Saturday, June 4, 2016

In a “French” mood


Although I tend to write mostly in English, my moods can be anything but: German if I’m feeling organized and business-like or French if I’m feeling melancholy.

The latter sure prevailed in my mountain village today: everyone that I know or ran into complained of lethargy, of not being able to do anything, of sadness. Well, we all know who to blame – the weather!

And melancholy – at least in poetry – has never been done better than by the French.
I was just 19 when I arrived in France the first time, had a crush on someone during the first two weeks of the bus tour of Europe before the start of school: as he went to another school I got over that one fast and when asked me for a date back in California I really couldn’t figure out what I had ever seen in him – didn’t even accept the date.  I also experienced my first more serious love that school year – one that wasn’t necessarily happy nor good for me. I learned enough French to start reading the poetry and discovered that whilst the literature wasn’t to my taste (I’m sorry I still can’t finish the “Red and the Black” and Proust’s descriptions of the famous “madelaines” is enough to make me never want to eat one), the poetry really was me. To this day the poems that I remember best are in French and I tend myself to only write poetry in French.

So when the day was so miserable what did I find myself thinking of a poem I learned over 50 years ago…
“il pleut dans mon coeur,
Comme Il pleut sur la ville,
Quelle est cette langueur qui
Envahit mon coeur?”
Turns out that my memory wasn’t all that bad – here is Verlaine’s “Romance without words” written in 1874 but one which still suits.

Il pleure dans mon coeur
Comme il pleut sur la ville,
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon coeur?

O bruit doux de la pluie
Par terre et sur les toits!
Pour un coeur qui s'ennuie
O le chant de la pluie!

Il pleure sans raison
Dans ce coeur qui s'écoeure.
Quoi! nulle trahison?
Ce deuil est sans raison.

C'est bien la pire peine
De ne savoir pourquoi,
Sans amour et sans haine,
Mon coeur a tant de peine!

Loosely translated (very loosely but probably more correct than Google !)

It rains in my heart
As it rains on the town,
What is this languor
Which penetrates my heart ?

Oh soft sound of the rain
On the earth as on the roof !
For a heart that is bored
Oh the song of the rain !

It rains without reason
In this sickened heart
What ! No treason ?
This mourning is with reason.

It is the worst grief
To not know why
Without love nor hate
My heart aches so !


early morning fog along the Danube