Francis Poulenc, “Fiançailles pour rire”

Fiançailles Pour Rire, by Francis Poulenc.

Is a song cycle based on the poetry of a dear friend, Louise de Vilmorin. Poulenc considered these texts to be truly feminine. “The poetry is slight, modest, elegant: nostalgia and reflection, rather than action or immediacy, are the important themes throughout the otherwise unrelated poems. The overall emotional atmosphere is bittersweet, which Poulenc delicately “underscores.”

Fiançailles pour Rire, Light-Hearted Betrothal

(Louise de Vilmorin)

Poems: translation into English by Johnson, Graham and Richard Stokes.

La dame d’André

André does not know the woman

Whose hand he takes today.

Has she a heart for the future,

And for evening has she a soul?

Returning from a country dance,

Did she in her loose-fitting gown

Go and seek in the haystacks

The ring of random betrothal?

Was she afraid, when night fell,

Watched by the ghosts of the past,

In her garden, when winter

Entered by the wide avenue?

He loved her for her complexion,

For her Sunday good humour.

Will she fade on the blank pages

Of his album of better days?

Dans l’herbe

I can say nothing more

Do nothing more for him.

He died for his fair one

He died a fair death


Beneath the tree of Justice

In utter silence

In open country

In the grass.

He died unnoticed

Crying out as he passed away

Calling, Calling me

But since I was far from him

And since his voice no longer carried

He died alone in the woods

Beneath his childhood tree

And I can say nothing more

Do nothing more for him.

Il vole

The sun as it sets

Is reflected in my polished table

It is the round cheese of the fable

In the beak of my silver scissors.

But where’s the crow? Stealing away.

I’d like to sew but a magnet

Attracts all my needles.

In the square the skittle players

Pass the time playing game after game.

But where’s my lover? Stealing away.

I’ve a stealer for lover,

The crow steals away and my lover steals,

The stealer of my heart breaks his word

And the stealer of cheese is absent.

But where is happiness? Stealing away.

I weep under the weeping willow

I mingle my tears with its leaves

I weep because I want to be wanted

And because my stealer doesn’t care for me.

But where can love be? Stealing away.

Find the sense in my nonsense

And along the country ways

Bring me back to my wayward lover

Who steals hearts and robs me of my senses.

I want my stealer to steal me.

Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant

My corpse is as soft as a glove

Soft as a glove of frozen skin

And my hidden pupils

Make two white pebbles of my eyes.

Two white pebbles in my face

Two mutes in the silence

Still darkened by a secret

Laden with the dead weight of what they’ve seen

My fingers that roved so often

Are joined in a saintly pose

Resting on the hollow of my sorrows

At the centre of my arrested heart.

And my two feet are mountains,

The last two hills that I saw

At the very moment I lost the race

That the years always win.

My memory is resembling

Children, bear it swiftly away,

Go, go my life is over.

My corpse is a soft as a glove


Loving couple of misapprehended sounds

Violin and player please me.

Ah! I love these long wailings

Stretched on the string of disquiet.

To the sound of strung-up chords

At the hour when Justice is silent

The heart shaped like a strawberry

Gives itself to love like an unknown fruit.


Promised flowers, flowers held in your arms,

Flowers from a step’s parentheses,

Who brought you these flowers in winter

Sprinkled with the sea’s sand?

Sand of your kisses, flowers of faded loves

Your lovely eyes are ashes and in the hearth

A moan-beribboned heart

Burns with its sacred images.