The Night in May

Original Text: 

William John Robertson, ed. and trans., A Century of French Verse: Brief Biographical and Critical Notices of Thirty-three French Poets of of the Nineteenth Century with Experimental Translations from their Poems (London: A. D. Innes, 1895): 97-103.

The Muse
1Take thy lute, poet, kiss my lips and sing;
2The wild-rose feels her buds begin to swell.
3The winds grow warm; this night gives birth to Spring:
4The wagtail, while the lingering dawn doth dwell,
5Loves on the first green bush to rest her wing;
6Take thy lute, poet, kiss my lips and sing!
The Poet
7How black below the valley lies!
8Methought I saw a veiled form rise
9And hover on the woodland gray.
10Along the mead she seemed to pass;
11Her light foot skimmed the flowering grass :
12Like a strange vision, but alas!
13Fainter it grows, and fades away.
The Muse.
14Take thy lute, poet; from her perfumed vest
15Night shakes the zéphyr on the sward and sighs.
16The rose, a jealous virgin, shuts her breast
17In which the pearly hornet swooning dies.
18Dream thou of the beloved, while all things drowse!
19To-night beneath the sombre linden-boughs'
20The beam of sunset leaves a sweet farewell.
21To-night all things shall flower: immortal earth
22Is filled with fragrance, love and murmuring mirth,
23Like the blest couch where two young lovers dwell.
The Poet
24Why leaps my heart with sudden throbs?
25What in my bosom swells and sobs
26With fears that on my sensés brood?
27Did not a hand strike on my door?
28Why does my dwindling lamp-light pour
29Its splendeur in a sudden flood?
30God! through my limbs what tremors run!
31Who comes? Who knocks? Who calls me? None!
32The hour-bell sounds; I am alone:
33O poverty! O solitude!
The Muse
34Take thy lute, poet, for the wine of youth
35Ferments even now as with a God's désire.
36My troubled breast is torn with joy and ruth,
37And parchèd winds have set my lips on fire.
38See, wayward child, my beauty shines unveiled!
39Has our first kiss no memory that charms,
40As when, touched by my wing, with cheeks that paled
41And tearful eyes, thou swoonèdst in these arms?
42Then I consoled thee for a bitter grief!
43Alas! so young, yet dying for love's sake.
44Console me now, I die of hopes too brief;
45I can but pray to live till morning break.
The Poet
46Is thine the voice that calls my name,
47And art thou corne, O my poor Muse?
48O my flower ! my immortal flame!
49Sole being faithful even in shame,
50Whose love of me my love renews!
51Welcome again, my blonde delight,
52Mistress and sister sweet thou art!
53I feel thee near, through deepest night,
54Bathed in thy golden garments bright
55With beams that steal into my heart.
The Muse
56Take thy lute, poet. I, the immortal love,
57Have watched this night thy silence and thy tears,
58And now, as when her nestlings call the dove,
59Descend, to weep with thee, from highest spheres.
60Thou sufferest, dear friend. Though lonely grief
61Consume thee, though despair thy soul destroy;
62Though love, such as earth wears, was all too brief,
63A shadow of delight, a spectral joy:
64Come, sing to God; sing in thy thoughts again,
65Sing thy lost pleasure, sing thy vanished pain;
66Soar, in a kiss, towards the unknown world.
67Awake at will the echoes of thy lyre,
68Tell us of glory and gladness and desire,
69And let thy fancies float in dreams unfurled.
70Discover realms that give our woes surcease;
71Fly hence, we are alone, the world is ours;
72Green Caledon, dusk Italy, fair Greece
73My mother, with her honied crown of flowers,
74Argos, red Pteleon of the hecatombs,
75And Pelion's naked brow that glows and glooms;
76And Messa the divine, delight of doves.
77And blue Eurotas, and, like silvery light
78Glassed in the gulf whose wave the pale swan loves,
79White Oloôsone and Camyra white.
80Tell me what songs shall lull our golden dream!
81From what mysterious source our tears shall stream!
82When this day's sunrise smote thy lids with dawn,
83What seraph, bending pensive from above,
84Shook lilac-blossoms from his robe of lawn
85And, whispering low, breathed on thy couch his love?
86Shall we sing songs of joy, or grief, or hope?
87Drench in their blood the steel-embattled ranks?
88Suspend the lover on his silken rope?
89Fling on the winds the foam o' the courser's flanks?
90Say from what hand unnumbered lamps above
91Lighten by night and day in heavenly domes
92The holy oil of life and deathless love?
93Cry Tarquin, 'tis thine hour, the shadow comes!
94Plunge and pluck up the pearl from deepest seas?
95Watch the kid browse on bitter ebony-trees?
96Lead Melancholy to the skiey shores?
97Follow on scarpèd hills the hunter's horn?
98The hind beseeches him, looks and implores;
99Her heath-bed waits; her fawns are newly born:
100He stoops, he slays her, and the quarry throws,
101Still quivering, to his hounds that pant and reek.
102Or shall we paint the virgin's crimsoned cheek
103When, followed by her page, to mass she goes,
104And, by the matron's side, with absent air,
105Forgets on half-closed lips her pious prayer?
106Trembling she hears, hard-echoing on the ground,
107The spurs of a bold cavalier resound.
108Shall we command the heroes of old France
109To mount, full-armed, their many-crenelled towers.
110And from oblivion wake the rude romance
111Their glory taught to antique troubadours?
112Swathe the soft elegy in white? Or woo
113Wild war, and bid the man of Waterloo
114Boast how his scythe mowed down the mortal bands,
115Before the herald of eternal night
116Swooped with swift wing on the green island-height,
117And on that iron heart crossed his pale hands?
118Shall our proud satire to the gibbet nail
119What pain soever youth nursed in his core,
120Let it find issue; sacred is the sore
121Black angels opened in thy heart's profound;
122With greatest sorrow greatest souls are crowned.
123Yet stricken as thou art, O poet! know
124That not for silence lives thy voice below.
125The noblest song with grief and anguish throbs,
126And some I made immortal with pure sobs.
127When the slow pelican, wearied of long flight,
128Regains the shore and seeks his reedy home,
129His hungered brood, lost in the haze of night,
130Watching him from afar, swoop on the foam.
131With beaks that on their hideous gorge agape
132Already seize and share the prey, they shape
133Their course to the parent bird, with joyful cries.
134He, towards a high cliff slowly labouring,
135Shelters the brood beneath his trailing wing
136And, desperate, gazes sadly on the skies.
137A stream of blood flows from his plumage torn ;
138In vain he scoured the depths of the salt flood :
139The sea was vacant and the shore forlorn,
140And for sole nourishment he brings his blood.
141Sombre and silent, stretched on the bare rock,
142Succouring with father's flesh his little flock,
143By love sublime sustained he soothes his wound
144And, while the bleeding breast his offspring drinks,
145Beneath the feast of death he reels and sinks.
146As one with tenderness and horror swooned.
147But sometimes, midst the sacred sacrifice,
148Wearied in death so long to agonise.
149He trembles lest they drain the living spring;
150Then, rising, opens on the wind his wing.
151And flaps his bosom with funereal wail,
152Sending through night such wild farewell abroad
153That on the lonely beach the sea-mews quail:
154And the belated traveller, turning pale,
155Feels death in the air and gives his soul to God.
156O poet! such is the great singer's fate:
157He feeds awhile the joy of them that live;
158But the world's feasts on which his soul doth wait
159Seem most like those the pelican's life-springs give.
160When hopes beguiled at last thrill all his chords
161With sadness and despair, with love and pain,
162Such concert swells the hearts of men in vain.
163His declamations are like flaming swords:
164Though in the air they trace a dazzling ring
165Still to their blade some drops of blood will cling.
The Poet
166O voice from the abysmal deeps,
167Lay not on me this last command!
168Man leaves no writing on the sand
169When at its hour the north-wind sweeps.
170There was a time when love, in sooth,
171Rose ceaseless on my lips, and youth
172Was ready, like a bird, to sing;
173But I have suffered, as through fire,
174And should my silent griefs desire
175To speak their anguish on my lyre
176Their lightest breath would break the string.
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: