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?
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.
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.