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Ballade des dames du temps jadis

Ballade des dames du temps jadis

Dites-moi où, n’en quel pays,
Est Flora la belle Romaine,
Archipiades, ne Thaïs,
Qui fut sa cousine germaine,
Echo, parlant quant bruit on mène
Dessus rivière ou sur étang,
Qui beauté eut trop plus qu’humaine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
Où est la très sage Héloïs,
Pour qui fut châtré et puis moine
Pierre Esbaillart à Saint-Denis?
Pour son amour eut cette essoine.
Semblablement, où est la roine
Qui commanda que Buridan
Fût jeté en un sac en Seine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
La roine Blanche comme un lis
Qui chantait à voix de sirène,
Berthe au grand pied, Bietrix, Aliz,
Haramburgis qui tint le Maine,
Et Jeanne, la bonne Lorraine
Qu’Anglais brûlèrent à Rouen;
Où sont-ils, où, Vierge souvraine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
Prince, n’enquerrez de semaine
Où elles sont, ni de cet an,
Que ce refrain ne vous remaine:
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?

Ballad of the ladies of yesteryear

Tell me where, or in what land
Is Flora the lovely Roman,
Or Archipiada, or Thaïs
Who so resembled her,
Or Echo speaking when summoned
Across still pools and rivers
And whose beauty was more than human.
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
Where is Héloïse, so wise, for whom
Pierre Abelard was castrated
And made a monk at Saint-Denis?
For her love he bore these trials.
And likewise, where is that queen,
By whose order Buridan
Was thrown in a sack into the Seine?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
Queen Blanche as white as a lily,
Who sang with a mermaid’s voice,
Big-footed Bertha, Beatrice, Alice,
Arembourg who held Maine,
And good Joan of Lorraine
Whom the English burnt at Rouen;
Where are they, where, O Sovereign Virgin?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
Prince, do not ask in a week
Or in a year where they are;
I could only give you this refrain:
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Composer

Petr Eben was a Czech composer of contemporary and classical music.


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