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Apparition (1884) L53


La lune s’attristait. Des séraphins en pleurs
Rêvant, l’archet aux doigts, dans le calme des fleurs
Vaporeuses, tiraient de mourantes violes
De blancs sanglots glissant sur l’azur des corolles.
—C’était le jour béni de ton premier baiser.
Ma songerie aimant à me martyriser
S’enivrait savamment du parfum de tristesse
Que même sans regret et sans déboire laisse
La cueillaison d’un Rêve au cœur qui l’a cueilli.
J’errais donc, l’œil rivé sur le pavé vieilli,
Quand avec du soleil aux cheveux, dans la rue
Et dans le soir, tu m’es en riant apparue
Et j’ai cru voir la fée au chapeau de clarté
Qui jadis sur mes beaux sommeils d’enfant gâté
Passait, laissant toujours de ses mains mal fermées
Neiger de blancs bouquets d’étoiles parfumées.


The moon grew sad. Weeping seraphim,
dreaming, bows in hand, in the calm of hazy
flowers, drew from dying viols
white sobs that glided over the corollas’ blue.
—It was the blessed day of your first kiss.
My dreaming, glad to torment me,
grew skilfully drunk on the perfumed sadness
that—without regret or bitter after-taste—
the harvest of a Dream leaves in the reaper’s heart.
And so I wandered, my eyes fixed on the old paving stones,
when with sun-flecked hair, in the street
and in the evening, you appeared laughing before me
and I thought I glimpsed the fairy with her cap of light
who long ago crossed my lovely spoilt child’s slumbers,
always allowing from her half-closed hands
white bouquets of scented flowers to snow.
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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Stéphane Mallarmé (18 March 1842 – 9 September 1898), whose real name was Étienne Mallarmé, was a French poet and critic. He was a major French symbolist poet, and his work anticipated and inspired several revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism.

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Read more about Mallarmé and some of his work here, on Poetry Foundation.

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