Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)

le Bestiaire, ou Cortège d'Orphée (1911, gravures Raoul Dufy)

- find the mouse first...




La souris
Belles journées, souris du temps,
Vous rongez peu à peu ma vie.
Dieu ! Je vais avoir vingt-huit ans,
Et mal vécus, à mon envie.
De muis
Mooie dagen, muizen der tijd,
jullie knagen stilletjes aan mijn leven.
God ! ik ben al bijna achtentwintig,
verspilde jaren, naar mijn zin.

Beautiful days, mouse of time,
Little by little you gnaw away my life.
God! I’m going to be twenty-eight –
wasted years |badly lived|, just as I wished.

Or, should we interpret the last line differently: and badly lived, I fear, or to my regret, or neutral: I think ? as other translators (CD-booklets) do.

IMHO: Apollinaire knew what he was writing. Fond of ambiguity as he was, he likes to take his reader "à contre pied". He even speculates on misunderstanding (mis-hearing: à mon envie <> à mon avis. Lees maar er staat niet wat je hoort.) Only (re-)reading reveals true meaning.




Poulenc, Deux mélodies (nr 1), 1956


This is the first of two songs written in September 1956. In honour of the eightieth birthday of the soprano Marya Freund, a close colleague of his youthful years, Poulenc returned to the Apollinaire collection that had begun his song-writing career. He chose a deliciously apposite verse for someone (himself surely) who could scarcely believe how the years of his life (1918–1956) had slipped away—slowly nibbled by the mouse of time. In my own experience, having first performed this song long before the age of twenty-eight, there was a distinctly Poulencian melancholy in returning to it for this recording, well over three decades later.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013




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