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Les Hiboux (1921)

Les Hiboux

Sous les ifs noirs qui les abritent
Les hiboux se tiennent rangés
Ainsi que des dieux étrangers
Dardant leur oeil rouge. Ils méditent.
Sans remuer ils se tiendront
Jusqu'à l'heure mélancolique
Où, poussant le soleil oblique,
Les ténèbres s'établiront.
Leur attitude au sage enseigne
Qu'il faut en ce monde qu'il craigne
Le tumulte et le mouvement;
L'homme ivre d'une ombre qui passe
Porte toujours le châtiment
D'avoir voulu changer de place.

Owls

Beneath the shelter of black yews,
The owls perch in a row,
Like alien gods, whose
Red eyes flash. They meditate.
Motionless they will perch
Till the melancholy hour
When, pushing aside the slanting sun,
The shadows will settle into place.
From their pose the wise man learns
That in this world he ought to fear
All movement and commotion;
The man drunk on fleeting shadows
Will always pay the penalty
For having wished to roam.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Composer

Louis Victor Jules Vierne (8 October 1870 – 2 June 1937) was a French organist and composer.

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Poet

Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

Read Les Fleurs du mal here.


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