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de Bréville
Ravel (1896)

A la fenêtre recélant
Le santal vieux qui se dédore
De la viole étincelant
Jadis selon flûte ou mandore,

Est la sainte pale, étalant
Le livre vieux qui se déplie
Du Magnificat ruisselant
Jadis selon2 vêpre ou complie:

A ce vitrage d'ostensoir
Que frôle une harpe par l'Ange
Formée avec son vol du soir
Pour la délicate phalange

Du doigt que, sans le santal
Ni le vieux livre, elle balance
Sur le plumage instrumental,
Musicienne du silence.

Stéphane Mallarmé

1A version of the text bears the title "Sainte Cécile jouant sur l'aile d'un Cherubin." _ "Saint Cecilia playing upon the wing of a Cherubin." Mallarmé wrote of this difficult text: a pane represents a window which hides the instruments which one supposes surround the Saint. In the frame one sees the saint, her instruments are no longer necessary since she has a harp (which she has made of the wing of the Angel) _ she is at the window. Once there was music, now…. silence.
2Mallamé variously used avec and parmi meaning among rather than whether.

Saint (Cecilia)


At the window concealing
the old sandalwood (casket) which is loosing its gilding
of the once sparking viol
whether flute or mandore,

is the pale saint, spreading
the old book which opens out
with the once streaming Magnificat
whether vesper or compline:

At this monstrance-like pane
which is brushed by a harp fashioned of
the Angel with his evening wing
for the delicate phalanx

of the finger which, without the sandalwood
nor the old book, she rests
against the instrumental plumage,
musician of silence.

© translated by Christopher Goldsack

Ravel's setting of this texty is included in the Singing in French vol2 anthology and a score and accompaniment can be downloaded from the site shop in several keys.

Singing in French Anthology

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