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Recueillement (1889)

Part of a series or song cycle:

Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire


Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille;
Tu réclamais le Soir: il descend; le voici :
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.
Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main ; viens par ici,
Loin d’eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fonds des eaux le Regret souriant;
Le Soleil moribond s’endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l’Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.


Be good, O my Sorrow, and keep more calm.
You longed for Evening; it is falling; now:
A dusky atmosphere enfolds the town,
Bringing peace to some, to others care.
While the vile multitude of mortals,
Lashed by Pleasure, that pitiless tormentor,
Goes gathering remorse in abject revels,
Give me your hand, my Sorrow; come this way,
Far from them. See the departed Years leaning,
In outmoded dress, from the heavens’ balustrades;
See smiling Regret well up from the waters’ depths;
The dying Sun fall asleep beneath an arch,
And like a long shroud trailing in the East,
Listen, my love, listen to the tread of gentle Night.
Translation © Richard Stokes, from A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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(Achille) Claude Debussy was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

Read Les Fleurs du mal here.

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