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Songs of Bilitis

Word count: 356

Song Cycle by Claude Achille Debussy (1862 - 1918)

Original language: Chansons de Bilitis

1. The pan-pipes

Language: English after the French (Français)

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2000 by Peter Low, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

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 For the festival of Hyacinthus
 he gave me a syrinx, a set of pipes made
 from well-cut reeds joined
 with the white wax
 that is sweet to my lips like honey.
 
 He is teaching me to play, as I sit on his knees;
 but I tremble a little.
 He plays it after me, so softly
 that I can scarcely hear it.
 
 We are so close that we have
 nothing to say to one another;
 but our songs want to converse,
 and our mouths are joined
 as they take turns on the pipes.
 
 It is late:
 here comes the chant of the green frogs,
 which begins at dusk.
 My mother will never believe
 I spent so long 
 searching for my lost waistband.


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2. The hair

Language: English after the French (Français)

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2000 by Peter Low, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

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He told me: "Last night I had a dream.
Your hair was around my neck,
it was like a black necklace
round my nape and on my chest.

"I was stroking your hair, and it was my own;
thus the same tresses joined us forever,
with our mouths touching,
just as two laurels often have only one root.

"And gradually I sensed,
since our limbs were so entwined, 
that I was becoming you
and you were entering me like my dream."

When he'd finished, 
he gently put his hands on my shoulders, 
and gazed at me so tenderly 
that I lowered my eyes, quivering.


IMPORTANT NOTE: The material directly above is protected by copyright and appears here by special permission. If you wish to copy it and distribute it, you must obtain permission or you will be breaking the law. Once you have permission, you must give credit to the author and display the copyright symbol ©. Copyright infringement is a criminal offense under international law.

3. The tomb of the water-nymphs

Language: English after the French (Français)

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2000 by Peter Low, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

    Contact:

    licenses (AT) lieder (DOT) net
    (licenses at lieder dot net)



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 I was walking along in the frost-covered woods;
 in front of my mouth
 my hair blossomed in tiny icicles,
 and my sandals were heavy 
 with muddy caked snow.
 
 He asked: "What are you looking for?"
 "I'm following the tracks of the satyr -
 his little cloven hoofprints alternate 
 like holes in a white cloak."
 He said: "The satyrs are dead.
 
 "The satyrs are dead, and the nymphs too.
 In thirty years there has not been such a terrible winter.  
 That's the trail of a he-goat.  
 But let's pause here, where their tomb is."
 
 With his hoe he broke the ice 
 of the spring where the water-nymphs used to laugh.
 There he was, picking up large cold slabs of ice,
 lifting them toward the pale sky,
 and peering through them.


IMPORTANT NOTE: The material directly above is protected by copyright and appears here by special permission. If you wish to copy it and distribute it, you must obtain permission or you will be breaking the law. Once you have permission, you must give credit to the author and display the copyright symbol ©. Copyright infringement is a criminal offense under international law.

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