From Walter Benjamin, section ten of "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire" (Illuminations):
It is–if one follows Bergson–the actualization of the durée which rids man's soul of obsession with time. Proust shared this belief, and from it he developed the lifelong exercises in which he strove to bring to light past things saturated with all the reminiscenses that had worked their way into his pores during his sojourn in the unconscious. Proust was an incomparable reader of Fleurs du mal, for he sensed that it contained kindred elements. Familiarity with Baudelaire must include Proust's experience with him. Proust writes: "Time is peculiarly chopped up in Baudelaire; only a very few days open up, they are significant ones. Thus it is understandable why turns of phrases like 'one evening' occur frequently in his works." These significant days are days of recollection, not marked by any experience. They are not connected with the other days, but stand out from time. As for their substance, Baudelaire has defined it in the notion of the correspondances, a concept that in Baudelaire stands side by side and unconnected with the notion of "modern beauty."
Disregarding the scholarly literature on the correspondances (the common property of the mystics; Baudelaire encountered them in Fourier's writings), Proust no longer fusses about the artistic variations on the situation which are supplied by synaesthesia. The important thing is that the correspondances record a concept of experience which includes ritual elements. Only by appropriating these elements was Baudelaire able to fathom the full meaning of the breakdown which he, a modern man, was witnessing. Only in this way was he able to recognize in it the challenge meant for him alone, a challenge which he incorporated in the Fleurs du mal.
The correspondances are the data of remembrance–not historical data, but data of prehistory. What makes festive days great and significant is the encounter with an earlier life. Baudelaire recorded this in a sonnet entitled "La Vie antérieure." The images of caves and vegetation, of clouds and waves which are evoked at the beginning of this second sonnet rise from the warm vapor of tears, tears of homesickness. "The wanderer looks into the tear-veiled distance, and hysterical tears well up in his eyes," writes Baudelaire in his review of the poems of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore. There are no simultaneous correspondences, such as were cultivated by the symbolists later. The murmur of the past may be heard in the correspondences, and the canonical experience of them has its place in a previous life:
Les houles, en roulant les images des cieux,
Mêlaient d'une façon solennelle et mystique
Aux couleurs du couchant refléte par mes yeux.
C'est là que j'ai vécu...
The breakers, rolling the images of the sky,
Mixed, in a mystical and solemn way,
The powerful chords of their rich music
With the colors of the sunset reflected in my eyes.
There did I live...
[...] "Recueillement" traces the allegories of the old years against the deep sky:
...Vois se pencher les défuntes Années
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées
...See the dead departed Years in antiquated
Dress leaning over heaven's balconies.
In these verses Baudelaire resigns himself to paying homage to times out of mind that escaped him in the guise of the outdated.
But the Fleurs du mal would not be what it is if all it contained were this success. It is unique because it was able to wrest from the inefficacy of the same consolation, the breakdown of the same fervor, the failure of the same effort poems that are in no way inferior to those in which the correspondances celebrate their triumphs. "Spleen et idéal" is the first of the cycles in Les Fleurs du mal. The idéal supplies the power of remembrance; the spleen musters the multitude of the seconds against it. It is their commander, just as the devil is the lord of the flies. One of the Spleen poems, "Le Goût du néant," says: "Le Printemps adorable a perdu son odeur!" (Spring, the Beloved, has lost its scent.) In this line Baudelaire expresses something extreme with extreme discretion; this makes it unmistakably his...A scent may drown years in the odor it recalls. This gives a sense of measurelessness desolation to Baudelaire's verse. For someone who is past experiencing, there is no consolation. Yet it is this very inability to experience that lies at the heart of rage. An angry man "won't listen"; his prototype Timon rages against people indiscriminantly; he is no longer capable of telling his proven friend from his mortal enemy. D'Aurevilly very perceptively recognized this condition in Baudelaire, calling him "a Timon with the genius of Archilochus." The outbreaks of rage are timed to the ticking of the seconds to which the melancholy man is slave.
Et le Temps m'engloutit minute par minute,
Comme la neige immense un corps pris de roideur.
And, minute by minute, Time engulfs me,
As the snow's measureless fall covers a motionless body.
These verses follow immediately after those quoted above. In the spleen, time becomes palpable; the minutes cover a man like snowflakes. This time is outside history, as is that of the mémoire involontaire. But in the spleen the perception of time is supernaturally keen; every second finds consciousness ready to intercept its shock.
Even though chronology places regularity above permanence, it cannot prevent heterogeneous, conspicuous fragments from remaining within it. To have combined recognition of a quality with the measurement of the quantity was the work of the calendars in which the places of recollection are left blank, as it were, in the form of holidays. The man who loses his capacity for experiencing feels as though he is dropped from the calendar. The big-city dweller knows this feeling on Sundays; Baudelaire has it avant la lettre in one of the Spleen poems,
Des cloches tout à coup sautent avec furie
Et lancent vers le ciel un affreux hurlement,
Ainsi que des esprits errants et sans patrie
Qui se mettent à geindre opiniâtrement.
The bells, which once were part of holidays, have been dropped from the calendar, like the human beings. They are like the poor souls that wander restlessly, but outside history. If Baudelaire in "Spleen" and "Vie antérieure" holds in his hands the scattered fragments of genuine historical experience, Bergson in his conception of the durée has become far more estranged from history. "Bergson the metaphysician suppresses death." The fact that death is eliminated from Bergson's durée isolates it effectively from a historical (as well as prehistorical) order. Bergson's concept of action is in keeping with this. The "sound common sense" which distinquishes the "practical man" has been its godfather. The durée from which death has been eliminated has the miserable endlessness of a scroll. Tradition is excluded from it. It is the quintessence of a passing moment [Erlebnis] that struts about in the borrowed garb of experience. The spleen, on the other hand, exposes the passing moment in all its nakedness. To his horror, the melancholy man sees the earth revert to a mere state of nature. Not breath of prehistory surrounds it: this is no aura. This is how the earth emerges in the verses of "Le Goût du néant" which follow the ones we have quoted.
Je contemple d'en haut le globe en sa rondeur,
Et je n'y cherche plus l'abri d'une cahute.
And from on high I contemplate the globe in its roundness;
No longer do I look there for a shelter of a hut.
I always attributed the phrase 'a day that had dropped out of the
calendar' to Walter Benjamin, but I've almost certainly misremembered
Every year there are days which seem to have 'dropped out of the calendar', by which I mean only two things:
1) A day like today, in February, when I can walk down the street without a coat, sit out on the balcony reading, breathing in what feels almost like spring air. So it's like a Spring day, or a promise of that, interpolated into February.
2.) A day which doesn't fit its designated name. So, on or near Christmas for example, people will say 'it feels like a Sunday' or simply 'what day is it?' But in particular, and these are curiously among my favourites, those days that fall between the end of Christmas and the beginning of the New Year - days which seem to have no place, supernumerary days, where time seems to pause, idle days but without guilt, for time itself is stalling not you. These days are, in time, what a railway station is spatially. -Mark Kaplan