by Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
Translation © by Ahmed E. Ismail

Le cygne
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG FIN GER
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.


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

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]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 21
Word count: 160

The swan
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
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.


  • 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.

Based on


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