5 Lovely French Poems with English Translations - Talk in French
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5 Lovely French Poems with English Translations

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The French language is beautiful, but when strung together to paint lovely pictures and create lyrical melodies, it becomes even more so. Which is why the French has always been immensely proud of its poésie (poetry), and the enduring works of great masters such as Victor Hugo, Pierre de Ronsard, Alphonse de Lamartine, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and many others continue to be read today.

French poetry covers a lot of topics, from the blissful heights of love to the depths of melancholy and despair it brings. But regardless of whether it talks about the profound or the mundane, French poems evoke a lot of emotions through the use of carefully expressed words that capture different thoughts and moments.

Here in this article, we will be sharing with you five beautiful poems from great French poets. You’ll find:

  • the French version
  • its English translation
  • you can also listen to the poem being narrated in an embedded video.
  • At the end of this article download pdf copy of all five poems.

So without much ado, let’s take a look at these lovely poems. You can enjoy this alone or share this with your loved ones, too! Remember, no one is immune from French poetry 😉

1. Victor Hugo – Demain, dès l’aube

 

Our first poem is from Victor Hugo, one of the best-known French writers. Demain, dès l’aube which means Tomorrow, at dawn, is a short and poignant poem about his visit to his daughter’s grave. The poem was first released in 1856 in Hugo’s collection called Les Contemplations.

 

Demain, dès l’aube
Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,

Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,

Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,

Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe

Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Tomorrow, at dawn
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,I will depart. You see, I know you wait for me.I will go through the forest and over the mountains.I cannot stay far from you any longer.
I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts,Ignoring everything around me, without hearing a sound,

Alone, unknown, back stooped, hands crossed,

Saddened, and the day will be like night for me.
I will neither see the golden glow of the falling evening,

Nor the sails going down to Harfleur in the distance,

And when I arrive, I will place on your tomb

A bouquet of green holly and flowering heather.

 

You can listen to the poem being narrated in this video:

2. Guillaume Apollinaire – Le Pont Mirabeau

 

Le Pont Mirabeau talks about lost love by likening it to the flow of the river Seine under the Mirabeau bridge in Paris.  This poem was first released in 1912 and re-released in 1913 in Guillaume Apollinaire’s collection called Alcools. Today, you can see a plaque containing the first part of the poem on a wall in Le Pont Mirabeau in Paris, overlooking the Louis Bleriot quay.

Plaque_Sous_le_pont_Mirabeau_coule_la_Seine,_Paris_16

Via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Le Pont Mirabeau

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Et nos amours

Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne

La joie venait toujours après la peine.

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure

Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face

Tandis que sousLe pont de nos bras passe

Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure

Les jours s’en vont je demeure

L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante

L’amour s’en vaComme la vie est lente

Et comme l’Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure

Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines

Ni temps passé

Ni les amours reviennent

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Mirabeau Bridge – Translated by Richard Wilbur

Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the SeineMust

I recall

Our loves recall how then

After each sorrow joy came back again

Let night come on bells end the day

The days go by me still I stay

Hands joined and face to face let’s stay just so

While underneathThe bridge of our arms shall go

Weary of endless looks the river’s flow

Let night come on bells end the day

The days go by me still I stayAll love goes by as water to the sea

All love goes byHow slow life seems to me

How violent the hope of love can be

Let night come on bells end the day

The days go by me still I stay

The days the weeks pass by beyond our ken

Neither time past

Nor love comes back again

Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine

Let night come on bells end the day

The days go by me still I stay

Listen to the narrated poem below.

 

This poem has been turned into a song many times over, with different artists adding their own brand of music into the poem. One of those songs is this version by Marc Lavoine which you can also listen to in this link.

3. Arthur Rimbaud – L’Eternité

 

This next poem is from one of the works of Arthur Rimbaud. This poem is rather thin in appearance but quite profound in meaning. But whether you choose to dissect the thought behind its words or simply enjoy the words as it is, there is definitely something about this poem that tugs at one’s heartstrings.

 

L’Eternité
Elle est retrouvée.Quoi?—L’Eternité.C’est la mer alléeAvec le soleil.
Ame sentinelle,Murmurons l’aveuDe la nuit si nulleEt du jour en feu.
Des humains suffrages,

Des communs élans

Là tu te dégages

Et voles selon.
Puisque de vous seules,

Braises de satin,

Le Devoir s’exhale

Sans qu’on dise: enfin.
Là pas d’espérance,

Nul orietur.

Science avec patience,

Le supplice est sûr.
Elle est retrouvée.

Quoi?—L’Eternité.

C’est la mer allée

Avec le soleil.

Eternity
It has been rediscovered.What? Eternity.It is the sea fled with the sun.
Sentinel soul,We whisper confessionOf the empty nightAnd the fiery day.
From human prayers,From common spirits

You free yourself

And thus you fly.
Since from you alone,

Satin embers,

Duty breathes

No one says: at last.
No hope here,

No emergence.

Knowledge with patience,

Torment is certain.

 

It has been rediscovered.

What? Eternity.

It is the sea fled 

with the sun.

 

Listen to the poem here:

4. Marceline Desbordes-Valmore – Les Roses de Saadi

 

Les Roses de Saadi is one of the most known works of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and was published posthumously in 1860. Short, sweet, and somewhat nostalgic, it is up to the reader to decide if it is a love poem or not, or if should be taken for its obvious interpretation or to look for hidden meanings.

Desbordes-Valmore, however, is known for her straightforward poems laced with melancholy and sorrowful mourning.

 

Les Roses de Saadi
J’ai voulu ce matin te rapporter des roses;Mais j’en avais tant pris dans mes ceintures closesQue les noeuds trop serrés n’ont pu les contenir.
Les noeuds ont éclaté. Les roses envoléesDans le vent, à la mer s’en sont toutes allées.Elles ont suivi l’eau pour ne plus revenir.
La vague en a paru rouge et comme enflammée.Ce soir, ma robe encore en est toute embaumée . . .

Respires-en sur moi l’odorant souvenir.

The Roses of Saadi
I wanted to bring you roses this morning;But I had closed so many in my sashThat the knots were too tight to contain them.
The knots split. The roses blew away.All blew off to the sea, borne by the wind,Carried to the water, never to return.
The waves looked red as if inflamed.Tonight, my dress is still perfumed.

Breathe in the fragrant memory.

 

Listen to the poem here.

5. Jules Laforgue – Triste, Triste

 

Our final poem is another one that expresses sorrow.The title itself means “Sad, Sad” and this work by French symbolist poet Jules Laforgue is all about contemplating sadness in life. When you’re down and troubled and need a sorrowful yet beautiful French poem to keep you company, look no further.

 

Triste, Triste
Je contemple mon feu. J’étouffe un bâillement.Le vent pleure. La pluie à ma vitre ruisselle.Un piano voisin joue une ritournelle.Comme la vie est triste et coule lentement.Je songe à notre Terre, atome d’un moment,Dans l’infini criblé d’étoiles éternelles,Au peu qu’ont déchiffré nos débiles prunelles,

Au Tout qui nous est clos inexorablement.
Et notre sort! toujours la même comédie,

Des vices, des chagrins, le spleen, la maladie,

Puis nous allons fleurir les beaux pissenlits d’or.
L’Univers nous reprend, rien de nous ne subsiste,

Cependant qu’ici-bas tout continue encor.

Comme nous sommes seuls! Comme la vie est triste!

Sad, Sad
I contemplate my fire. I stifle a yawn.The wind weeps. The rain streams against my window.Next door a piano plays a ritornello.How sad is life and how slowly it flows.I sing to our earth, atom of a moment,In the infinite screen of eternal stars,To the few that have deciphered our feeble eyes,

To all that is inexorably closed to us.
And our type! Always the same comedy,

Vices, griefs, melancholy, sickness,

And then we make lovely golden dandelions blossom.
The universe reclaims us, nothing of ours endures,

Nevertheless let everything down here continue again.

How alone we are! How sad is life!

 

Listen to the poem here:

 

 

Which one is your favorite? Remember, you can download a copy of these poems in PDF format when you subscribe to the newsletter by clicking the photo below.


About the Author Frederic

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +

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  • Holly Davis says:

    Oh, I loved them all, Frederic! I am a singer who loves to sing in French and this is why! I had to read them all aloud so I felt like I was singing. Merci!

  • Indira MAJUMDAR says:

    Thank you for the site. It will benefit french learners immensely…Reading poetry is one of my passions and you have published the poems we read in our University days as beginners and and later as advanced learners…They are timeless…I read them even now to relax my mind and more I read now at my advanced age more I approach profundity…. All I can say Vive la France et ses poesies…Thank you truly…Indira Majumdar.

  • Yvonne says:

    I really enjoyed reading these today, Frederic. Thanks for posting!

  • Jayita Mazumdar says:

    Love them all.

  • Testimony says:

    Je suis tres contente avec ce que j’ai vu ici,ca m’a aide beaucoup.merci

  • Francine Sidler says:

    I am looking for a translation in English of Pierre Racine’s Poem “Stances à la Marquise” as I would like some of my English friends to discover it. I haven’t found anything in Internet yet.

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