by Victor Marie Hugo (1802 - 1885)
Translation © by Peter Low

Dans les ruines d'une abbaye
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG
Seuls, tous deux, ravis, chantants,
   Comme on s'aime;
Comme on cueille le printemps
   Que Dieu sème.

Quels rires étincelants
   Dans ces ombres,
[Pleines jadis]1 de fronts blancs,
   De coeurs sombres.

On est tout frais mariés,
   On s'envoie
Les charmants cris variés
   De la joie!

[Purs ébas]2 mèlés
   Au vent qui frissonne.
Gaîté que le noir couvent

On effeuille des jasmins
   Sur la pierre.
Où l'abbesse joint les mains,
   En prière.

Les tombeaux, de croix marqués,
   Font partie
De ces jeux, un peu piqués
   Par l'ortie.

On se cherche, on se poursuit,
   On sent croître
Ton aube, Amour, dans la nuit
   Du vieux cloître.

On s'en va se becquetant,
   On s'adôre,
On s'embrasse à chaque instant,
   Puis encore,

Sous les piliers, les arceaux,
   Et les marbres,
C'est l'histoire des oiseaux
   Dans les arbres.

G. Fauré sets stanzas 1-5, 7-9

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Fauré: "Jadis pleines"
2 Fauré: "Frais échos"


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 (Peter Low) , "In the ruins of an abbey", copyright © 2001, (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: 36
Word count: 133

In the ruins of an abbey
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
 Alone together, singing, enraptured,
 how we1 love one another!
 We harvest the springtime
 that God sows!

 What sparkling laughter fills
 these shadowy ruins
 which once housed pale foreheads
 and sombre hearts.
 We are newly wed,
 we exchange
 the charming, varied cries
 that spring from joy -

 these fresh echoes mingle
 with the quivering breeze,
 a gaiety to which the dark abbey
 adds zest.

 We pluck petals of jasmine
 on the marble sculpture
 where the abbess holds her hands
 in prayer.

 The tombs, marked by crosses,
 are a part of these games,
 and so are one or two
 stings from nettles.

 We play at hide-and-chase;
 we feel the morning
 of Love grow brighter in the night
 of the old cloister.
 We go along cuddling,
 adoring one another;
 at every moment we kiss,
 and kiss again;

 under the pillars, the arches
 and the statues,
 it's the story
 of the birds and the bees.

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Translator's note: The French pronoun is not the unambiguous "nous". "On" could be spoken either by a participant - and translated "we" - or an observer, in which case the English should be "they".


  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2001 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.

Based on:


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 36
Word count: 152