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La mort d'Ophélie (1842) Op. 18 no.2

La mort d'Ophélie

Après d’un torrent, Ophélie
Cueillait, tout en suivant le bord,
Dans sa douce et tendre folie,
Des pervenches, des boutons d’or,
Des iris aux couleurs d’opale,
Et de ces fleurs d’un rose pâle,
Qu’on appelle des doigts de mort.
Puis élevant sur ses mains blanches
Les riants trésors du matin,
Elle les suspendait aux branches,
Aux branches d’un saule voisin.
Mais, trop faible, le rameau plie,
Se brise, et la pauvre Ophélie
Tombe, sa guirlande à la main.
Quelques instants sa robe enflée
La tint encor sur le courant,
Et comme une voile gonflée,
Elle flottait toujours chantant,
Chantant quelque vieille ballade,
Chantant ainsi qu’une naïade
Née au milieu de ce torrent.
Mais cette étrange mélodie
Passa, rapide comme un son.
Par les flots la robe alourdie
Bientôt dans l’abîme profond;
Entraîna la pauvre insensée,
Laissant à peine commencée
Sa mélodieuse chanson.

The death of Ophelia

Beside a brook, Ophelia
Gathered along the water’s bank,
In her sweet and gentle madness,
Periwinkles, crow-flowers,
Opal-tinted irises,
And those pale purples
Called dead men’s fingers.
Then, raising up in her white hands
The morning’s laughing trophies,
She hung them on the branches,
The branches of a nearby willow.
But the bough, too fragile, bends,
Breaks, and poor Ophelia
Falls, the garland in her hand.
Her dress, spread wide,
Bore her on the water awhile,
And like an outstretched sail
She floated, still singing,
Singing some ancient lay,
Singing like a water-sprite
Born amidst the waves.
But this strange melody died,
Fleeting as a snatch of sound.
Her garment, heavy with water,
Soon into the depths
Dragged the poor distracted girl,
Leaving her melodious lay
Hardly yet begun.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Louis-Hector Berlioz (11 December 1803 – 8 March 1869) was a French Romantic composer. His output includes orchestral works such as the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy, choral pieces including the Requiem and L'Enfance du Christ, his three operas Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict, and works of hybrid genres such as the "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette and the "dramatic legend" La Damnation de Faust.

The elder son of a provincial doctor, Berlioz was expected to follow his father into medicine, and he attended a Parisian medical college before defying his family by taking up music as a profession. His independence of mind and refusal to follow traditional rules and formulas put him at odds with the conservative musical establishment of Paris. He briefly moderated his style sufficiently to win France's premier music prize, the Prix de Rome, in 1830 but he learned little from the academics of the Paris Conservatoire. Opinion was divided for many years between those who thought him an original genius and those who viewed his music as lacking in form and coherence.

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William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet, and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, which has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, and religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

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