Posts Tagged ‘Paul Verlaine’

Claire de Lune by Paul Verlaine

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

Paul Verlaine

(Your soul is a chosen landscape
where charming masqueraders and bergamasquers go,
playing the lute and dancing and almost
sad beneath their fantastic disguises.

They all sing in a minor key
about love triumphant, and the fortunate life —
they do not seem to believe in their own happiness,
and their song blends with the light of the moon,

in the calm moonlight, sad and beautiful,
which makes the birds dream in the trees
and the fountains weep in ecstasy —
the tall fountains, slender amid marble statues.)

Listen: “Claire de Lune,” op. 46, no. 2 by Fauré

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Voici des fruits, des fleurs, des feuilles et des branches
et puis voici mon coeur, qui ne bat que pour vous;
ne le déchirez pas avec vos deux mains blanches,
et qu’à vos yeux si beaux l’humble présent soit doux.

Here are fruits, flowers, leaves, and branches
and here, too, is my heart, which beats only for you;
do not tear it to pieces with your two, white hands,
and may the humble present be sweet to your so beautiful eyes.

Paul Verlaine
trans. Stacey Mastrian


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Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

Paul Verlaine

(For an English translation, see TRANSLATING VERLAINE I.)

Commentary: I’ve been thinking about my goddaughter, Sage, who is teaching herself French and plays the violin. I think this poem would be easy enough for her to translate if she wanted to. In it, Paul Verlaine expresses sadness about the past… and things that are lost… and the ways that our souls can become like dry leaves dying on a tree. I’m thankful that the fall, which is actually a beautiful season, is only one of four. Seasons change.

This past fall, on November 7th, Sage’s mother, Jennifer, wrote on the same theme as Verlaine does in this chanson. She wrote: “This is a time of good-byes, a time of loss and change. The trees and the flowers and the insects go inward, the toads retreat into the earth. Some things cannot survive until spring. But truly there has never been a good-bye that was not a hello to something else. It is impossible.” Yes, Jennifer wrote on the same theme, but she stepped forward in her thinking toward what comes after the fall … toward the light that awakens sleeping seeds.

My heart finds comfort in this.

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