by Victor Marie Hugo (1802 - 1885)
Translation © by Korin Kormick

La captive
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG SPA
Si je n'étais captive,
J'aimerais ce pays,
Et cette mer plaintive,
Et ces champs de maïs,
Et ces astres sans nombre,
Si le long du mur sombre
N'étincelait dans l'ombre
Le sabre des spahis.

Je ne suis point tartare
Pour qu'un eunuque noir
M'accorde ma guitare,
Me tienne mon miroir.
Bien loin de ces Sodomes,
Au pays dont nous sommes,
Avec les jeunes hommes
On peut parler le soir.

[Pourtant j'aime une]1 rive
Où jamais des hivers
Le souffle froid n'arrive
Par les vitraux ouverts.
L'été, la pluie est chaude,
L'insecte verte qui rôde
Luit, vivant émeraude,
Sous les brins d'herbe verts.

Smyrne est une princesse
Avec son beau chapel ;
L'heureux printemps sans cesse
Répond à son appel,
Et, comme un riant groupe
De fleurs dans une coupe,
Dans ses mers se découpe
Plus d'un frais archipel.

J'aime ces tours vermeilles,
Ces drapeaux triomphants,
Ces maisons d'or, pareilles
A des jouets d'enfants ;
J'aime, pour mes pensées
Plus mollement bercées,
Ces tentes balancées
Au dos des éléphants.

Dans ce palais de fées,
Mon cœur, plein de concerts,
Croit, aux voix étouffées
Qui viennent des déserts,
Entendre les génies
Mêler les harmonies
Des chansons infinies
Qu'ils chantent dans les airs!

J'aime de ces contrées
Les doux parfums brûlants,
Sur les vitres dorées
Les feuillages tremblants,
L'eau que la source épanche
Sous le palmier qui penche,
Et la cigogne blanche
Sur les minarets blancs.

J'aime en un lit de mousses
Dire un air espagnol,
Quand mes compagnes douces,
Du pied rasant le sol,
Légion vagabonde
Où le sourire abonde,
Font tournoyer leur ronde
Sous un rond parasol.

Mais surtout, quand la brise
Me touche en voltigeant,
La nuit, j'aime être assise,
Être assise en songeant,
L'œil sur la mer profonde,
Tandis que, pâle et blonde,
La lune ouvre dans l'onde
Son éventail d'argent.

H. Berlioz sets stanzas 1-3, 8, 8, 9
B. Godard sets stanzas 1-3, 9
H. Monpou sets stanzas 1, 3, 6-7, 9
N. Reber sets stanzas 1, 3, 6-7, 9
C. Widor sets stanzas 1-3, 9
C. Bovy-Lysberg sets stanzas 1, 7, 9
F. Pedrell sets stanzas 1, 8, 9
J. Weckerlin sets stanzas 1, 3, 9

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Monpou: "J'aimerais cette"

Authorship

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

  • Also set in Swedish (Svenska), a translation by Anonymous/Unidentified Artist [an adaptation] ; composed by Emil Sjögren.

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

  • ENG English (Korin Kormick) , "The captive", copyright © 2003, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • SPA Spanish (Español) (Pablo Sabat) , copyright © 2019, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 72
Word count: 302

The captive
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
If I were not a captive,
I would like this country,
And this plaintive sea,
And these fields of corn,
And these countless stars,
If along the dark wall
Did not glimmer
The saber of the Spahis.

I am no Tartar
That a black eunuch
Should tune my guitar,
Should hand me my mirror.
Far away from these Sodoms,
In the country where we are,
With the young men
You can speak in the evenings.

Yet I like a riverbank
Where the cold breath
Of the winters never arrive
Through the open windows.
The summer, the rain is warm,
The green insect that wanders
Glistens, a living emerald,
Under the blades of green grass.

Smyrna is a princess
With her beautiful chapel;
The happy spring unceasingly
Responds to her call,
And, like a laughing group
Of flowers in a bowl,
In her seas are outlined
More than one fresh archipelago.

I like these vermilion towers,
These triumphant flags,
These houses of gold, similar
To children's toys;
I like, for my thoughts
More softly cradled,
These tents balanced
On the backs of elephants.

In this fairy palace,
My heart, full of concerts,
Believes, in muffled voices
That come from the deserts,
It hears genies
Blending the harmonies
Of infinite songs
That they sing in the air!

I like the sweet burning perfumes
Of these lands,
On the gilded windows
The trembling foliage,
The water that the spring pours forth
Under the bending palm tree,
And the white stork
On the white minarets.

I like in a bed of froth
To tell a Spanish song,
When my gentle companions,
Feet skimming the ground,
Vagabond legion
Where smiles abound,
Whirl around in circles
Under a round parasol.

But especially, when the breeze
Touches me while fluttering about,
In the night, I like to be sitting,
Sitting while dreaming,
An eye on the deep sea,
While, pale and blonde,
The moon opens in the waves
Her silver fan.

Authorship

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2003 by Korin Kormick, (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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Based on

 

This text was added to the website: 2004-01-22
Line count: 72
Word count: 324