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Chevaux de bois (1885) L60

Part of a series or song cycle:

Ariettes oubliées (L60)

Chevaux de bois

Tournez, tournez, bons chevaux de bois,
Tournez cent tours, tournez mille tours,
Tournez souvent et tournez toujours,
Tournez, tournez au son des hautbois.
L’enfant tout rouge et la mère blanche,
Le gars en noir et la fille en rose,
L’une à la chose et l’autre à la pose,
Chacun se paie un sou de dimanche.
Tournez, tournez, chevaux de leur cœur,
Tandis qu’autour de tous vos tournois
Clignote l’œil du filou sournois,
Tournez au son du piston vainqueur!
C’est étonnant comme ça vous soûle
D’aller ainsi dans ce cirque bête:
Rien dans le ventre et mal dans la tête,
Du mal en masse et du bien en foule.
Tournez, dadas, sans qu’il soit besoin
D’user jamais de nuls éperons
Pour commander à vos galops ronds:
Tournez, tournez, sans espoir de foin.
Et dépêchez, chevaux de leur âme,
Déjà voici que sonne à la soupe
La nuit qui tombe et chasse la troupe
De gais buveurs que leur soif affame.
Tournez, tournez! Le ciel en velours
D’astres en or se vêt lentement.
L’église tinte un glas tristement.
Tournez au son joyeux des tambours!


Turn, turn, you fine wooden horses,
Turn a hundred, turn a thousand times,
Turn often and turn for evermore
Turn and turn to the oboe’s sound.
The red-faced child and the pale mother,
The lad in black and the girl in pink,
One down-to-earth, the other showing off,
Each buying a treat with his Sunday sou.
Turn, turn, horses of their hearts,
While the furtive pickpocket’s eye is flashing
As you whirl about and whirl around,
Turn to the sound of the conquering cornet!
Astonishing how drunk it makes you,
Riding like this in this foolish fair:
With an empty stomach and an aching head,
Discomfort in plenty and masses of fun!
Gee-gees, turn, you’ll never need
The help of any spur
To make your horses gallop round:
Turn, turn, without hope of hay.
And hurry on, horses of their souls:
Nightfall already calls them to supper
And disperses the crowd of happy revellers,
Ravenous with thirst.
Turn, turn! The velvet sky
Is slowly decked with golden stars.
The church bell tolls a mournful knell—
Turn to the joyful sound of drums!
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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Paul-Marie Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.
Born in Metz, Verlaine was educated at the Lycée Impérial Bonaparte (now the Lycée Condorcet) in Paris and then took up a post in the civil service. He began writing poetry at an early age, and was initially influenced by the Parnassien movement and its leader, Leconte de Lisle. Verlaine's first published poem was published in 1863 in La Revue du progrès, a publication founded by poet Louis-Xavier de Ricard. Verlaine was a frequenter of the salon of the Marquise de Ricard (Louis-Xavier de Ricard's mother) at 10 Boulevard des Batignolles and other social venues, where he rubbed shoulders with prominent artistic figures of the day: Anatole France, Emmanuel Chabrier, inventor-poet and humorist Charles Cros, the cynical anti-bourgeois idealist Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Théodore de Banville, François Coppée, Jose-Maria de Heredia, Leconte de Lisle, Catulle Mendes and others. Verlaine's first published collection, Poèmes saturniens (1866), though adversely commented upon by Sainte-Beuve, established him as a poet of promise and originality.

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