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La Captive (1832) op.12

La Captive

Si je n'étais captive,
J'aimerais ce pays,
Et cette mer plaintive,
Et ces champs de maïs,
Et ces astres sans nombre,
Si le long du mur sombre
N'étincelait dans l'ombre
Le sabre des spahis.
Je ne suis point tartare
Pour qu'un eunuque noir
M'accorde ma guitare,
Me tienne mon miroir.
Bien loin de ces Sodomes,
Au pays dont nous sommes,
Avec les jeunes hommes
On peut parler le soir.
Pourtant j'aime une rive
Où jamais des hivers
Le souffle froid n'arrive
Par les vitraux ouverts,
L'été, la pluie est chaude,
L'insecte vert qui rôde
Luit, vivante émeraude,
Sous les brins d'herbe verts.
J'aime en un lit de mousses
Dire un air espagnol,
Quand mes compagnes douces,
Du pied rasant le sol,
Légion vagabonde
Où le sourire abonde,
Font tournoyer leur ronde
Sous un rond parasol.
Mais surtout, quand la brise
Me touche en voltigeant,
La nuit j'aime être assise,
Etre assise en songeant,
L'oeil sur la mer profonde,
Tandis que, pâle et blonde,
La lune ouvre dans l'onde
Son éventail d'argent.

The captive girl

If I were not a captive,
I should love this country,
And this plaintive sea,
And these fields of maize,
And these stars without number,
If in the wall's dark shadow
There did not glint
The spahis' scimitar.
I was not born a Tartar
For a black eunuch
To tune my guitar
And hold up for me my mirror.
Far away from this land of Sodom,
In our native country, we are permitted
When evening falls,
To talk with the young men.
And yet I love a land
Where winter's chill breath
Never crosses
Wide-open windows.
In summer the rain is warm,
And the hovering insects
Gleam bright emerald
Beneath green blades of grass.
I love on a bed of moss
To sing a Spanish air,
While my sweet companions,
Feet grazing the ground,
Nomadic throng
With generous smikes,
Dance and whirl
Beneath an open parasol.
But most of all when a breeze
Lightly brushes my cheek,
I love to sit at night,
Sit and dream,
Gazing on the deep sea,
While the pale moon
Opens across the water
Its silver fan.

Composer

Louis-Hector Berlioz (11 December 1803 – 8 March 1869) was a French Romantic composer. His output includes orchestral works such as the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy, choral pieces including the Requiem and L'Enfance du Christ, his three operas Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict, and works of hybrid genres such as the "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette and the "dramatic legend" La Damnation de Faust.

The elder son of a provincial doctor, Berlioz was expected to follow his father into medicine, and he attended a Parisian medical college before defying his family by taking up music as a profession. His independence of mind and refusal to follow traditional rules and formulas put him at odds with the conservative musical establishment of Paris. He briefly moderated his style sufficiently to win France's premier music prize, the Prix de Rome, in 1830 but he learned little from the academics of the Paris Conservatoire. Opinion was divided for many years between those who thought him an original genius and those who viewed his music as lacking in form and coherence.

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Poet

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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