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Le bestiaire (ou Cortège d'Orphée)1

Poulenc (1919)

Le dromadaire

Avec ces quatre dromadaires
Don Pedro d'Alfaroubeira2
Courut le monde et l'admira.
Il fit ce que je voudrais faire
Si j'avais quatre dromadaires.

La chèvre de Thibet

Les poils de cette chèvre et même
Ceux d'or pour qui prit tant de peine
Jason, ne valent rien aux prix3
Des cheveux dont je suis épris.

La sauterelle

Voici la fine sauterelle,
La nourriture de Saint Jean.4
Puissent mes vers être comme elle,
Le régal des meilleures gens.

Le dauphin

Dauphins, vous jouez dans la mer,
Mais le flot est toujours amer.
Parfois, ma joie éclate-t-elle?
La vie est encore cruelle.

L'écrevisse

Incertitude, ô mes délices
Vous et mois nous nous en allons
Comme s'en vont les écrevisses,
A reculons, à reculons.

La carpe

Dans vos viviers, dans vos étangs,5
Carpes, que vous vivez longtemps!
Est-ce que la mort vous oublie,
Poissons de la mélancolie?

Guillaume Apollinaire

1These texts are taken from a sequence of thirty poems. Louis Durey set most of these to music. Poulec set twelve, rejecting six of his settings. He later set one more, "La souris".
2Don Pedro d'Alfaroubeira, Infanta of Protugal. One of his companions, Gomez de Santistevan, narrated in his "Historia del Infanta D. Pedro.." that he set off to visit the seven parts of the world with twelve companions and four dromedaries, returning home after three years and four months.
3Jason of the Argonauts, who sailed in quest of the Golden Fleece.
4St. John the Bapist in the desert.
5In the formal pools of the gardens of French Chateaux the carp grow big and old, rarely seeming to move in the still water.

The book of beasts (or Orpheus's procession)

 

The dromedary

With his four dromedaries
Don Pedro of Alfaroubeira
wandered throughout the world and admired it.
He did what I would wish to do
if I had four dromedaries.

The Tibetan goat

The hair of this goat, and even
that of gold for which Jason made such an effort,
is worth nothing when compared to the value
of the hair with which I am in love.

The grasshopper

Here is the fragile grasshopper,
the nourishment of Saint John.
May my verses be like it:
a treat for the very best people.

The dolphin

Dolphins, you play in the sea,
yet the waves are still bitter.
Does my joy ever burst out?
Life is still cruel.

The crayfish

Uncertainty, o my delicacies
you and I, we move about
as crayfish move about,
backwards, backwards.

The carp

In your moats, in your ponds,
carp, how long you live!
Has death forgotten you,
fish of melancholy?

© translated by Christopher Goldsack

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