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.


Nathan Shirley said...


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.