The collection was published posthumously in and is associated with literary modernism. Baudelaire mentions he had read Aloysius Bertrand 's Gaspard de la nuit considered the first example of prose poetry at least twenty times before starting this work. Though inspired by Bertrand, Baudelaire's prose poems were based on Parisian contemporary life instead of the medieval background which Bertrand employed. He said of his work: "These are the flowers of evil again, but with more freedom, much more detail, and much more mockery. These poems have no particular order, have no beginning and no end, and can be read like thoughts or short stories in a stream of consciousness style. The point of the poems is "to capture the beauty of life in the modern city," using what Jean-Paul Sartre has labeled his existential outlook on his surroundings.
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Under a vast gray sky, on a vast and dusty plain without paths, without grass, without a nettle or a thistle, I came upon several men bent double as they walked. Each one carried on his back an enormous Chimera as heavy as a sack of flour, as a sack of coal, as the accoutrement of a Roman foot-soldier. I questioned one of these men and asked him where they were going like that. He replied that he did not know and that none of them knew; but that obviously they must be going somewhere since they were impelled by an irresistible urge to go on. A curious thing to note: not one of these travelers seemed to resent the ferocious beast hanging around his neck and glued to his back; apparently they considered it a part of themselves. All those worn and serious faces showed not the least sign of despair; under the depressing dome of the sky, with their feet deep in the dust of the earth as desolate as the sky, they went along with the resigned look of men who are condemned to hope forever. And for a few moments I persisted in trying to understand this mystery; but soon irresistible Indifference descended upon me, and I was more cruelly oppressed by its weight than those men had been by their crushing Chimeras.
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