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La mort d'Ophélie (1857)

La mort d'Ophélie

Au bord d'un torrent, Ophélie
Cueillait tout en suivant le bord,
Dans sa douce et tendre folie,
Des pervenches, des boutons d'or,
Des iris aux couleurs d'opale,
Et de ces fleurs d'un rose pâle,
Qu'on appelle des doigts de mort.
Puis élevant sur ses mains blanches
Les riants trésors du matin,
Elle les suspendait aux branches,
Aux branches d'un saule voisin;
Mais, trop faible, le rameau plie,
Se brise, et la pauvre Ophélie
Tombe, sa guirlande à la main.
Quelques instants, sa robe enflée
La tint encor sur le courant,
Et comme une voile gonflée,
Elle flottait toujours, chantant,
Chantant quelque vieille ballade,
Chantant ainsi qu'une naïade
Née au milieu de ce torrent.
Mais cette étrange mélodie
Passa rapide comme un son;
Par les flots la robe alourdie
Bientôt dans l'abîme profond;
Entraïna la pauvre insensée,
Laissant à peine commencée
Sa mélodieuse chanson.

The death of Ophelia

Beside a brook, Ophelia
Gathered along the water’s bank,
In her sweet and gentle madness,
Periwinkles, crow-flowers,
Opal-tinted irises,
And those pale purples
Called dead men’s fingers.
Then, raising up in her white hands
The morning’s laughing trophies,
She hung them on the branches,
The branches of a nearby willow.
But the bough, too fragile, bends,
Breaks, and poor Ophelia
Falls, the garland in her hand.
Her dress, spread wide,
Bore her on the water awhile,
And like an outstretched sail
She floated, still singing,
Singing some ancient lay,
Singing like a water-sprite
Born amidst the waves.
But this strange melody died,
Fleeting as a snatch of sound.
Her garment, heavy with water,
Soon into the depths
Dragged the poor distracted girl,
Leaving her melodious lay
Hardly yet begun.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Composer

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist of the Romantic era. A musical prodigy, he gave his first concert at only 10 years old, before studying at the Paris Conservatoire.

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