that area. In the suave case, the pronunciation was (and is still) undecided depending on the speaker so it was simpler for him to avoid the issue by using something different. In another similar word of the same poem, miaule, Baudelaire count a single syllable so match modern poetry and spoken French (classical would have been "mi-aule").
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 16:45

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