Thursday, December 07, 2017

Beau Soir

As a translator, it is one of my great joys to translate music-related texts. Every once in a while, I also get to translate poetry – perhaps the ultimate test of a translator’s skill.

Once in a blue moon, I get to translate poetry as part of a classical CD liner note text, in essence combining my three great loves: music, poetry, and translation.

And so I present my translation of ”Beau Soir” by 19th-century French poet Paul Bourget, which was set to music by a very young Claude Debussy.  

Beau Soir

Lorsque au soleil couchant les rivières sont roses
Et qu'un tiède frisson court sur les champs de blé,
Un conseil d'être heureux semble sortir des choses
Et monter vers le coeur troublé.

Un conseil de goûter le charme d'être au monde
Ce pendant qu'on est jeune et que le soir est beau,
Car nous nous en allons, comme s'en va cette onde:
Elle à la mer, nous au tombeau.

Paul Bourget

Beau Soir

When rivers run pink as the sun sets down
And a ripple runs warm over fields of wheat,
An ode to joy rises from all around
And soars to the heart bittersweet.

An ode to taste the charms of life this day
While we are young and the evening abloom,
Because, like that wave, we all make our way:
Rivers to sea, and we to tomb.

Paul Bourget
English translation © Peter Garner

Here’s Debussy’s song performed by the great Renée Fleming. It’s hard to fathom that Debussy was only about 15 when he composed this.



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