Skip to main content



Le cygne (1906)

Part of a series or song cycle:

Histoires naturelles

Le cygne

Il glisse sur le bassin, comme un traîneau blanc, de nuage en nuage.
Car il n’a faim que des nuages floconneux qu’il voit naître, bouger, et se perdre dansl’eau.
C’est l’un d’eux qu’il désire. Il le vise du bec, et il plonge tout à coup son col vêtu de neige.
Puis, tel un bras de femme sort d’une manche, il le retire.
Il n’a rien.
Il regarde: les nuages effarouchés ont disparu.
Il ne reste qu’un instant désabusé, car les nuages tardent peu à revenir, et, là-bas, où meurent les ondulations de l’eau, en voici un qui se reforme.
Doucement, sur son léger coussin de plumes, le cygne rame et s’approche …
Il s’épuise à pêcher de vains reflets, et peut-être qu’il mourra, victime de cette illusion, avant d’attraper un seul morceau de nuage.
Mais qu’est-ce que je dis?
Chaque fois qu’il plonge, il fouille du bec la vase nourrissante et ramène en ver.
Il engraisse comme une oie.

The Swan

He glides on the pond like a white sledge, from cloud to cloud.
For he is hungry only for the fleecy clouds that he sees forming, moving, dissolving in the water.
It is one of these that he wants. He takes aim with his beak and suddenly immerses his snow-clad neck.
Then, like a woman’s arm emerging from a sleeve, he draws it back up.
He has caught nothing.
He looks about: the startled clouds have vanished.
Only for a second is he disappointed, for the clouds are not slow to return, and, over there, where the ripples fade, there is one reappearing.
Gently, on his soft cushion of down, the swan paddles and approaches …
He exhausts himself fishing for empty reflections and perhaps he will die, a victim of that illusion, before catching a single shred of cloud.
But what am I saying?
Each time he dives, he burrows with his beak in the nourishing mud and brings up a worm.
He’s getting as fat as a goose.

If you would like to use our texts and translations, please click here for more information.


Joseph Maurice Ravel was a French composer, pianist and conductor.  In the 1920s and 1930s he was internationally regarded as France's greatest living composer. He was one of the first composers to acknowledge the potential of recording in making music accessible to a broad public, and in the 1920s several recordings of his work were made.

Information from Wikipedia. Read more here.

See Full Entry

Sorry, no further description available.

Mailing List