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Debussy - Chansons de Bilitis

Chansons de Bilitis

Debussy (1897)

La flûte de Pan

Pour le jour des Hyacinthies,1
il m'a donné
une syrinx faite de roseaux bien taillés,
unis avec la blanche cire
qui est douce à mes lèvres comme le miel.

Il m'apprend à jouer, assise sur ses genoux;
mais je suis un peu tremblante.
Il en joue après moi, si doucement
que je l'entends à peine.

Nous avons rien à nous dire,
tant nous sommes près l'un de l'autre;
mais nos chansons veulent se répondre, et tour
à tour nos bouches s'unissent sur la flûte.

Il est tard; voici le chant des grenouilles
vertes qui commence avec la nuit.
Ma mère ne croira jamais que je suis restée
si longtemps à chercher ma ceinture perdue.

La chevelure

Il m'a dit: <Cette nuit, j'ai rêvé,
J'avais ta chevelure autour de mon cou.
J'avais tes cheveux comme un collier noir
autour de ma nuque et sur ma poitrine.

Je les caressais; et c'étaient les miens;
et nous étions liés pour toujours ainsi,
par la même chevelure la bouche sur la bouche,
ainsi que deux lauriers n'ont souvent
qu'une racine.

Et peu à peu, il m'a semblé,
tant nos membres étaient confondus
que je devenais toi-même
ou que tu entrais en moi
comme mon songe>.

Quand il eut achevé,
il mit doucement ses mains sur mes épaules,
et il me regarda d'un regard si tendre,
que je baissai les yeux avec un frisson.

Le tombeau des naïades

Le long du bois couvert de givre,
je marchais; mes cheveux devant ma bouche
se fleurissaient de petit glaçons,
et mes sandales étaient lourdes
de neige fangeuse et tassée.

Il me dit: <Que cherches-tu?
_ Je suis la trace du satyre.
Ses petits pas fourchus alternent
comme des trous dans un manteau blanc.>
Il me dit: <Les satyres sont morts.>

<Les satyres et les nymphes aussi.
Depuis trente ans il n'a pas fait
un hiver aussi terrible.
La trace que tu vois est celle d'un bouc.
Mais restons ici, où est leur tombeau.>

Et avec le fer de sa houe il cassa la glace
de la source où jadis riaient les naïades.
Il prenait de grands morceaux froids,
et les soulevant vers le ciel pâle,
il regardait au travers.

Pierre Louÿs

1There were public holidays which took their name from the Hyacinthos who were accidentally killed by Apollo. To repent, the god created the Hyancinth from his blood.

Bilitis's songs


Pan's pipe

For day of Hyacinthos,
he gave me
a pipe made of well-trimmed reeds,
bound with the white wax
that is as sweet as honey to my lips.

He teaches me to play, seated on his knees;
but I tremble a little.
He plays it after me, so softly
that I hardly hear him.

We have nothing to say to each other,
so close are we to one another;
but our songs long to converse, and turn
by turn our lips meet on the flute.

It is late; the song of the green frogs is here
starting up with the night.
My mother will never believe that I stayed
so long to search for my lost belt.

The tresses

He said to me: "Last night I dreamt,
I had your tresses around my neck.
I had your hair like a black necklace
around my nape and on my breast.

I caressed them; and they were my own;
and we were tied like this forever,
by the same tresses, lips against lips,
just as two laurel bushes often have
but one root.

And little by little, it seemed to me,
so much were our limbs entwined,
that I was becoming yourself
or that you were entering within me
as though my dream".

When he had finished,
he gently placed his hands on my shoulders,
and he looked at me with such a tender gaze,
that I lowered my eyes with a shudder.

The tomb of the naiads

I was walking along the frost-covered wood;
my hair, over my mouth,
was gathering little icicles like flowers,
and my sandals were heavy
with muddy and packed snow.

He said to me: "What are you looking for?"
"I am following the trail of the satyre.
His little cloven hoofprints alternate
like holes in a white mantle."
He said to me: "The satyrs are dead."

"The satyrs and the nymphs too.
For thirty years there has not been
a winter so severe.
The track that you see is that of a buck.
But let us stay here, which is their tomb."

And with the iron of his hoe he broke the ice
of the spring where the naiads once laughed.
He took large, cold pieces,
and, lifting them towards the pale sky,
he looked through them.

© translated by Christopher Goldsack

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