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Guitare (1866)

Part of a series or song cycle:

Feuilles d'album


Comment, disaient-ils,
Avec nos nacelles,
Fuir les alguazils?
– Ramez, disaient-elles.
Comment, disaient-ils,
Oublier querelles,
Misère et périls?
– Dormez, disaient-elles.
Comment, disaient-ils,
Enchanter les belles
Sans philtres subtils?
– Aimez, disaient-elles.


How, said the men,
in our small craft
can we flee the alguazils?
– Row, said the women.
How, said the men,
can we forget feuds,
poverty and peril?
– Sleep, said the women.
How, said the men,
can we bewitch the fair
without rare potions?
– Love, said the women.
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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