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 in French poems, it becomes even more so. 

This is why the French have 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 of the poem
  • its English translation
  • you can also listen to the poem being narrated in an embedded video.
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    You can also download a pdf copy of all five poems by clicking the button below.

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 narration of this poem below.

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 sous
Le 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 va
Comme 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

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Mirabeau Bridge
Translated by Richard Wilbur

Under the Mirabeau Bridge
there flows the Seine
And 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 underneath
The 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 stay

All love goes by as water to the sea
All love goes by
How 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 poem here:

 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 French 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'Éternité.
C'est la mer allée
Avec le soleil.

Âme sentinelle,
Murmurons l'aveu
De la nuit si nulle
Et 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'Éternité.
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 confession
Of the empty night
And 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.

Here's the poem if you want to listen.

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 closes
Que les noeuds trop serrés n'ont pu les contenir.

Les noeuds ont éclaté. Les roses envolées

Dans 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 sash
That 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.

You can 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!

You can listen to the poem here:

Conclusion

 You've just gone through five examples of French poetry. 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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