Monday, May 7, 2012

Poetry Monday: Leo Ferre and Verlaine - where poetry meets music

I've been listening to a lot of poetic music lately. That's not just well written song lyrics, but proper poetry -- the sort designed to be read on its own -- set to music. The results are often exquisite, especially when the performers are able to infuse tremendous understanding and power to the work in their delivery.  Although this isn't new by any means, Leo Ferre's rendition of Verlaine's "Green" is one of those pieces.  Here is a version from YouTube (the visuals don't add anything, but just close your eyes for a moment and let Leo's voice work its magic).  I've also appended the full text of the poem in English translation (unabashedly sentimental, yet beautiful too - with a kind of underlying melancholy) and in the original French below.  

See, blossoms, branches, fruit, leaves I have brought,
And then my heart that for you only sighs;
With those white hands of yours, oh, tear it not,
But let the poor gift prosper in your eyes.

The dew upon my hair is still undried,-
The morning wind strikes chilly where it fell.
Suffer my weariness here at your side
To dream the hour that shall it quite dispel.

Allow my head, that rings and echoes still
With your last kiss, to lie upon your breast,
Till it recover from the stormy thrill,-
And let me sleep a little, since you rest.  

(Translated by Gertrude Hall)

Voici des fruits, des fleurs, des feuilles et des branches
Et puis voici mon coeur qui ne bat que pour vous.
Ne le déchirez pas avec vos deux mains blanches
Et qu'à vos yeux si beaux l'humble présent soit doux.

J'arrive tout couvert encore de rosée
Que le vent du matin vient glacer à mon front.
Souffrez que ma fatigue à vos pieds reposée
Rêve des chers instants qui la délasseront.

Sur votre jeune sein laissez rouler ma tête
Toute sonore encor de vos derniers baisers;
Laissez-la s'apaiser de la bonne tempête,
Et que je dorme un peu puisque vous reposez.


  1. Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the poem. Nicely translated as well -- the translator managed to preserve both the meaning and the rhyme. Who was the translator?

  2. Glad you enjoyed it. The translator is Gertrude Hall and I've added her name in the post(should have credited her from the start!)