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The Swan • Le Cygne
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The English version presented below is a literal, word-for-word translation. It attempts to preserve the poet's word order as far as possible, for a better appreciation of the composer's musical treatment of individual words and phrases.

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Il glisse sur le bassin, comme un traîneau blanc, de nuage en nuage. Car il n'a faim que des nuages floconneux qu'il voit naître, bouger, et se perdre dans l'eau. C'est l'un d'eux qu'il désire. Il le vise du bec, et il plonge tout à coup son col vêtu de neige. Puis, tel un bras de femme sort d'une manche, il le retire. Il n'a rien. Il regarde: les nuages effarouchés ont disparu. Il ne reste qu'un instant désabusé, car les nuages tardent peu à revenir, et, là-bas, où meurent les ondulations de l'eau, en voici un qui se reforme. Doucement, sur son léger coussin de plumes, le cygne rame et s'approche . . . Il s'épuise à pêcher de vains reflets, et peut-être qu'il mourra, victime de cette illusion, avant d'attraper un seul morceau de nuage. Mais qu'est-ce que je dis? Chaque fois qu'il plonge, il fouille du bec la vase nourrissante et ramène un ver. Il engraisse comme une oie.

 

Jules Renard

 

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He glides on the lake, like a white sledge, from cloud to cloud. For he hungers only for the fluffy clouds that he sees forming, moving, and fading in the water. It’s one of those that he wants. He takes aim with his beak and suddenly plunges his snowy neck into the water. Then, like a woman's arm emerging from a sleeve, he draws it out again. He has nothing! He looks around: the scared clouds have disappeared. He stays disappointed only a moment, for the clouds soon return, and, over there, where the water's undulations die, a new one is forming. Gently, on his light cushion of feathers, the swan paddles and approaches . . . He tires himself out fishing for vain reflections, and perhaps he will die, a victim of this illusion, before catching a single piece of cloud. But what am I saying? Each time he plunges, he digs his his beak into the nourishing silt and brings back a worm. He is fattening himself up like a goose.

 

Recorded 16 March 2007

 

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