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Ou voulez-vous aller? (1839)

Ou voulez-vous aller?

Dites, la jeune belle,
Où voulez-vous aller?
La voile ouvre son aile,
La brise va souffler!
L’aviron est d’ivoire,
Le pavillon de moire,
Le gouvernail d’or fin;
J’ai pour lest une orange,
Pour voile une aile d’ange,
Pour mousse un séraphin.
Est-ce dans la Baltique?
Dans la mer Pacifique?
Dans l’île de Java?
Ou bien est-ce en Norvège,
Cueillir la fleur de neige
Ou la fleur d’Angsoka?
Menez-moi, dit la belle,
A la rive fidèle,
Où l’on aime toujours.
– Cette rive, ma chère,
On ne la connaît guère,
Au pays des amours.

Where is it you would go?

Tell me, pretty young maid,
Where is it you would go?
The sail is billowing,
The breeze about to blow!
The oar is of ivory,
The pennant of watered silk,
The rudder of finest gold;
For ballast I’ve an orange,
For sail an angel’s wing,
For cabin-boy a seraph.
Perhaps the Baltic,
Or the Pacific
Or the Isle of Java?
Or else to Norway,
To pluck the snow flower
Or the flower of Angsoka?
Take me, said the pretty maid,
To fidelity’s shore
Where love endures forever.
– That shore, my sweet,
Is scarce known
In the realm of love.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, best known for his Ave Maria, based on a work by Bach, as well as his opera Faust.

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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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