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Les papillons (1881)

Les papillons

Les papillons couleur de neige
Volent par essaims sur la mer;
Beaux papillons blancs, quand pourrai-je
Prendre le bleu chemin de l’air?
Savez-vous, ô belle des belles,
Ma bayadère aux yeux de jais,
S’ils me pouvaient prêter leurs ailes,
Dites, savez-vous où j’irais?
Sans prendre un seul baiser aux roses
À travers vallons et forêts,
J’irais à vos lèvres mi-closes,
Fleur de mon âme, et j’y mourrais.

Butterflies

Snow-coloured butterflies
swarm over the sea;
beautiful white butterflies, when might I
take to the azure path of the air?
Do you know, O beauty of beauties,
my jet-eyed bayadère—
were they to lend me their wings,
do you know where I would go?
Without kissing a single rose,
across valleys and forests
I’d fly to your half-closed lips,
flower of my soul, and there would die.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Composer

(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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Poet

Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic.

While Gautier was an ardent defender of Romanticism, his work is difficult to classify and remains a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions such as Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence and Modernism. He was widely esteemed by writers as diverse as Balzac, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Henry James, Proust and Oscar Wilde.

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