Baudelaire famously begins The Flowers of Evil by personally addressing his reader as a partner in the creation of his poetry: "Hypocrite reader--my likeness--my brother!" In "To the Reader," the speaker evokes a world filled with decay, sin, and hypocrisy, and dominated by Satan. He claims that it is the Devil and not God who controls our actions with puppet strings, "vaporizing" our free will. Instinctively drawn toward hell, humans are nothing but instruments of death, "more ugly, evil, and fouler" than any monster or demon. The speaker claims that he and the reader complete this image of humanity: One side of humanity (the reader) reaches for fantasy and false honesty, while the other (the speaker) exposes the boredom of modern life.
The speaker continues to rely on contradictions between beauty and unsightliness in "The Albatross." This poem relates how sailors enjoy trapping and mocking giant albatrosses that are too weak to escape. Calling these birds "captive kings," the speaker marvels at their ugly awkwardness on land compared to their graceful command of the skies. Just as in the introductory poem, the speaker compares himself to the fallen image of the albatross, observing that poets are likewise exiled and ridiculed on earth. The beauty they have seen in the sky makes no sense to the teasing crowd: "Their giant wings keep them from walking."
Many other poems also address the role of the poet. In "Benediction," he says: "I know that You hold a place for the Poet / In the ranks of the blessed and the saint's legions, / That You invite him to an eternal festival / Of thrones, of virtues, of dominations." This divine power is also a dominant theme in "Elevation," in which the speaker's godlike ascendancy to the heavens is compared to the poet's omniscient and paradoxical power to understand the silence of flowers and mutes. His privileged position to savor the secrets of the world allows him to create and define