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L'absent (1871) Op. 5 no.3


- Sentiers où l'herbe se balance,
Vallons, côteaux, bois chevelus,
Pourquoi ce deuil et ce silence?
- Celui qui venait ne vient plus.
- Pourquoi personne à ta fenêtre,
Et pourquoi ton jardin sans fleurs,
Ô maison où donc est ton maître?
- Je ne sais pas! il est ailleurs.
- Chien, veille au logis! - Pourquoi faire?
La maison est vide à présent!"
- Enfant, qui pleures-tu? - Mon père.
- Femme, qui pleures-tu? -L'absent.
- Où donc est-il allé? - Dans l'ombre.
- Flots qui gémissez sur l'écueil,
D'où venez-vous? - Du bagne sombre.
- Et qu'apportez-vous? - Un cerceuil.

The absent one

Paths of swaying grass,
Valleys, hillsides, leafy woods,
Why this mourning and this silence?
– He who came here comes no more.
Why is no one at your window,
And why is your garden without flowers,
O house, where is your master?
– I do not know: he is elsewhere.
Dog, guard the home. – For what reason?
The house is empty now.
Child, who is it you mourn? – My father.
Woman, who is it you mourn? – The absent one.
Where has he gone? – Into the shadow.
Waves that moan against the reefs,
From where do you come? – The dark convict prison.
And what do you carry? – A coffin.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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​"Gabriel Urbain Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune". Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style." (Wikipedia)

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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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