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Songs

La chanson bien douce (1898)


Part of a series or song cycle:

Deux Poèmes, Op. 34


La chanson bien douce

Écoutez la chanson bien douce
Qui ne pleure que pour vous plaire.
Elle est discrète, elle est légère:
Un frisson d’eau sur de la mousse.
La voix vous fut connue (et chère?),
Mais à présent elle est voilée
Comme une veuve désolée,
Pourtant comme elle encore fière,
Et dans les longs plis de son voile
Qui palpite aux brises d'automne,
Cache et montre au cœur qui s'étonne
La vérité comme une étoile.
Elle dit, la voix reconnue,
Que la bonté c'est notre vie,
Que de la haine et de I' envie
Rien ne reste, la mort venue.
Accueillez la voix qui persiste
Dans son naïf épithalame.
Allez, rien n'est meilleur à I' âme
Que de faire une âme moins triste.
Elle est en peine et de passage,
L'âme qui souffre sans colère
Et comme sa morale est claire …
Écoutez la chanson bien sage.

The Sweetest Song

Listen to the sweetest song
That weeps but to delight you.
It is discreet, it is delicate:
A shiver of water on moss!
The voice was known to you (and dear?),
But is at present veiled
Like a disconsolate widow,
And yet like her still proud;
And in the long folds of its veil
W.hich flutters in the autumn breeze,
It hides and shows the astonished heart
The truth, emblazoned like a star.
It says, the voice you recognize,
That kindness is our very life,
And that of hate and envy
Nothing remains, once death has come.
Welcome the voice that continues
Its simple bridal song.
Come! Nothing so becomes the soul
As making souls less sorrowful!
It is transient and in travail,
The soul that suffers without wrath,
And how manifest its moral is! …
Listen to the wisest song.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Composer

Amédée-Ernest Chausson was a French romantic composer. From 1886 until his death in 1899, Chausson was secretary of the Société Nationale de Musique, met with a number of notable figures during his short lifetime, including the composers Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, and Isaac Albéniz, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, and the impressionist painter Claude Monet. He died at the age of 44 in bicycle accident.

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Poet

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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