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Sérénade (1857)


Quand tu chantes, bercée
Le soir entre mes bras,
Entends-tu ma pensée
Qui te répond tout bas?
Ton doux chant me rappelle
Les plus beaux de mes jours …
Ah! chantez, chantez, ma belle,
Chantez toujours!
Quand tu ris, sur ta bouche
L’amour s’épanouit,
Et soudain le farouche soupçon
Ah! le rire fidèle
Prouve un cœur sans détours …
Ah! riez, riez, ma belle,
Riez toujours!
Quand tu dors, calme et pure,
Dans l’ombre, sous mes yeux,
Ton haleine murmure
Des mots harmonieux.
Ton beau corps se revèle
Sans voile et sans atours …
Ah! dormez, dormez, ma belle,
Dormez toujours!


When you sing, cradled
In my arms at evening,
Do you hear my thoughts
Softly answering you?
Your sweet song recalls
The loveliest days of my life …
Ah! sing, my fair one,
Sing on!
When you laugh, your lips
Blossom with love,
And instantly, wild
Suspicion vanishes.
Ah! that faithful laughter
Shows a sincere heart …
Ah! laugh, my fair one,
Laugh on!
When you sleep, calm and pure,
In the shade beneath my gaze,
Your breath murmurs
Melodious words.
Your body is revealed in its beauty
Without veil or finery …
Ah! sleep, my fair one,
Sleep on!
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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Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry and then from his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He also produced more than 4,000 drawings, which have since been admired for their beauty, and earned widespread respect as a campaigner for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.

Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French franc banknotes.

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