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Songs

Les Courtesanes égyptiennes (1901)


Part of a series or song cycle:

Musique de scène pour les Chansons de Bilitis


Les Courtesanes égyptiennes

Je suis allée avec Plangon chez les courtisanes
égyptiennes, tout en haut de la vieille ville.
Elles ont des amphores de terre, des plateaux
de cuivre et des nattes jaunes où elles
s'accroupissent sans effort.
Leurs chambres sont silencieuses, sans angles
et sans encoignures, tant les couches
successives de chaux bleue ont émoussé les
chapiteaux et arrondi le pied des murs.
Elles se tiennent immobiles, les mains posées
sur les genoux. Quand elles offrent la bouillie
elles murmurent: « Bonheur. » Et quand on les
remercie, elles disent: « Grâce à toi. »
Elles comprennent le hellène et feignent de le
parler mal pour se rire de nous dans leur
langue; mais nous, dent pour dent, nous
parlons lydien et elles s'inquiètent tout à coup.

The Egyptian Courtesans

I went with Plangon to the home of the
Egyptian courtesans, above the old city. They
have vases of clay, plates of copper and yellow
mats where they squat without effort.
Their rooms are quiet, without angles and
without corners, so much the successive layers
of blue lime have dulled the pillars and
rounded the feet of the walls.
They stay motionless, their hands resting on
their knees. When they offer the porridge they
murmur “happiness” and when we thank them
they say “Thanks to you.”
They understand Hellenic, and feign to speak it
poorly, so as to laugh at us in their own
language; but as for us, word for word, we
speak Lydian and they are suddenly worried.

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Composer

(Achille) Claude Debussy was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Poet

Pierre Louÿs was a French poet and writer, best known for his classical themes and sensual style.

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