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A Selection of French Symbolist Poems
Commissioned for the program
Of a Song Recital at Lincoln Center

Texts for Merkin Recital on April 24, Dana Hanchard, Soprano

Music--Albert Roussel

Henri de Régnier: Wish

I'd like to show your eyes the plains
And a forest green and ruddy,
Far off and soft
Under clear skies on the horizon,
Or some hills
With lovely slopes
So changing and supple and misty,
Seeming to melt in the sweetness of the air,
Either hills
Or forest.
I'd like
For you to hear
Strong, vast, deep, and tender,
The great dull voice of the sea
That moans
Like Love;
And once in a while
Right next to you,
In the interval,
I'd like you to hear
Right next to you
A dove
In the silence
Both soft and weak
Like Love a trifle in the shadows,
I'd like you to hear
The gushing of a spring
For your hands I'd like some flowers,
And for your steps
I'd like a little path, grassy and sandy
Going up a bit and coming down,
Turning and seeming
To approach the limits of silence.
A very little sandy path
Where your steps would leave faint marks,
Our steps

René Chalupt: The Bachelor of Salamanca

Where are you going, you, out strolling so late
Through the deserted streets of Salamanca
With your black peaked cap and your guitar
Hidden beneath your cloak?
Curfew has long ago sounded
And for hours now, in their placid homes,

The bourgeois sleep soundly.
Don't you know that the mayor's decree
Orders imprisonment for all serenaders,
That night thieves will cut off your golden chain,
That the daughter of the Admiral
For whom you fret in vain
Makes fun of you behind her balcony.

Response From a Prudent Wife
(words by H.P. Roch‚ adapted from Chang-Chi)

Kind sir, although you know my married state,
You have sent two precious pearls to me,
I understand your love, and so I placed them
stiffly on the silk of my dress.
For my house is one of high descent,
My husband a captain in the King's Guard.
And a man like you should really say:
"The bonds of a wife are not unbound."
With your two pearls I send you back two tears,
Two tears that I did not know you sooner.

René Dommange: Jazz in the Night

The dance, on the flaming park casts its multi-
colored flowers, the trees are singed,
irradiated, and the sonorous roaring of
crazed and homesick blacks

Nervous tangos, harsh brass, choke the soft
rustling of satin that paws the grass.

What exhausted smiles, by the shadow
of complicit copses, beneath the
surprise of kisses
consent and swoon. a saxophone
weeping long and very tender
plaints, sooths with its breathless
rhythm the excitement of furtive

Passer-by, pick up this handkerchief, fallen
from a warm bosom this evening,
hidden under the ivy.

Two red lips signed it in the make-up
of their cool design, delivering up
its secrets for you , the perfume of
a naked throat and the mouth of
an unknown woman.

Music: Francis Poulenc

Three poems by Louise Vilmorin

The Boy from Liège*

A fairy tale boy
Gave me a great bourgeois greeting,
Right in the wind, near a path,
Standing, under the tree of Justice.
The late autumn birds
Were doing their thing, despite the rain.
And caught by my unreason,
I dared to tell him: I am bored.
Without saying a soft liar's word,
By evening, in my room of sadness,
He came to comfort my wanness.
His shadow made me promises.
But he was a boy from Liège
So light and fickle like the wind,
He is not snared by any trap
And runs over the plains in fair weather.
And in my night-shirt,
Since then, when I wanted to laugh,
Ah! fair young man I am bored,
Ah! in my shirt turned shroud.

*Translator's Note: Punningly, the title could
also be understood as "The Boy of Cork."


Strong spirits! Spirit me beyond!
At pleasure's hour,
There's no betrayal in choosing,
I choose that man there,
Who knows how to make me laugh,
With one finger here, another there,
Just as with typing.
He goes here, he goes there
Without my needing to tell him,
I really like that game.
I really like that game,
That a breath draws to a close,
Until the final sigh,
That's the game I choose.
Strong spirits! Spirit me beyond!
At pleasure's hour,
There's no betrayal in choosing,
I choose that game.

To the Officers of the White Guard

Officers of the White Guard,
Protect me from certain thoughts by night,
Protect me from bodily combat and the resting
Of a hand on my hips.
Protect me especially from him
Who draws me away by the sleeves
Towards the challenge of full hands,
And the shifting places of shining water.
Spare me the stormy torments
Of loving him one day more deeply than today,
And the clamminess of expectation
That will imprint on window panes and doors
My profile of a lady long dead.
Officers of the White Guard,
I don't want to weep for him
On earth, I want to weep as the rain
On his earth, on his star adorned with boxwood
When later I will float, transparent,
Above the hundred stages of boredom.
Officers of pure conscience,
You who make faces beautiful,
Trust in space, by the flight of birds,
A message for those who seek out standards,
And forge for us seamless chains.

Melodies to the poetry of Jean Cocteau
Music: Maurice Delage

Sobre las Olas (On the Waves)

The boys in striped knitware
make the waves sprout--is it a storm?
Everything coos and the bathing girl
consults the mirror of the skies
Waltz, emerald carriages
As a rosebush swells its sides
Once more on the merry-go-round
Spring at the bottom of the sea.

Music: Georges Auric


Grave mouths of lions
Sinuous smiling of young crocodiles
Along the river's water conveying millions
Isles of spice
How lovely he is, the son
Of the widowed queen
And the sailor
The handsome sailor abandons a siren,
Her widow's lament at the south of the islet
It's Diana of the barracks yard
Too short a dream
Dawn and lanterns barely extinguished
We are awakening
A tattered fanfare

Music: Francis Poulenc


 Pepita queen of Venice
When you go beneath your shutter
All gondoliers call out:
Watch out--Toreador!
No one rules your heart
In the grand palace where you sleep
And near you the old duenna lies in waiting
for the Toreador.
Toreador, bravest of the brave
When in Piazza San Marco
The wild, slobbering bull
Falls slain by your blade
It is not pride that caresses
Your heart beneath your golden cape
It is for a young goddess
That your passion burns, toreador.


Lovely Spanish girl
In your gondola
Dancing and prancing
Under your mantilla
Sparkling eyes
Shining mouth
That's Pepita

Tomorrow is St. Escurio's Day,
With its combat to the death
The canal is full of sails
Celebrating the Toreador
More than one Venetian beauty
Trembles to know your fate
But you despise all their laces—you suffer—
Since not seeing her appear
Hidden behind an orange tree,
Pepita alone at her window
You think about vengeance.
Under your caftan slips your dagger
Jealousy gnaws at your heart
And alone with the noise of the waves
You weep toreador.

So many horsemen! so great a crowd!
Filling the arena to its limits
From a hundred leagues people keep coming
To cheer you—Toreador!
And so he enters the arena
With more composure than a lord
But he can scarcely walk, the poor
His gloomy dream contains no more
Than to die before the eyes of all
As he feels the piercing of those horns
Within his sad, troubled brow
He sees Pepita sitting there,
Offering her gaze and her body
To the oldest doge of Venice
Laughing at the toreador.

Music: Darius Milhaud

Soft Caramel

Take a young girl.
Fill her with ice and gin
shake it all up to make it androgynous
And return her to her family
Hello, hello, operator don't cut me off
Ah! how sad it is to be the king of animals,
Nobody says a word
Oh! Love is the worst of evils
Take a young girl,
Fill her with ice and gin
Put a slight drop of angostura on her mouth
I knew a man very unhappy in love
Who played Chopin's nocturnes on the drum
Hello, hello, operator don't cut me off
I was talking to....I was talking to the....hello, hello?
Nobody says a word.
—don't you find that art is a bit.....
We tell children wash your hands
We don't tell 'em wash your teeth.....
Soft caramel--

Music: Claude Debussy

Three Poems by Stephane Mallarmé


Towards your brow my soul oh gentle sister,
where there dreams
An autumn strewn with ruddy streaks
And towards the wandering sky of your
angelic eye
Climbs upward, as in a melancholy garden,
Faithful, a white spray of water sighing
towards the sky!
Towards a sky softened by pure and
pale October
That reflects its infinite languor in great
formal pools
And deigns, on the stagnant water where the
tawny agony
Of the leaves wanders with the wind and hollows
out a frigid furrow,
To be drawn away by the tall beam of the
yellow sun.

Futile Petition

Princess! to envy the fate of a Hebe
Who appears on this porcelain cup at a kiss
from your lips,
I enjoy my passion but have no rank
other than priest
And I shall scarcely be shown naked on pottery.
As I am not your furry lapdog,
Neither rouge, nor clever games
And I feel your close glance falling on me,

Blonde whose divine coiffeurs are goldsmiths!
Name whose raspberry laughter
Is joined in a flock of tamed lambs
Grazing on vows and bleating to their
heart's content,
Name that Love with fanlike wings
Combs me, fingering his flute, as I slumber
in the sheepfold,
Princess, name us shepherd of your smiles.


Oh dreaming lady, let me plunge
Into pure and pathless delight,
Invent a gentle lie,
To keep my wing in your hand.
A twilight coolness
Comes over you with each pulsation
Of the fan whose captive blow delicately,
Displaces the horizon.
Dizziness! how space shivers
Like an enormous kiss
That, madly wanting to be born,
Cannot burst forth nor find its peace.
Do you feel the sullen paradise
Like laughter wearing shrouds
Flowing up from the corner of your mouth
At the back of the unanimous furrow!
The scepter of pink embankments
Inert on golden evenings, this is it
This closed white flight that you interpose
Against the fire of a bangle

Erik Satie


Song of the Rat

Abi Abirounère
Whose gift were you not?
A white amoeba
A pret
A pretty gollifon
An eye
An eye on his grampa
A pret
A pretty gollifon


In an old public garden where the ocean
Plumps its rump in bad weather
On a sad bench with eyes of rain
It's a blond
bitchy and plump
Whom you miss
In this nightclub of Nothingness
What's our life?

The American Frog

The Amurrican frog
Looks at me above
His plush glasses
its eyes are massive punch bowls
Deprived of namelessness.
I think of Casadésus
Who made no music
About this love scene
Whose nostalgic perfume
Comes out of a nightclub of Love.
The Argus of this table, you hold
The soul of Vanglor the toad,
Oh broths looking at me
With your golden glasses.....

Song of the Poet

In the land of Not-Louse-Poesia
I caressed Louse-Poesia,
The favor that I wish you
Is not to be a Not-Louse-Poet.

Song of the Cat

It's an itty baby boy
Cute lil baby Tirelan
It's such an icky
The beastie at its mamma Tirelan
The icky baby fawn a bitty whitey white
A little snoggle
It's my dirty piglet, it's my porklet.
my little snoggle
he leaps on the window
And shakes it by the muzzle Tirelo
Because he sees on the crest
Birds in relief Tirelo
Icky one doesn't need them, it's an itty blo-blo
A little snoggly
It's my piglet, it's my porklet.
my little grindlet.

Yvette Guilbert/Paul Kock

I Get All Muddled

My god, how lucky people are
Who can actually write their memoirs.
Me, even if I wanted, I couldn't
Ever recall all my adventures.

I'm not even thirty yet,
My memory has already turned rusty.
When I want to talk of my lovers,
I don't know why, I get all muddled.

But I still remember quite well
That I lost my cherry while gathering grapes:
My first lover had nothing,
But he was lovely as an angel;
My second was an actor
Stupid as a pumpkin;
My third was a postman
no, that's not right, I get all muddled.

What was his name, that sly one,
That Englishman so very restrained
Who never laughed even once,
As he ate up his fortune with me.
And that Italian without a care,
That Belgian with eyes like a frog
A little Russian I also remember
But their names, oh well, it's all muddled

A child as lovely as love
Calls me his aunt for a reason
He'll know his mother one day.....
As for his father that's quite different.
How can one recognize the author
Of that child now babbling away?
He came from one of my admirers,
But which one, that's where I get all muddled.

Madame Arthur

Madame Arthur is a woman
Who made herself mentioned for a long time.
With no newspapers, no nothing, no advertising,
She had a whole string of lovers.

Each desired her love,
Each one courted her--why?
Without being truly beautiful,
She had a je ne sais quoi
Her figure was quite ordinary,
Her eyes small but seductive
Her nose stuck up, her voice clear,
Her feet well-set and lively.
But from simply looking at her
Nothing struck you with excitement:
But from behind her shape
Promised a je ne sais quoi.

You had to see her dancing;
With her unrivalled charm.
Her movements, her rhythm
She was the Queen of the ball.
The gentleman opposite her
Would grow all red with excitement
When gracefully lifting her skirt
He saw her je ne sais quoi
So what did this lady live on?
Having so many servants at home,
Running from the opera to the theater,
And dining out each evening, so they say.
And in real life she saw
Her rent coming due without terror.
For by then her landlord
Admired her je ne sais quoi.

Vincent Scotto/G. Koger/ H. Varna

I Have Two Loves*

Beyond the seas down there, they say that
under clear skies,
There exists a city where enchantment dwells
And under huge black trees,
Each evening all my hope goes out
in its direction.


I have two loves, my country and Paris,
My heart is always overwhelmed by them.
My plains are lovely, but why bother denying,
What bewitches me is Paris, all of Paris.
To see it one day is my fondest dream,
I have two loves, my country and Paris.

When I sometimes see far off along the bank
A ocean liner headed toward Paris, I stretch
out my arms!
And my heart beating with excitement, with
muted voice
Softly I say: "Carry me away!"

*Translator's Note: This song was made
famous by the American singer Josephine Baker.

C. Oberfeld

In the Depths of Your Eyes

When we love tenderly
We can easily say nothing to one another
To know what you desire
I simply look at you

In the depths of your eyes
Which are softer than a caress
I can guess more than you think, my darling
In your laughing glance
Despite you I've understood quite well
That most of all
You need much tenderness

In the depths of your eyes
Which I contemplate with rapture
If I see a bit of sorrow
And even great regret
My arms become more coaxing
You snuggle up and suddenly
In the depths of your eyes
I see that you are happier

Why would words a hundred times repeated
Come to disturb our silence?
Don't tell me your secrets--
Look at me, that's enough

N.H. Brown

I'm Looking for a Millionaire

I'm looking for a millionaire
A trendy type who'd take me in
At least once a month
I'm looking for a millionaire
Who would tell me coolly
"Everything I've got is yours"
I'm looking for a millionaire
To have fun like the stars
To eat lobsters
I'm looking for a millionaire
That's why I stroll the boulevard

It's easy to be chic
When you've got a lot of dough,
It's easy to get away with things
When you're well heeled
And you don't have to bother counting
I'm looking for a millionaire
Because I know that rare birds
Want to invest their dollars
I'm looking for a millionaire
That's why I stroll the boulevard

"I am that millionaire
Who coolly tells you
Everything I've got is yours
I am that millionaire"
"You look just like a gigolo"
"But I just scored big at the lottery"
"Okay, dear millionaire,
Do I really have to handle your caresses?
Young fellow, I really like you
Sit down. closer, even closer, there,
Look at me straight in the eyes,
Now, kiss me,
Harder, even harder,
There, a cannibal kiss—Oh.....that's it!

This gentle millionaire
Truly has all the qualities
That could make me happy
With this millionaire
I'm sure we wouldn't get bored.

This translation is Copyright © 1994
by Alexander Gross. Individual poems
may be reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. They may
not be used for any commercial (i.e.,
money-making) purpose without
written permission from the author.

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