Songs of Madagascar

Translations © by Peter Low

Song Cycle by Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)

Word count: 469
Original language: Chansons madécasses
1. Nahandove [sung text checked 1 time]
Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove !
L'oiseau nocturne a commencé ses cris,
la pleine lune brille sur ma tête,
et la rosée naissante humecte mes cheveux.
Voici l'heure ; qui peut t'arrêter,
Nahahndove, ô belle Nahandove !
 
  Le lit de feuilles est préparé ;
je l'ai parsemé de fleurs et d'herbes odoriférantes ;
il est digne de tes charmes,
Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove !
 
  Elle vient. J'ai reconnu la respiration
précipitée que donne une marche rapide ;
j'entends le froissement de la pagne qui l'enveloppe ;
c'est elle, c'est Nahandove, la belle Nahandove !
 
  Reprends haleine, ma jeune amie ;
repose-toi sur mes genoux.
Que ton regard est enchanteur !
Que le mouvement de ton sein est vif et délicieux
sous la main qui le presse !  Tu souris,
Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove !
 
  Tes baisers pénètrent jusqu'à l'âme ;
tes caresses brûlent tous mes sens ;
arrête, ou je vais mourir.
Meurt-on de volupté,
Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove !
 
Le plaisir passe comme un éclair.
Ta douce haleine s'affaiblit,
tes yeux humides se referment,
ta tête se penche mollement,
et tes transports s'éteignent dans la langueur.
Jamais tu ne fus si belle,
Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove !
 
  [Que le sommeil est délicieux
dans les bras d’une maîtresse!
moins délicieux pourtant que le réveil.]1
Tu pars, et je vais languir dans les regrets et les désirs.
Je languirai jusqu'au soir.
Tu reviendras ce soir,
Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove !

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Peter Low) , "Nahandove", copyright © 2002, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

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Confirmed with Chansons madecasses: tr. en françois, suivies de Poésies fugitives par M. le Chevalier de P . . . ., Londres: Chez Hardouin et Gattey, MDCCLXXXVII , pages 27-29

1 omitted by Ravel.

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]
1. Nahandove
Nahandove, oh beautiful Nahandove! 
The night bird has begun to sing,
the full moon shines overhead, 
and the first dew is moistening my hair.
Now is the time: who can be delaying you? 
Oh beautiful Nahandove!

The bed of leaves is ready; 
I have strewn flowers and aromatic herbs;
it is worthy of your charms, 
oh beautiful Nahandove!

She is coming. I recognise the rapid breathing 
of someone walking quickly; 
I hear the rustle of her skirt. 
It is she, it is the beautiful Nahandove!

Catch your breath, my young sweetheart; 
rest on my lap.  
How enchanting your gaze is, 
how lively and delightful the motion of your breast 
as my hand presses it!  
You smile, oh beautiful Nahandove!

Your kisses reach into my soul; 
your caresses burn all my senses. 
Stop or I will die! 
Can one die of ecstasy? 
Oh beautiful Nahandove!

Pleasure passes like lightning; 
your sweet breathing becomes calmer,
your moist eyes close again, 
your head droops, 
and your raptures fade into weariness. 
Never were you so beautiful, 
oh beautiful Nahandove!




Now you are leaving, and I will languish in sadness and desires.
I will languish until sunset. 
You will return this evening, 
oh beautiful Nahandove!

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2002 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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This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 36
Word count: 200

Translation © by Peter Low
[Méfiez-vous]1 des blancs, 
habitants du rivage.
Du temps de nos pères, 
des blancs descendirent dans cette île ; 
on leur dit: Voilà des terres, 
que vos femmes les cultivent. 
Soyez justes, soyez bons, 
et devenez nos frères.

Les blancs promirent, et cependant 
ils faisaient des retranchements. 
Un fort menaçant s'éleva ;
le tonnerre fut renfermé
dans des bouches d'airain ;
leurs prêtres voulurent nous donner
un Dieu que nous ne connaissons pas ;
ils parlèrent enfin
d'obéissance et d'esclavage:
Plutôt la mort !
Le carnage fut long et terrible ;
mais, malgré la foudre qu'ils vormissaient,
et qui écrasait des armées entières,
ils furent tous exterminés. 
[Méfiez-vous]1 des blancs!

Nous avons vu de nouveaux tyrans,
plus forts et plus nombreaux,
planter leur pavillon sur le rivage:
le ciel a combattu pour nous;
il a fait tomber sur eux les pluies,
les tempêtes et les vents empoisonnés.
Ils ne sont plus, et nous vivons libres.
[Méfiez-vous]1 des blancs,
habitants du rivage.

Authorship

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Peter Low) , "Awa!", copyright © 2002, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Some missing text provided by Don Hulbert. Note: this is a block of prose in the original; the line-breaks are arbitrary.
Ravel: "Aoua! Aoua! Méfiez-vous"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
2. Awa!
Awa!  Awa!  Do not trust the white men,
you shore-dwellers!
In our fathers' day,
white men came to this island. 
"Here is some land," they were told, 
"your women may cultivate it.
Be just, be kind,
and become our brothers."

The whites promised, and all the while
they were making entrenchments.
They built a menacing fort,
and they held thunder captive 
in brass cannon;
their priests tried to give us
a God we did not know;
and later they spoke
of obedience and slavery. 
Death would be preferable! 
The carnage was long and terrible;
but despite their vomiting thunder
which crushed whole armies,
they were all wiped out. 
Awa!  Awa!  Do not trust the white men!

We saw new tyrants,
stronger and more numerous,
pitching tents on the shore. 
Heaven fought for us.
It caused rain, tempests
and poison winds to fall on them. 
They are dead, and we live free!
Awa! Awa!  Do not trust the white men,
you shore-dwellers!

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2002 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: 

Based on


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 32
Word count: 161

Translation © by Peter Low
3. Il est doux [sung text checked 2 times]
 Il est doux de se coucher, durant la chaleur, sous un arbre touffu, et
d'attendre que le vent du soir amène la fraîcheur.

 Femmes, approchez. Tandis que je me repose ici sous un arbre touffu, occupez
mon oreille par vos accents prolongés. Répétez la chanson
de la jeune fille, lorsque ses doigts tressent la natte ou lorsqu'assise
auprès du riz, elle chasse les oiseaux avides.

 Le chant plaît à mon âme. La danse est pour moi presque
aussi douce qu'un baiser. Que vos pas soient lents; qu'ils imitent les
attitudes du plaisir et l'abandon de la volupté.

 Le vent du soir se lève; la lune commence à briller au travers
des arbres de la montagne. Allez, et préparez le repas.

Authorship

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Peter Low) , "It is sweet", copyright © 2002, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
3. It is sweet
     It is sweet in the hot afternoon to lie under a leafy tree and wait
for the evening breeze to bring coolness.

     Come, women! While I rest here under a leafy tree, fill my ears with
your sustained tones.  Sing again the song of the girl plaiting her hair,
or the girl sitting near the ricefield chasing away the greedy birds.

     Singing pleases my soul; and dancing is nearly as sweet as a kiss.
Tread slowly, and make your steps suggest the postures of pleasure and
ecstatic abandonment.

    The breeze is starting to blow; the moon glistens through the mountain
trees.  Go and prepare the evening meal.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2002 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: 

Based on


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 10
Word count: 108

Translation © by Peter Low