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La courte paille

(The short straw)

Maurice Carème

Francis Poulenc

I Le sommeil

Le sommeil est en voyage,
Mon Dieu! où est-il parti?
J'ai beau bercer mon petit;
Il pleure dans son litcage,
Il pleure depuis midi.
Où le sommeil a-t-il mis
Son sable et ses rêves sages?
J'ai beau bercer mon petit;
Il se tourne tout en nage,
Il sanglote dans son lit.
Ah! reviens, reviens, sommeil,
Sur ton beau cheval de course!
Dans le ciel noir, la Grand Ourse
A enterré le soleil
Et ralumé ses abelles.
Si l'enfant ne dort pas bien,
Il ne dira pas bonjour,
Il ne dira rien demain
A ses doigts, au lait, au pain
Qui l'accueillent dans le jour.

Sleep

Sleep is on vacation.
My God! Where has it gone?
I've rocked my little one in vain;
he cries in his crib,
he's been crying since noon.
Where has sleep put
its sand and its wise dreams?
I've rocked my little one in vain;
he turns, all sweaty,
he sobs in his bed.
Ah! return, return, sleep,
on your beautiful race horse!
In the black sky, the Big Bear *
has buried the sun
and re-lit his bees ** .
If baby doesn't sleep well,
he won't say "good morning,"
he won't say anything tomorrow
to his fingers, to the milk, to the bread
that greet him with the day.

* The Big Dipper
** The Milky Way


II Quelle aventure!

Une puce dans sa voiture,
Tirait un petit éléphant
En regardant les devantures
Où scintillaient les diamants.
Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!
quelle aventure!
Qui va me croire, s'il m'entend?

L'éléphaneau, d'un air absent,
Suçait un pot de confiture.
Mais la puce n'en avait cure,
Elle tirait en souriant.
Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!
que cela dure
Et je vais me croire dément!

Soudain, le long d'une clôture,
La puce fondit dans le vent
Et je vis le jeune éléphant
Se sauver en fendant les murs.
Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!
la chose est sure,
Mais comment le dire à maman?

What an adventure!

A flea was pulling a little elephant
along in its carriage,
while looking at the shop windows
where diamonds sparkled.
My God! my God!
What an adventure!
Who'll believe me, if they hear me?

The little elephant casually
licked at a jar of jam,
but the flea didn't care;
she pulled along, smiling.
My God! my God!
How hard this is!
And I think I must be crazy!

Suddenly, near a fence,
the flea blew over in the wind,
and I saw the young elephant
save himself by knocking down the walls.
My God! my God!
it's really true,
but how can I tell Mommy?

III La reine de cœur

Mollement accoudée
A ses vitres de lune,
La reine vous salue
d’une fleur d’amandier.
C’est la reine de cœur.
Elle peut, s’il lui plait,
Vous mener en secret
Vers d’étranges demeures
Où il ne’st plus de portes,
De salles ni de tours
Et où les jeune mortes
Viennent parler d’amour.

La reine vous salue;
Hâtez-vous de la suivre
Dans son château de givre
Aux doux vitraux de lune.

The Queen of Hearts

Softly leaning
on her window-panes of moon,
the queen gestures to you
with an almond flower.
She is the Queen of Hearts.
She can, if she wishes,
lead you in secret
into strange dwellings
where there are no more doors,
or rooms, or towers,
and where the young dead
come to talk of love.

The queen salutes you;
hasten to follow her
into her hoar-frost castle
with smooth stained-glass moon windows.

IV Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu

Ba, be, bi, bo, bu, bé!
Le chat a mis ses bottes,
Il va de porte en porte
Jouer, danser,
Danser, chanter -
Pou, chou, genou, hibou.
"Tu dois apprendre à lire,
A compter, à écrire,"
Lui crie-t-on de partout.
Mais rikketikketau,
Le chat de s’esclaffer
En rentrant au château:
Il est le Chat Botté!

Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu

Ba, be, bi, bo, bu, bé!
The cat has put on his boots;
he goes from door to door,
playing, dancing,
dancing, singing -
Pou, chou, genou, hibou. *
"You ought to learn to read,
to count, to write,"
everyone calls out to him.
But rikketikketau,
the cat bursts out laughing,
returning to his castle:
He is Puss in Boots!

* Lice, cabbage, knee, owl --
a rhyme French school-children learn to memorize the exceptions that require an "x" for the plural instead of "s" (thanks to Joan Fearnley for this information!)


V Les anges musiciens

Sur les fils de la pluie,
Les anges du jeudi
Jouent longtemps de la harpe.
Et sous leurs doigts, Mozart
Tinte, délicieux,
En gouttes de joie bleue
Car c’est toujours Mozart
Que reprennent sans fin
Les anges musiciens
Qui, au long du jeudi,
Font chanter sur la harpe
La douceur de la pluie.

The musician angels

Upon the threads of the rain
the Thursday angels
play on the harp for a long time.
And beneath their fingers, Mozart
tinkles, deliciously,
in drops of blue joy
since it is always Mozart
which is played endlessly
by the musician angels
who, all day Thursday,
make their harps sing
the sweetness of the rain.


VI Le carafon

"Pourquoi, se plaignait la carafe,
N’aurais-je pas un carafon?
Au zoo, madame la giraffe
N’a-t-elle pas un girafon?"
Un sorcier qui passait par là,
A cheval sur un phonographe,
Enregistra la belle voix
De soprano de la carafe
Et la fit entendre à Merlin.
"Fort bien, dit celui-ci, fort bien!"
Il frappa trois fois dans les mains
Et la dame de la maison
Se demande encore pourquoi
Elle trouva, ce matin-là
Un joli petit carafon
Blotti tout contre la carafe
Ainsi qu’au zoo le girafon
Pose son cou fragile et long
Sur le flanc clair de la girafe.

The baby carafe

"Why," lamented the carafe,
"couldn’t I have a baby carafe?
At the zoo, Mrs. Giraffe -
doesn’t she have a baby giraffe?"
A wizard who was riding by
astride a phonograph
recorded the beautiful
soprano voice of the carafe
and played it for Merlin.
"Very well," said he, "very well!"
He clapped his hands three times
-And the lady of the house
still asks herself why
she found, that morning,
a pretty little baby carafe
leaning up against the carafe
just as in the zoo, the baby giraffe
leans its long and fragile neck
against the smooth flank of the giraffe.

VII Lune d’Avril

Lune, belle lune, lune d’Avril,
Faites-moi voir en m’endormant
Le pêcher au cœur de safran,
Le poisson qui rit du grésil,
L’oiseau qui, lointain comme un cor,
Doucement réveille les morts
Et surtout, surtout le pays
Où il fait joie, où il fait clair,
Où, soleilleux de primevères,
On a brisé tous les fusils.
Lune, belle lune, lune d’avril,
Lune.

April moon

Moon, beautiful moon, moon of April,
make me see in my dreams
the peach tree with a heart of saffron,
the fish that laughs at sleet,
the bird that, far away, like a horn,
sweetly wakens the dead
and above all, above all, the country
where there is joy, where it is bright,
where, sunny with springtime,
they have broken all the rifles.
Moon, beautiful moon, moon of April,
moon.

 

 

Creative Commons License
Translation, La Courte Paille by Marion Leeds Carroll is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.