Natural histories

Translations © by Ahmed E. Ismail

Song Cycle by Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)

Word count: 781
Original language: Histoires naturelles
Il va sûrement se marier aujourd'hui.

Ce devait être pour hier. 
En habit de gala, il était prêt.

Il n'attendait que sa fiancée. 
Elle n'est pas venue. 
Elle ne peut tarder.

Glorieux, il se promène 
avec une allure de prince indien 
et porte sur lui les riches présents d'usage.

L'amour avive l'éclat de ses couleurs 
et son aigrette tremble comme une lyre.

La fiancée n'arrive pas.

Il monte au haut du toit 
et regarde du côté du soleil.

Il jette son cri diabolique :

Léon ! Léon !

C'est ainsi qu'il appelle sa fiancée. 
Il ne voit rien venir et personne ne répond. 
Les volailles habituées 
ne lèvent même point la tête. 
Elles sont lasses de l'admirer. 
Il redescend dans la cour, 
si sûr d'être beau 
qu'il est incapable de rancune.

Son mariage sera pour demain.

Et, ne sachant que faire 
du reste de la journée, 
il se dirige vers le perron. 
Il gravit les marches, 
comme des marches de temple, 
d'un pas officiel.

Il relève sa robe 
à queue toute lourde des yeux 
qui n'ont pu se détacher d'elle.

Il répète encore une fois la cérémonie.

Authorship

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

  • ENG English (Ahmed E. Ismail) , "The peacock", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , "Riikinkukko", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Der Pfau", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
by Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
1. The peacock
He surely will be getting married today. 

It should have been yesterday.
Dressed for a gala, he was ready.

He was only waiting for his fiancée.
She didn't come. 
She tarried. 

Magnificent, he strolled
with the allure of an Indian prince 
and brought the customary rich presents. 

Love kindled a burst of colors 
and his aigret quivered like a lyre. 

His fiancée does not arrive.

He climbs to the top of the roof 
and from its edge beholds the sun. 

He sounds his diabolical cry: 

"Leon! Leon!" 

Thus does he call his fiancée.
He sees nothing come, and no one answers. 
The birds, accustomed to this,
do not even raise their head. 
They are bored of admiring him.
He comes down and enters the courtyard, 
so sure of his own beauty 
that he is incapable of rancor. 

His wedding will be tomorrow. 

And, not knowing what to do 
for the rest of the day, 
he heads toward the porch. 
He climbs its stairs, 
like the stairs of the temple, 
with an officious tread. 

He picks up his tailed robe 
so heavy from eyes 
that cannot detach themselves. 

He repeats the ceremony one more time.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2005 by Ahmed E. Ismail, (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: 

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This text was added to the website: 2005-08-24
Line count: 35
Word count: 194

Translation © by Ahmed E. Ismail
2. Le grillon [sung text checked 1 time]
C'est l'heure où, las d'errer, 
l'insecte nègre revient de promenade 
et répare avec soin le désordre de son domaine.

D'abord il ratisse ses étroites allées de sable.

Il fait du bran de scie qu'il écarte 
au seuil de sa retraite.

Il lime la racine de cette grande herbe 
propre à le harceler.

Il se repose.

Puis il remonte sa minuscule montre.

A-t-il fini ? Est-elle cassée ? 
Il se repose encore un peu.

Il rentre chez lui et ferme sa porte.

Longtemps il tourne sa clé 
dans la serrure délicate.

Et il écoute :

Point d'alarme dehors.

Mais il ne se trouve pas en sûreté.

Et comme par une chaînette 
dont la poulie grince, 
il descend jusqu'au fond de la terre.

On n'entend plus rien.

Dans la campagne muette, 
les peupliers se dressent comme des doigts 
en l'air et désignent la lune.

Authorship

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

  • ENG English (Ahmed E. Ismail) , "The cricket", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , "Sirkka", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Die Grille", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
by Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
2. The cricket
It is the hour when, bored with wandering,
the black insect returns to the promenade
and tidies up his domain.

First he rakes his narrow sandy paths. 

He makes sawdust that he piles 
on the threshold of his hideaway. 

He files the root of the tall grass,
appropriate for attacking with. 

He rests. 

Then he mounts once more his minuscule watch.
 
Has he finished? Is it broken? 
He rests again for a little while. 

He returns home and closes his door.
 
A long while he turns the key 
in the delicate lock. 

Then he listens; 

nothing alarming outside. 

But he does not find security. 

And, like a small chain 
whose teeth a pulley gnashes, 
he descends into the depths of the earth. 

He no longer hears anything. 

In the mute countryside, 
the poplars stand erect like fingers in the air, 
pointing toward the moon.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2005 by Ahmed E. Ismail, (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: 

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This text was added to the website: 2005-09-21
Line count: 25
Word count: 144

Translation © by Ahmed E. Ismail
Il glisse sur le bassin, comme un traîneau blanc, 
de nuage en nuage. Car il n'a faim que des nuages floconneux 
qu'il voit naître, bouger, et se perdre dans l'eau.

C'est l'un d'eux qu'il désire. Il le vise du bec, 
et il plonge tout à coup son col vêtu de neige.

Puis, tel un bras de femme sort d'une manche, il retire.

Il n'a rien.

Il regarde : les nuages effarouchés ont disparu.

Il ne reste qu'un instant désabusé, 
car les nuages tardent peu à revenir, et, 
là-bas, où meurent les ondulations de l'eau, 
en voici un qui se reforme.

Doucement, sur son léger coussin de plumes, 
le cygne rame et s'approche...

Il s'épuise à pêcher de vains reflets, 
et peut-être qu'il mourra, victime de cette illusion, 
avant d'attraper un seul morceau de nuage.

Mais qu'est-ce que je dis ?

Chaque fois qu'il plonge, il fouille du bec 
la vase nourrissante et ramène un ver.

Il engraisse comme une oie.

Authorship

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

  • ENG English (Ahmed E. Ismail) , "The swan", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , "Joutsen", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Der Schwan", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
by Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
3. The swan
He glides upon the basin, like a white sleigh, 
from cloud to cloud. For he is hungry only for the snowy clouds 
that he sees born, move, and become lost in the water.
 
He desires to grab one from the waters. He aims with his beak, 
and he plunges suddenly, his flight dressed in snow.

Then like a woman's arm emerging from a sleeve, he withdraws. 

He has nothing. 

He sees: the scared clouds have disappeared. 

He stays disenchanted only a moment, 
for the clouds tarry a little before returning, and, 
over there, where the water's undulations die, 
here is one forming anew. 

Softly, on his little pillow of feathers, 
the swan paddles and approaches. . . . 

He tires himself out fishing for vain reflections, 
and perhaps he will die, victim of this illusion, 
before catching a single piece of cloud. 

But what am I saying? 

Each time he plunges, he digs with his beak 
into nourishing silt and returns with a worm.
 
He fattens himself like a goose.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2005 by Ahmed E. Ismail, (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: 

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This text was added to the website: 2005-08-14
Line count: 21
Word count: 170

Translation © by Ahmed E. Ismail
4. Le martin-pêcheur [sung text checked 1 time]
Ça n'a pas mordu, ce soir,
mais je rapporte une rare émotion. 

Comme je tenais ma perche de ligne tendue, 
un martin-pêcheur est venu s'y poser.

Nous n'avons pas d'oiseau plus éclatant. 
Il semblait une grosse fleur bleue
au bout d'une longue tige. 
La perche pliait sous le poids.  
Je ne respirais plus, tout fier d'être pris 
pour un arbre par un martin-pêcheur.

Et je suis sûr qu'il ne s'est pas envolé de peur,
mais qu'il a cru qu'il ne faisait que passer
d'une branche à une autre.

Authorship

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

  • ENG English (Ahmed E. Ismail) , "The kingfisher", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , "Kuningaskalastaja", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Der Eisvogel", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
by Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
4. The kingfisher
Nothing bit this evening, 
but I felt once more a rare emotion. 

As I held my pole with line out, 
a kingfish landed on it. 

There is no more striking bird. 
It seemed like a giant blue flower 
at the end of a long stem. 
The pole bent under its weight. 
I dared not breathe, proud to have been taken 
for a tree by a kingfisher. 

And I was certain that he did not take off from fear, 
but because he believed he was only passing 
from one branch to another.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2005 by Ahmed E. Ismail, (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: 2005-09-22
Line count: 13
Word count: 91

Translation © by Ahmed E. Ismail
5. La pintade [sung text checked 1 time]
C'est la bossue de ma cour.
Elle ne rêve que plaies à cause de sa bosse.

Les poules ne lui disent rien :
Brusquement, elle se précipite et les harcèle.

Puis elle baisse sa tête, penche le corps,
et, de toute la vitesse de ses pattes maigres,
elle court frapper, de son bec dur,
juste au centre de la roue d'une dinde.
 
Cette poseuse l'agaçait. 

Ainsi, la tête bleuie, ses barbillons à vif,
cocardière, elle rage du matin au soir.
Elle se bat sans motif, 
peut-être parce qu'elle s'imagine 
toujours qu'on se moque de sa taille, 
de son crâne chauve et de sa queue basse. 

Et elle ne cesse de jeter un cri discordant
qui perce l'aire comme un pointe. 

Parfois elle quitte la cour et disparaît.
Elle laisse aux volailles pacifiques 
un moment de répit.
Mais elle revient plus turbulente et plus criarde.
Et, frénétique, elle se vautre par terre.

Qu'a-t'elle donc ?

La sournoise fait une farce. 

Elle est allée pondre son oeuf à la campagne.
 
Je peux le chercher si ça m'amuse.

Et elle se roule dans la poussière comme une bossue.

Authorship

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

  • ENG English (Ahmed E. Ismail) , "The guinea-fowl", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , "Helmikana", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Das Perlhuhn", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
by Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
5. The guinea-fowl
It is my beloved hunchback. 
She only dreams of cankers because of her hump. 

The hens do not speak to her. 
Abruptly, she bolts and attacks. 

Then she lowers her head, bends her body, 
and speeding her skinny legs, 
she strikes quickly with her strong beak,
aiming for a turkey in the middle of the circle. 

That showoff gets on her nerves. 

Thus, with her blue-stained head, its plumage frayed, 
she rages from dawn till dusk. 
She fights without cause, 
perhaps because she imagines 
that she is being mocked because of her size, 
because of her bald head, and her low tail. 

And she continually sounds a discordant cry 
that pierces the air like a knife. 

At times she leaves the courtyard and disappears. 
She gives the peaceful birds 
a moment's respite. 
But she returns, more turbulently and more shrill. 
And, frenetically, she sprawls out on the ground. 

What is she doing? 

The cunning prankster - 

she left to lay an egg in the country. 

I can find it if I choose. 

And she rolls around in the dust like a hunchback.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2005 by Ahmed E. Ismail, (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: 2005-09-22
Line count: 27
Word count: 182

Translation © by Ahmed E. Ismail