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Le tombeau des Naiades (1897)

Part of a series or song cycle:

Chansons de Bilitis

Le tombeau des Naiades

Le long du bois couvert de givre, je marchais; mes cheveux
devant ma bouche se fleurissaient de petits glaçons, et
mes sandales étaient lourdes de neige fangeuse et tassée.
Il me dit: «Que cherches-tu?»—«Je suis la trace du satyre.
Ses petits pas fourchus alternent comme des trous dans
un manteau blanc.» Il me dit: «Les satyres sont morts.
«Les satyres et les nymphes aussi. Depuis trente ans il
n’a pas fait un hiver aussi terrible. La trace que tu vois est
celle d’un bouc. Mais restons ici, où est leur tombeau.»
Et avec le fer de sa houe il cassa la glace de la source
où jadis riaient les naïades. Il prenait de grands
morceaux froids, et les soulevant vers le ciel pâle, il
regardait au travers.

The tomb of the Naiads

Along the frost-bound wood I walked; my hair across
my mouth, blossomed with tiny icicles, and my
sandals were heavy with muddy, packed snow.
He said to me: ‘What do you seek?’ ‘I follow the satyr’s track.
His little cloven hoof-marks alternate like holes in
a white cloak.’ He said to me: ‘The satyrs are dead.
‘The satyrs and the nymphs too. For thirty years there
has not been so harsh a winter. The tracks you see are those
of a goat. But let us stay here, where their tomb is.’
And with the iron head of his hoe he broke the ice of
the spring, where the naiads used to laugh. He picked up
some huge cold fragments, and, raising them to the pale sky,
gazed through them.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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