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Au cimetière (1841) Op. 7 no.5

Part of a series or song cycle:

Les nuits d'été (Op. 7)

Au cimetière

Connaissez-vous la blanche tombe
Où flotte avec un son plaintif
L’ombre d’un if?
Sur l’if, une pâle colombe,
Triste et seule, au soleil couchant,
Chante son chant;
Un air maladivement tendre,
À la fois charmant et fatal,
Qui vous fait mal
Et qu’on voudrait toujours entendre,
Un air, comme en soupire aux cieux
L’ange amoureux.
On dirait que l’âme éveillée
Pleure sous terre à l’unisson
De la chanson,
Et du malheur d’être oubliée
Se plaint dans un roucoulement
Bien doucement.
Sur les ailes de la musique
On sent lentement revenir
Un souvenir;
Une ombre, une forme angélique
Passe dans un rayon tremblant,
En voile blanc.
Les belles-de-nuit, demi-closes,
Jettent leur parfum faible et doux
Autour de vous,
Et le fantôme aux molles poses
Murmure, en vous tendant les bras:
Tu reviendras?
Oh! jamais plus, près de la tombe
Je n’irai quand descend le soir
Au manteau noir,
Écouter la pâle colombe
Chanter sur la pointe de l’if
Son chant plaintif!

In the cemetery

Do you know the white tomb,
Where the shadow of a yew
Waves plaintively?
On that yew a pale dove,
Sad and solitary at sundown
Sings its song;
A melody of morbid sweetness,
Delightful and deathly at once,
Which wounds you
And which you’d like to hear forever,
A melody, such as in the heavens,
A lovesick angel sighs.
As if the awakened soul
Weeps beneath the earth together
With the song,
And at the sorrow of being forgotten
Murmurs its complaint
Most meltingly.
On the wings of music
You sense the slow return
Of a memory;
A shadow, an angelic form
Passes in a shimmering beam,
Veiled in white.
The Marvels of Peru, half-closed,
Shed their fragrance sweet and faint
About you,
And the phantom with its languid gestures
Murmurs, reaching out to you:
Will you return?
Ah! nevermore shall I approach that tomb,
When evening descends
In its black cloak,
To listen to the pale dove
From the top of a yew
Sing its plaintive song!
Translations by Richard Stokes, from A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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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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Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic.

While Gautier was an ardent defender of Romanticism, his work is difficult to classify and remains a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions such as Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence and Modernism. He was widely esteemed by writers as diverse as Balzac, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Henry James, Proust and Oscar Wilde.

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