Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Townsend: Songs from the Poets 5

This is the last of the songs that I will be putting up for now. The poet is Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885), one of the greatest writers of 19th century France, author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables among many other works. He is somewhat less-known as a poet in the English world. This is the only poem I have not used a translation for because I wanted to keep the flavor of the French. Here is the poem:

Nuits de Juin

L'été, lorsque le jour a fui, de fleurs couverte
La plaine verse au loin un parfum enivrant;
Les yeux fermés, l'oreille aux rumeurs entr'ouverte,
On ne dort qu'a demi d'un sommeil transparent.

Les astres sont plus purs, l'ombre paraît meilleure;
Un vague demi-jour teint le dôme éternel;
Et l'aube douce et pâle, en attendent son heure,
Semble toute la nuit errer au bas du ciel.

Which translates as:

June Nights

In summer, when day has fled,
the plain covered with flowers
pours out far away an intoxicating scent;
eyes shut, ears half open to noises, we only
half sleep in a transparent slumber.

The stars are purer,
the shade seems pleasanter;
a hazy half-day colours the eternal dome;
and the sweet pale dawn awaiting her hour
seems to wander all night at the bottom of the sky.

When I first started writing this song, the influence of the French in my ears caused my setting to sound all too much like Fauré, so I went back and made the harmonies a little less sweet! Along with the portrait of Victor Hugo, I have included several photos of Vancouver Island at dusk, a magical time and place that I never got tired of growing up.

video

2 comments:

Nathan Shirley said...

Nice!

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks again, Nathan!

The performers were very comfortable with this song as the vocabulary was close to what they were used to.