Verlaine: Moonlight (from French)

By Paul Verlaine
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Your soul is a landscape of fantasy
Charmed by the masks and bergamasks1 that rise
To dance and play the lute and seem to be
Sad underneath a fanciful disguise.

And what they sing is all in minor key
Of conquering love, of living in delight.
They don’t believe how happy they may be,
And their song merges with the calm moonlight,

With the calm, beautiful and sad moonlight
Sending the birds among the trees to dream,
Coaxing long sobs from fountains in the night-
The marbled fountains, their ecstatic stream.

1- Bergamask: a faux-rustic dance, often performed by troupes of wandering comedians.

The Original:

Clair de la Lune

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.


  1. "Mystical Evening Twilight"

    by Paul Verlaine (Translated by Larisa Biyuts)

    Memory and Evening Twilight

    redden and tremble at the glowing skyline

    of expectations in flames that retire

    and thus enlarge, of which partition

    mysterious or repeated bloom

    --dahlia, lily, tulip, banewort--

    climb around the trellis, and circle

    amidst the morbific exhalations

    of warm and disturbing perfumes, which is

    --dahlia, lily, tulip, banewort--

    flooding my senses, my soul and my reason,

    they mix, into immense languor,

    Memory and Evening Twilight.

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