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Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe

Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe

Puisque rien ne t’arrête en cet heureux pays,
Ni l’ombre du palmier, ni le jaune maïs,
Ni le repos, ni l’abondance,
Ni de voir à ta voix battre le jeune sein
De nos sœurs, dont, les soirs, le tournoyant essaim
Couronne un coteau de sa danse,
Adieu, beau voyageur! Hélas adieu.
Oh! que n’es-tu de ceux
Qui donnent pour limite à leurs pieds paresseux
Leur toit de branches ou de toiles!
Que, rêveurs, sans en faire, écoutent les récits,
Et souhaitent, le soir, devant leur porte assis,
De s’en aller dans les étoiles!
Si tu l’avais voulu, peut-être une de nous,
O jeune homme, eût aimé te servir à genoux
Dans nos huttes toujours ouvertes;
Elle eût fait, en berçant ton sommeil de ses chants,
Pour chasser de ton front les moucherons méchants,
Un éventail de feuilles vertes.
Si tu ne reviens pas, songe un peu quelquefois
Aux filles du désert, sœurs à la douce voix,
Qui dansent pieds nus sur la dune;
O beau jeune homme blanc, bel oiseau passager,
Souviens-toi, car peut-être, ô rapide étranger,
Ton souvenir reste à plus d’une!
Hélas! Adieu! bel étranger! Souviens-toi!

Farewell of the Arabian hostess

Since nothing can keep you in this happy land,
neither shade-giving palm nor yellow corn,
nor repose, nor abundance,
nor the sight of our sisters’ young breasts trembling
at your voice as, in a whirling swarm at evening,
they garland a hillside with their dance,
Farewell, fair traveller! Ah!
Why are you not like those
whose indolent feet venture no further
than their roofs of branch or canvas!
Who, musing, listen passively to tales
and dream at evening, sitting before their door,
of wandering among the stars!
Had you so wished, perhaps one of us,
O young man, would fain have served you, kneeling,
in our ever-open huts;
lulling you asleep with songs, she would have made,
to chase the noisome midges from your brow,
a fan of green leaves.
If you do not return, dream at times
of the daughters of the desert, sweet-voiced sisters,
who dance barefoot on the dunes;
O handsome young white man, fair bird of passage,
remember – for perhaps, O fleeting stranger,
more than one maiden will remember you!
Alas! Farewell, fair stranger! Remember!
Translations by Richard Stokes, from A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Georges Bizet (25 October 1838 – 3 June 1875), registered at birth as Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was a French composer of the Romantic era. Best known for his operas in a career cut short by his early death, Bizet achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, which has become one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertoire.

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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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