by Pierre de Ronsard (1524 - 1585)
Translation © by David Wyatt

Pour boire dessus l'herbe tendre
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG GER
Pour boire dessus l'herbe tendre
Je veux sous un laurier m'étendre,
Et veux qu'Amour, d'un petit brin
Ou de lin ou de chènevière
[Trousse au flanc]1 sa robe légère,
[Et, mi-nue,]2 me verse du vin.

[L'incertaine vie]3 de l'homme
De jour en jour se roule comme
Aux rives se roulent les flots :
Puis après notre heure dernière
Rien [de nous ne]4 reste en la bière
[Qu'une vieille carcasse d'os]5.

Je [ne]6 veux, selon la coutume,
Que d'encens ma tombe on parfume,
Ni qu'on y verse des odeurs ;
Mais [tandis] que je suis envie,
J'ai de me parfumer envie,
Et de me couronner de fleurs7,

De moi-même je me veux faire
L'héritier pour me satisfaire ;
Je ne veux vivre pour autrui.
Fol le Pélican qui se blesse
Pour les siens, et fol qui se laisse
Pour les siens travailler d'ennui.

T. Gouvy sets stanzas 1-3

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Gouvy: "Relève"
2 Gouvy: "Et gaiment"
3 Gouvy: "La vie incertaine"
4 Gouvy: "ne nous"
5 Gouvy: "Que la poussière de nos os"
6 omitted by Gouvy.
7 Gouvy adds here:
Qu'on verse des odeurs !
Qu'on me qouronne de fleurs !


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 (David Wyatt) , "To drink upon the tender grass", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Linda Godry) (Heide Wiesner) , "Ein Glas auf weichem Gras zu trinken", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2011-06-03
Line count: 24
Word count: 142

To drink upon the tender grass
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
To drink upon the tender grass
I'd like to stretch out under a laurel,
And I'd like Love to tie, with a strand
Of linen or of hemp,
Her light dress at her side
And, half-naked, pour me wine.

The uncertain life of man
Unfolds from day to day like
Waves rolling onto the riverbanks;
Then, after our final hour, 
Nothing of us remains in the coffin
But an old frame of bones.

I do not wish, as is the custom, 
That they perfume my tomb with incense,
Nor pour out sweet-smelling oil on it,
But so long as I am alive
I would like to be perfumed
And indeed crowned with flowers.

I would like to make myself
My legatee, to satisfy myself;
I wish to live for no-one else.
Foolish the pelican who wounds herself
For her little ones1, and foolish he who lets himself
For his little ones work in boredom.

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Translator's note: the 'pelican in her piety', who wounds her own breast to feed her little ones, is a standard medieval image of Christ bleeding for his earthly children. Ronsard is continuing here his theme of disrespect for society's norms.


  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2012 by David Wyatt, (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: 2012-07-25
Line count: 24
Word count: 154