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La libellule (1890)

La libellule

Près de l'étang, sur la prêle
Vole, agaçant le désir,
La libellule au corps frêle
Qu'on voudrait en vain saisir.
Est-ce une chimère, un rêve
Que traverse un rayon d'or ?
Tout à coup elle fait trêve
À son lumineux essor.
Elle part, elle se pose,
Apparaît dans un éclair
Et fuit, dédaignant la rose
Pour le lotus froid et clair.
À la fois puissante et libre,
Sœur du vent, fille du ciel,
Son aile frissonne et vibre
Comme le luth d'Ariel.
Fugitive, transparente,
Faite d'azur et de nuit,
Elle semble une âme errante
Sur l'eau qui dans l'ombre luit.
Radieuse elle se joue
Sur les lotus entr'ouverts,
Comme un baiser sur la joue
De la Naïade aux yeux verts.
Que cherche-t-elle ? une proie.
Sa devise est: cruauté.
Le carnage met en joie
Son implacable beauté.

The dragon-fly

By the pond, on the grass,
Exciting desire,
The dragon-fly flies with its frail body
That one tries in vain to catch.
Is it a mirage, a dream,
Crossed by a ray of gold?
Suddenly she ceases
Her luminous flight.
She departs, she alights,
Appears in a flash
And flies off, disdaining the rose,
To the cold and clear lotus-flower.
Both powerful and free,
Sister of the wind, daughter of the sky,
Her wing whirrs and vibrates
Like Ariel’s lute.
Fleeting, transparent,
Made of blue and made of night,
She seems a wandering soul
On the water gleaming in the dark.
She frolics radiantly
On the half-opened lotus-flowers,
Like a kiss on the cheek
Of the green-eyed water-nymph.
What does she seek? Prey.
Her motto is cruelty.
The carnage she wreaks
Highlights her implacable beauty.

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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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