French Lyrics by Arthur Graves Canfield

Produced by Charles Franks, Marc D’Hooghe and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team FRENCH LYRICS SELECTED AND EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY ARTHUR GRAVES CANFIELD Professor of the Romance Languages and Literatures in the University of Michigan. PREFACE. This book is intended as an introduction to the reading and study of French lyric poetry.
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  • 1899
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Produced by Charles Franks, Marc D’Hooghe and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team





Professor of the Romance Languages and Literatures in the University of Michigan.


This book is intended as an introduction to the reading and study of French lyric poetry. If it contributes toward making that poetry more widely known and more justly appreciated its purpose will have been fulfilled.

It is rather usual among English-speaking people to think slightingly of the poetry of France, especially of her lyrics. This is not unnatural. The qualities that give French verse its distinction are very different from those that make the strength and the charm of our English lyrics. But we must guard ourselves against the conclusion that because a work is unlike those that we are accustomed to admire it is necessarily bad. There are many kinds of excellence. And this little book must have been poorly put together indeed if it fail to suggest to the reader that France possesses a wealth of lyric verse which, whatever be its shortcomings in those qualities that characterize our English lyrics, has others quite its own, both of form and of spirit, that give it a high and serious interest and no small measure of beauty and charm.

The editor has sought to keep the purpose of the volume constantly in view in preparing the introduction and notes. He has hoped to supply such information as would be most helpful, if not indispensable, to the reader. And as he has thought that the best service the book could render would be to stimulate interest in French poetry and to persuade to a wider reading of it, he has wished in the bibliography to meet especially the wants of those who may be inclined to pursue further one or another of the acquaintances here begun. It is of course not intended to be in any wise exhaustive, but only to present the sum of an author’s lyrical work, to indicate current and available editions, and to point out sources of further information; among these last it has sometimes been accessibility to the American reader rather than relative importance that has dictated the insertion of a title.

The editor acknowledges here his wholesale indebtedness for his materials to the various sources that he has recommended to the reader. But he wishes to confess the special debt that he owes to Miss Eugenie Galloo, Assistant Professor of French in the University of Kansas, for many suggestions and valuable help with the proofs. Her assistance has reduced considerably the number of the volume’s imperfections. For those that remain he can hold no one responsible but himself.

A. G. C.


Dec. 7, 1898.


As literature is not a bundle of separate threads, but one fabric, it is manifestly impossible to give an adequate account of any one of its forms, as the lyric poem, by itself and aside from the larger web of which it is a part. The following pages will attempt only to sketch the main phases which the history of the lyric in France exhibits and so to furnish a rough outline that may help the reader of these poems to place them in the right historical relations. He should fill it out at all points by study of some history of French literature.[1] No account will be taken here of those kinds of verse that have only a slight contact with serious poetry. Such are, for instance, the songs of the _chansonniers_, mainly of vinous inspiration, which followed a tradition of their own apart from that of the more sober lyric, though some of the later writers, especially BERANGER and DUPONT, raised them to a higher dignity. Such also are the songs so abundant in the modern vaudevilles and light operas, many of which have enjoyed a very wide circulation and great favor and have left couplets fixed in the memory of the great public.

Neither will account be taken of the poems of oral tradition, the _chansons populaires_, of which France possesses a rich treasure, but which have never there, as so conspicuously in Germany, been brought into fructifying contact with the literary lyric.[2]

The beginnings of the literary tradition of lyric poetry in France are found in the poetry of the Troubadours. No doubt lyric expression was no new discovery then; lyrics in the popular language had existed from time immemorial. But it was in the twelfth century and in Provence that it began to be cultivated by a considerable number of persons who consciously treated it as an art and developed for it rules and forms. These were the Troubadours. Though their poems did not, at least at first, lack sincerity and spontaneity, their tendency to theorizing about the ideals of courtly life, especially about the nature and practice of love as the ideal form of refined conduct, was not favorable to these qualities. As lyrical expression lost in directness and spontaneity it was natural that more and more attention should be paid to form. The external qualities of verse were industriously cultivated. Great ingenuity was expended upon the invention of intricate and elaborate forms. Beginning at the end of the eleventh century, the poetry of the Troubadours had by the middle of the twelfth become a highly artificial and studied product. It was then that it began to awaken imitation in the north of France and thus determine the beginnings of French lyric poetry.

An earlier native lyric had indeed existed in northern France, known to us only by scanty fragments and allusions. It was a simple and light accompaniment of dancing or of the monotonous household tasks of sewing and spinning. Its theme was love and love-making. Its characteristic outward feature was a recurring refrain. The manner and frequency of repeating this refrain determined different forms, as _rondets_, _ballettes_, and _virelis_ But there are few examples left us of early French lyrics that have not already felt the influence of the art of the Troubadours. Even those that are in a way the most perfect and distinctive products of the earlier period, the fresh and graceful _pastourelles_, with their constant theme of a pretty shepherdess wooed by a knight, may have been imported from the south and have pretty surely been touched by southern influence.

From the middle of the twelfth century the native lyric in the north was entirely submerged under the flood of imitations of the Troubadours. The marriage of Eleanor of Poitiers with Louis VII. in 1137 brought Provence and France together, and opened the north, particularly about her court and that of her daughter Marie, Countess of Champagne, at Troyes, to the ideas and manners of the south. The first result was an eager and widespread imitation of the Provencal models. Among these earliest cultivators of literary art in the French language the most noteworthy were CONON DE BETHUNE (d. 1224), BLONDEL DE NESLE, GACE BRULE, GUI DE COUCI (d. 1201), GAUTIER D’ESPINAUS, and THIBAUT DE CHAMPAGNE, King of Navarre (d. 1253). There is in the work of these poets a great sameness. Their one theme was love as the essential principle of perfect courtly conduct, and their treatment was made still more lifeless by the use of allegory which was beginning to reveal its fascination for the mediaeval mind. From all their work the note of individuality is almost completely absent. Their art consisted in saying the same conventional commonplaces in a form that was not just like any other previously devised. So the predominance of the formal element was a matter of necessity. Some variation from existing forms was the one thing required of a piece of verse.

This school of direct imitation flourished for about a century. Then it suddenly ceased and for another century there was almost no lyric production of any sort. In the fourteenth century Guillaume de Machault (1295- 1377) inaugurated a revival, hardly of lyric poetry, but of the cultivation of lyric forms. He introduced a new style which made the old conventional themes again presentable by refinement of phrase and rhetorical embellishments, and he directed the pursuit of form not to the invention of ever new variations, but to the perfection of a few forms. And it is noticeable that these fixed forms were not selected from those elaborated under Provencal influence, but were the developments of the forms of the earlier _chansons a danser_, the _rondets_, _ballettes_, and _virelis_. The new poetic art that proceeded from Machault spent itself mainly in refining the phrase of the old commonplaces, allegories, and reflections, and on turning them out in _rondels_, _rondeaux_, _triolets_, _ballades_, _chants royaux_, and _virelis_. The new fashion was followed by FROISSART (1337-1410), EUSTACHE DESCHAMPS (approximately 1340-1407), who rhymed one thousand four hundred and forty ballades, CHRISTINE DE PISAN (1363-_?_), and CHARLES D’ORLEANS (1391-1465), who marks the culmination of the movement by the perfection of formal elegance and easy grace which his rondels and ballades exhibit.

All this lyric poetry had been the product of an aristocratic and polite society. But there existed at the same time in the north of France a current of lyrical production in an entirely different social region. The bourgeoisie, at least in the larger and industrial towns, followed the example of the princely courts, and vied with them in cultivating a formal lyric, and numerous societies, called _puis_, arranged poetical competitions and offered prizes. Naturally in their hands the courtly lyric only degenerated. But there were now and then men of greater individuality who, if their verses lacked something of the refinement and elaborateness of the courtly lyric, more than atoned for it by the greater directness and sincerity of their utterance, and by their closer contact with common life and real experience. Here belong the farewell poems (_conges_) of JEAN BODEL (twelfth century) and ADAM DE LA HALLE (about 1235-1285), of Arras; here belong especially two Parisians who were real poets, RUTEBEUF (d. about 1280) and FRANCOIS VILLON (1431- 146?), who distinctly announces the end of the old order of things and the beginning of modern times, not by any renewal of the fixed forms, within which he continued to move, but by cutting loose from the conventional round of subjects and ideas, and by giving a strikingly direct and personal expression to thoughts and feelings that he had the originality to think and feel for himself.

But no one at once appeared to make VILLON’S example fruitful for the development of lyric verse, and it went on its way of formal refinement at the hands of the industrious school of rhetoricians, becoming more and more dry and empty, more and more a matter of intricate mechanism and ornament. No more signal proof of the sterility of the school could be imagined than the triumphs of the art of some of the grands _rhetoriqueurs_ like MESCHINOT (1415?-1491), or MOLINET (d. 1507), the recognized leader of his day. The last expiring effort of this essentially mediaeval lyric is seen in CLEMENT MAROT. He had already begun to catch the glow of the dawn of the Renaissance, but he was rooted in the soil of the middle ages and his real masters were his immediate predecessors. He avoided their absurdities of alliteration and redundant rhyme and their pedantry; but he appropriated the results of their efforts at perfecting the verse structure and adhered to the traditional forms. The great stores of the ancient literatures that were thrown open to France in the course of the first half of the sixteenth century came too late to be the main substance of MAROT’S culture.

But it was far otherwise with the next generation. It was nurtured on the literatures of Greece, Rome, and Italy, which was also a classical land for the France of that day; and it was almost beside itself with enthusiasm for them. The traditions of the mediaeval lyric and all its fixed forms were swept away with one breath as barbarous rubbish by the proclamations of the young admirers of antiquity. The manifesto of the new movement, the _Defense et Illustration de la langue francaise_ by JOACHIM DU BELLAY, bade the poet “leave to the Floral Games of Toulouse and to the _puis_ of Rouen all those old French verses, such as _Rondeaux_, _Ballades_, _Virelais_, _Chants royaux_, _Chansons_, and other like vulgar trifles,” and apply himself to rivaling the ancients in epigrams, elegies, odes, satires, epistles, eclogues, and the Italians in sonnets. But the transformation which this movement effected for the lyric did not come from the substitution of different forms as models. It had a deeper source.

Acquaintance with the ancients and the attendant great movement of ideas of the Renaissance reopened the true springs of lyric poetry. The old moulds of thought and feeling were broken. The human individual had a new, more direct and more personal view of nature and of life. That note of direct personal experience, almost of individual sensation, that was possible to a VILLON only by virtue of a very strong temperament and of a very exceptional social position, became the privilege of a whole generation by reason of the new aspect in which the world appeared. The Renaissance transformed indeed the whole of French literature, but the first branch to blossom at its breath was the lyric. Of the famous seven, RONSARD, DU BELLAY, BAIF, BELLEAU, PONTUS DE THYARD, JODELLE, and DAURAT, self-styled the _Pleiade_, who were the champions of classical letters, all except JODELLE were principally lyric poets, and RONSARD and DU BELLAY have a real claim to greatness. This new lyric strove consciously to be different from the older one. Instead of _ballades_ and _rondeaux_, it produced odes, elegies, sonnets, and satires. It condemned the common language and familiar style of VILLON and MAROT as vulgar, and sought nobility, elevation, and distinction. To this end it renewed its vocabulary by wholesale borrowing and adaptation from the Latin, much enriching the language, though giving color to the charge of Boileau that RONSARD’S muse “_en francais parlait grec et latin_”.

Of this constellation of poets RONSARD was the bright particular star. The others hailed him as master, and he enjoyed for the time an almost unexampled fame. To him were addressed the well known lines attributed to Charles IX.:

Tous deux egalement nous portons des couronnes: Mais, roi, je la recus: poete, tu la donnes.

His example must be reckoned high for his younger contemporaries beside the ancient writers to whom he pointed them.

But his authority was of short duration. REGNIER and D’AUBIGNE, who lived into the seventeenth century, could still be counted of his school. But they had already fallen upon times which began to be dissatisfied with the work of RONSARD and his disciples, to find their language crude and undigested, their grammar disordered, their expression too exuberant, lacking in dignity, sobriety, and reasonableness. There was a growing disposition to exalt the claims of regularity, order, and a recognized standard. A strict censorship was exercised over an author’s vocabulary, grammar, and versification. Individual freedom was brought under the curb of rule. The man who voiced especially this growing temper of the times was MALHERBE (1555-1628). No doubt his service was great to French letters as a whole, since the movement that he stood for prepared those qualities which give French literature of the classic period its distinction. But these qualities are those of a highly objective and impersonal expression, seeking perfection in conformity to the general consensus of reasonable and intelligent minds, not of an intensely subjective expression, concerned in the first place with being true to the promptings of an individual temperament; and lyric expression is essentially of the latter kind. MALHERBE, therefore, in repressing the liberty of the individual temperament, sealed the springs of lyric poetry, which the Renaissance had opened, and they were not again set running till a new emancipation of the individual had come with the Revolution. Between MALHERBE and CHATEAUBRIAND, that is for almost two hundred years, poetry that breathes the true lyric spirit is practically absent from French literature. There were indeed the _chansonniers_, who produced a good deal of bacchanalian verse, but they hardly ever struck a serious note. Almost the most genuinely lyric productions of this long period are those which proceed more or less directly from a reading of Hebrew poetry, like the numerous paraphrases of the Psalms or the choruses of RACINE’S biblical plays. The typical lyric product of the time was the ode, trite, pompous, and frigid. Even ANDRE CHENIER, who came on the eve of the Revolution and freed himself largely from the narrow restraint of the literary tradition by imbibing directly the spirit of the Greek poets, hardly yielded to a real lyric impulse till he felt the shadow of the guillotine. It is significant of the difficulty that the whole poetical theory put in the way of the lyric that perhaps the most intensely lyrical temperament of these two hundred years, JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU, did not write in verse at all.

That which again unsealed the lyric fountains was Romanticism. Whatever else this much discussed but ill defined word involves–sympathy with the middle ages, new perception of the world of nature, interest in the foreign and the unusual–it certainly suggests a radically new estimate of the importance and of the authority of the individual. It was to the profit of the individual that the old social and political forms had been broken up and melted in the Revolution. It could seem for a moment as if, with the proclamation of the freedom and independence of the individual, all the barriers were down that hemmed in his free motion, as if there were no limits to his self-assertion. His separate personal life got a new amplitude, its possibilities expanded infinitely, and its interest was vastly increased. The whole new world of ideas and impulses urged the individual to pursue and to express his own personal experience of the world. CHATEAUBRIAND made the great revelation of the change that had taken place, and in spite of the fact that his instrument is prose, the lyric quality of many a passage of Rene was as unmistakable as it was new. But the lyric impulse could not at once shake off literary tradition. It needed to learn a new language, one more direct and personal, one less stiff with the starch of propriety and elegance. The more spontaneous and genuine it became, the closer it approached this language. DELAVIGNE won great applause by his _Messeniennes_ (1815-19), but the lyric impulse was not strong enough in him to make him independent of the traditional rhetoric. MME. DESBORDES-VALMORE, less influenced by literary training and more mastered by the emotion that prompted her, found the real lyric note. But it was especially LAMARTINE whose poetic utterance was most spontaneous and who recovered for France the gift of lyric expression. His _Meditations poetiques_ (1820) were greeted with extraordinary enthusiasm and marked the dawn of a new era in French poetry.

But other influences making for a poetic revival were multiplied. A very important one was the spreading knowledge of other modern literatures, particularly those of England and Germany with their lyric treasures. Presently there began to be a union of efforts for a literary reform, as in the Renaissance, and the Romantic movement began to be defined. Its watchword was freedom in art, and as a reform it was naturally considerably determined by the classicism against which it rebelled. The qualities that it strove to possess were sharply in contrast with those that had distinguished French poetry for two hundred years, if they were not in direct opposition to them: in its matter, breadth and infinite variety took the place of a narrow and sterile nobility–“everything that is in nature is in art”; in its language, directness, strength, vigor, freshness, color, brilliancy, picturesqueness, replaced cold propriety, conventional elegance and trite periphrasis; in its form, melody, variety of rhythm, richness and sonority of rhyme, diversity of stanza structure and flexibility of line were sought and achieved, sometimes at the expense of the old rules. By 1830 the young poets, who were now fairly swarming, exhibited the general romantic coloring very clearly. Almost from the first VICTOR HUGO had been their leader. His earliest volume indeed contained little promise of a literary revolution. But the volume of _Orientales_ (1828) was more than a promise; it held a large measure of fulfilment, and is a landmark in the history of French poetry. The technical qualities of these lyrics were a revelation. They distinctly enlarged the capacity of the language for lyrical expression.

There are three other great lyric poets in the generation of 1830: DE VIGNY, DE MUSSET, and GAUTIER. De Vigny annexed to the domain of lyric poetry the province of intellectual passion and a more impersonal and reflecting emotion. De Musset gave to the lyric the most intense and direct accent of personal feeling and made his muse the faithful and responsive echo of his heart. Gautier was an artist in words and laid especial stress on the perfection of form (cf. _l’Art_, p. 190); and it was he especially that the younger poets followed.

By the middle of the century the main springs of Romanticism began to show symptoms of exhaustion. The subjective and personal character of its lyric verse provoked protest. It seemed to have no other theme but self, to be a universal confession or self-glorification, immodest and egotistical. And it began to be increasingly out of harmony with the intellectual temper, which was determined more and more by positive philosophy and the scientific spirit. LECONTE DE LISLE voiced this protest most clearly (cf. _les Montreurs_, p. 199), and set forth the claims of an art that should find its whole aim in the achievement of an objective beauty and should demand of the artist perfect self-control and self-repression. For such an art personal emotion was proclaimed a hindrance, as it might dim the artist’s vision or make his hand unsteady. Those who viewed art in this way, while they turned frankly away from the earlier Romanticists, yet agreed with them in their concern for form, and applied themselves to carrying still farther the technical mastery over it which they had achieved. Their standpoint greatly emphasized the importance of good workmanship, and the stress laid upon form was revealed, among other ways, by a revival of the old fixed forms. The young generation of poets that began to write just after the middle of the century, generally recognized LECONTE DE LISLE as their master, and were called _Parnassiens_ from _le Parnasse contemporain_, a collection of verse to which they contributed. They produced a surprising amount of work distinguished by exquisite finish, and making up for a certain lack of spontaneity by intellectual fervor and strong repressed emotion.

But the rights of subjective personal emotion could not long be denied in lyric poetry. Even LECONTE DE LISLE had not succeeded in obliterating its traces entirely, and if he achieved a calm that justifies the epithet _impassible_, given so freely to him and to his followers, it is at the cost of a struggle that still vibrates beneath the surface of his lines. Presently emotion asserted its authority again, more discreetly and under the restraint of an imperious intellect in SULLY PRUDHOMME, readily taking the form of sympathy with the humble, in FRANCOIS COPPEE, or returning to the old communicative frankness of self-revelation with VERLAINE. With VERLAINE we reach a conscious reaction from the objective and impersonal art of the _Parnassiens_. That art found its end in the perfect rendering of objective reality. The reaction sought to get at the inner significance and spiritual meaning of things, and looked at the objective reality as a veil behind which a deeper sense lies hidden, as a symbol which it is the poet’s business to penetrate and illumine. It also moved away from the clear images, precise contours, and firm lines by which the _Parnassiens_ had given such an effect of plasticity to their verse, and sought rather vague, shadowy, and nebulous impressions and the charm of music and melody (cf. VERLAINE’S poem, _Art poetique_, p. 288). This is in general the direction taken by the latest generation of poets, symbolists, decadents, or however otherwise they are styled, for whom VERLAINE’S influence has been conspicuous. They make up rather an incoherent body, whose aims and aspirations, more or less vague, are by no means adequately indicated by this brief statement of their tendency. They have by no means said their last word. But the accomplishment of their movement hitherto has been marred, and its promise for the future is still threatened, by a fatal and seemingly irresistible tendency toward unintelligibility.


[1] Special commendation may be given to the large work by various scholars under the direction of Petit de Julleville now in process of publication, and also to the shorter histories, in one volume, of Gustave Lanson (1895) and F. Brunetiere (1897). An English translation of the latter is published by T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York.]

[2] A large number of the _chansonniers_ are represented in the collection by Dumersan and Noel Segur, _Chansons nationales et populaires de France_, 2 vols., 1566, to which an account of the French _chanson_ is prefixed. Specimens of the _chanson populaire_ may be read in T.F. Crane’s _Chansons populaires de la France_, New York, Putnam, 1891: an excellent historical sketch and a bibliography make this little volume a good introduction to the reading of French popular poetry.

Anthologies and collections : Crepet, _les Poetes Francais_, 4 vols., 1887; G. Masson, _la Lyre francaise_, London (Golden Treasury Series); G. Saintsbury, _French Lyrics_, New York, 1883; P. Paris, _le Romancero francais_, 1833; K. Bartsch, _Romanzen und Pastourellen_, Leipzig, 1870; Bartsch and Horning, _la Langue et la Litterature francaises depuis le IXe jusqu’au XIVe siecle_, 1887; L. Constans, _Chrestomathie de l’ancien francais a l’usage des classes_, 1884; _Histoire litteraire de la France_, vol. xxiii; Darmesteter and Hatzfeld, _le Seizieme siecle en France_, 1878; F. Godefroy, _Histoire de la litterature francaise depuis le XVIe siecle jusqu’a nos jours_, 6 vols., 1867; Lemerre, _Anthologie des poetes du XIXe siecle_, 1887-88; _le Parnasse contemporain_, 3 series, 1866, 1869, 1876.

For reference: Good historical and critical notices may be found in several of the above, especially in Crepet, Darmesteter and Hatzfeld, and the _Histoire litteraire_; Jeanroy, _Origines de la poesie lyrique en France_, 1889; G. Paris, _Origines de la poesie lyrique en France_, Journal des Savants, 1891, 1892; G. Paris, _la Poesie francaise au XVe siecle_ (lecon d’ouverture), 1886; Sainte-Beuve, _Tableau historique et critique de la poesie au XVIe siecle_; F. Brunetiere, _l’Evolution des genres_, vol. i, 1890; Villemain, _Tableau de la litterature francaise au XVIIIe siecle, passim_; Th. Gautier, _Etude sur les progres de la poesie depuis 1830_ (in _Histoire du romantisme_); C. Mendes, _Legende du Parnasse contemporain_, 1884; F. Brunetiere, _Evolution de la poesie lyrique au XIXe siecle_, 2 vols., 1894; J. Tellier, _Nos poetes_, 1888.


The rules of French versification have not always been the same. The classical movement of the seventeenth century in its reforms proscribed certain things, like hiatus, overflow lines, mute _e_ before the caesura, which had been current hitherto, and the Romanticists of this century have endeavored to give greater diversity and flexibility to verse-structure both by restoring some of these liberties and by introducing new ones. Especially have great innovations been advocated in the last few years by the youngest school of poets, but they have as yet found no general acceptance.

The unit of French versification is not a fixed number of long and short, or accented and unaccented, syllables in a certain definite arrangement, that is, a foot, but a line. A line is a certain number of syllables ending in a rhyme which binds it to one or more other lines. The lines found in lyric verse vary in length from one to thirteen syllables; but lines with an even number of syllables are much more used than those with an odd number.

In determining the number of syllables the general rules of syllabic division are followed, and each vowel or diphthong involves a syllable. But the following points are to be noted:

1. Mute _e_ final or followed by _s_ or _nt_ is not counted at the end of the line.

2. Final mute _e_ in the body of the line is not counted as a syllable before a word beginning with a vowel or mute _h_ (elision).

3. Mute _e_ in the termination of the third person plural, imperfect and conditional, of verbs is not counted; nor is it counted in the future and conditional of verbs of the first conjugation whose stem ends in a vowel (_oublieront_, also written in verse _oubliront_; see p. 130, l. 14).

4. When two or more vowel sounds other than mute _e_ come together within a word they are sometimes treated as a diphthong and make but one syllable, sometimes separated and counted as two. Usage is not altogether consistent in this particular; the same combination is in some words pronounced as two syllables (_ni-ais, li-en, pri-ere, pri-ons, jou-et_), in others as one (_biais, rien, bar-riere, ai-mions, fou-et_); and even the same word is sometimes variable (_ancien, hier, duel_). In general such combinations are monosyllabic if they have developed from a single vowel in the Latin parent word.

5. Certain words allow a different spelling according to the demands of the verse (_encore_ or _encor_, _Charles_ or _Charle_).

Since the sixteenth century, hiatus has been forbidden by the rules of French versification. But, as we have just seen (under 4 above), two vowels are allowed to come together in the interior of a word. What the rule against hiatus does proscribe then is the use of a word ending in a vowel (except mute _e_, which is elided; cf. 2 above) before a word beginning with a vowel or mute _h_, and the use of words in which mute _e_ not final follows a vowel in the interior of the word; e.g. _tu as, et ont, livree jolie; louent, allees_. But hiatus is not regarded as existing when two vowels are brought together by the elision of a mute _e_; e.g. in Hugo’s lines, the _vie a_ in

L’ouragan de leur vie a pris toutes les pages (p. 108, l. 20), and the _joie et_ in
Sois ma force et ma joie et mon pilier d’airain (p. 130, l. 8).

Cf. also 1 and 3 above.

The rhythm of the line comes from the relation of its stressed to its unstressed syllables. All lines have a stress (_leve_) on the rhyme syllable, and if they have more than four syllables they have one or more other stresses. Lines that consist of more than eight syllables are usually broken by a caesural pause, which must follow a stressed syllable. In lines of ten syllables the pause comes generally after the fourth syllable, sometimes after the fifth; in lines of twelve syllables, after the sixth.

The line of twelve syllables is the most important and widely used of all and is known as the Alexandrine, from a poem of the twelfth century celebrating the exploits of Alexander the Great, which is one of the earliest examples of its use. It is almost without exception the measure of serious and dignified dramatic and narrative poetry, and even in lyric verse it is used more frequently than any other. From MALHERBE to VICTOR HUGO the accepted rule demanded a caesura after the sixth syllable and a pause at the end of the line; this divided the line into two equal portions and separated each line from its neighbors, preventing the overflow (_enjambement_) of one line into the next. The line thus constructed had two fixed stresses, one on the sixth syllable, before the caesura, which therefore had to be the final syllable of a word and could not have mute _e_ for its vowel, and another on the final (twelfth) syllable. There are indeed in the poets of that period examples of lines in which, when naturally read, the most considerable pause falls in some other position; but the line always offers in the sixth place a syllable capable of a principal stress. There was also regularly one other stressed syllable in each half-line; it might be any one of the first five syllables, but is most frequently the third, second, or fourth, rarely the first or fifth; but the secondary stress might be wanting altogether; a third stressed syllable in the half-line sometimes occurs. The Romanticists introduced a somewhat greater flexibility into the Alexandrine line by permitting the displacement or suppression of the caesura and the overflow of one line into the next; the displacement of the caesura sometimes goes so far as to put in the sixth place in the line a syllable quite incapable of receiving a stress.

In the following stanza of Lamartine (see p. 60), which consists of Alexandrine lines of the classical type, the stressed syllables are indicated by italics and the caesura by a dash:

Sal_u_t, bois couronn_e_s–d’un r_e_ste de verd_u_re! Feuill_a_ges jauniss_a_nts–sur les gaz_o_ns ep_a_is! Sal_u_t, derniers beaux j_ou_rs!–Le d_eu_il de la nat_u_re Conv_ie_nt a la doul_eu_r–et pl_ai_t a mes reg_a_rds.

Cf. for examples of displaced caesura, Hugo’s lines–

Je marcher_ai_–les yeux fix_e_s sur mes pens_e_es (p. 121,l. 25.) Seul, inconn_u_,–le dos courb_e_,–les mains crois_e_es (p. 121, l. 27.)

For examples of enjambement, cf. Leconte de Lisle’s Lines–

L’ecclesi_a_ste a d_i_t:–Un chien viv_a_nt vaut mi_eu_x Qu’un lion m_o_rt (p. 201, l. 21).
O boucher_i_e!–o soif du m_eu_rtre!–acharnem_e_nt Horr_i_ble! (p. 210, l. 21).

Unrhymed lines (blank verse) and lines of which only the alternate ones rhyme have been tried but discarded.

Rhyme is therefore an indispensable element of French verse, and is vastly more important as a poetic ornament than it is in English; so important that Sainte-Beuve calls it the sole harmony (_l’unique harmonie_) of verse. Rhyme may be either masculine, when it involves but one syllable (_divinite: majeste_, _toi: roi_), or feminine, when it involves two syllables the second of which contains mute _e_ (_repose: rose_, _changees: ravagees_); and lines are called masculine or feminine according to their rhymes. Masculine rhymes must constantly alternate with feminine rhymes; that is, two masculine or feminine lines of different rhymes may never come together; but the younger poets have sought a greater liberty here as elsewhere, and poems with but one kind of rhyme occur (see p. 208). Rhyme to be perfect must satisfy the eye as well as the ear; masculine rhymes must have identity of vowel sound and the final consonants must be the same or such as would have the same sound if pronounced (_granit: nid_, _heros: bourreaux_; not _different: tyran_); but silent consonants between the vowel and the final consonant do not count (_essaims: saints_, _corps: morts_). Feminine rhymes must have identity of rhyming vowels and of following consonant sounds if there be any; and the final consonants must be the same (_fideles: citadelles_, _jolie: crie_; not _nuages: louage_). Variations from ordinary spelling are sometimes used to make words satisfy this rule of rhyming for the eye (_je vien_, _je voi_), but they are hardly approved. The ear seems even sometimes to play the subordinate role in the rhyme, for words are found in rhyme which satisfy the eye but not the ear (_Venus: nus_). Rhyme as above described is called sufficient (_suffisante_); if it also involve identity of the consonant preceding the rhyming vowel (_consonne d’appui_) it is called rich (_riche_); (examples: _etoiles: toiles_, _bandit_;

The French ear is unlike the English in considering _rime riche_ an additional beauty; the Romanticists especially have cultivated it, and there are whole poems where simply sufficient rhyme is the exception. A word may not rhyme with itself, but words identical in form but different in meaning may rhyme with each other (cf. first, fifth, and eleventh stanzas of _les Djinns_, p. 95.

By the use of lines of different length and especially by the arrangement of the rhymes a great variety of stanza forms has been created, as well as certain definite forms for complete short compositions, known as fixed forms. The most common are the _ballade_, _rondel_, _rondeau_, and _triolet_, developed especially in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and revived in our own, and the sonnet, introduced from Italy during the Renaissance.

The _ballade_ consists of three stanzas, of eight or ten lines each, that repeat exactly the same rhyme arrangement, and of a shorter stanza of four or five lines, called the _envoy_, which repeats the rhyme arrangement of the second part of the other stanzas. The line of the ballade has generally eight syllables, but may have ten or twelve (see pp. 1, 4, 5, 235).

The _rondel_, as usually printed, consists of three parts, the first of four lines, the second of four, the last two of which are the first two of the first part, and the third of five, the last one of which is the first one of the first part; there are but two rhymes throughout. The lines of the _rondel_ have usually eight syllables. This form was practically superseded by the rondeau (see pp. 2 and 3).

The _rondeau_ also consists of three parts; the first has five lines, the second three, and the third five, and the first word or words of the first line, usually the first half of the line, are repeated at the end of the second and third parts; there are but two rhymes. The lines of the _rondeau_ have also usually eight syllables (see p. 6).

The _triolet_ consists of eight lines, usually octosyllabic. The first line is twice repeated, in the fourth and seventh places, and the second line is repeated once, making the final one. There are but two rhymes (see p. 298).

The _sonnet_ has fourteen lines, usually Alexandrines, and is made up of two parts, one of eight lines, called the octave, and one of six, called the sestet; the rule allows but two rhymes to the octave and three others to the sestet; the arrangement of the rhymes is inflexible for the strict Petrarchan type (see below), but considerable variations from it are common. For sonnets of the strict type see pp. 257, 263, 280; for others showing variations see pp. 8, 13, 14, 199.

The rhyme arrangement of these various forms is most clearly shown by letters as follows, capital letters indicating lines that are repeated. _Ballade_: eight lines, _ababbcbC_, _ababbcbC_, _ababbcbC_, _bcbC_; ten lines, _ababbccdcD_, _ababbccdcD_, _ababbccdcD_, _ccdcD_. _Rondel: ABba_, _abAB_, _abbaA_. _Rondeau: aabba_, _aab refrain_, _aabba refrain_. _Triolet: ABaAabAB_. _Sonnet: abba abba ccdede_.

For reference: Th. de Banville, _Petit traite de poesie francaise_, 1872; F. de Gramont, _les Vers francais et leur prosodie_, 1875; Becq de Fouquieres, _Traite general de versification francaise_, 1879; A. Tobler,

_Vom franzoesischen Versbau alter und neuer Zeit_, Berlin, 1880, 3d edition, 1894,French translation with excellent preface by Gaston Paris, 1885; Clair Tisseur, _Modestes observations sur l’art de versifier_, Lyon, 1893; A. Bibesco, _la Question du vers francais et la tentative des poetes decadents_, 1893, 2d edition, with preface by Sully Prudhomme, 1896.



Nouvelles ont couru en France,
Par maints lieux, que j’estoye mort Dont avoient peu de desplaisance
Aucuns qui me hayent a tort;
Autres en ont eu desconfort,
Qui m’ayment de loyal vouloir,
Comme mes bons et vrais amis;
Si fais a toutes gens savoir
Qu’encore est vive la souris.

Je n’ay eu ne mal ne grevance,
Dieu mercy, mais suis sain et fort, Et passe temps en esperance
Que paix, qui trop longuement dort, S’esveillera, et par accort
A tous fera liesse avoir ;
Pour ce, de Dieu soyent maudis
Ceux qui sont dolens de veoir
Qu’encore est vive la souris.

Jeunesse sur moy a puissance,
Mais Vieillesse fait son effort
De m’avoir en sa gouvernance;
A present faillira son sort,
Je suis assez loing de son port.

De pleurer vueil garder mon hoir;
Loue soit Dieu de Paradis,
Qui m’a donne force et povoir,
Qu’encore est vive la souris.

Nul ne porte pour moy le noir.
On vent meilleur marchie drap gris; Or tiengne chascun, pour tout voir,
Qu’encore est vive la souris.

Laissez-moy penser a mon aise,
Helas! donnez-m’en le loysir.
Je devise avecques Plaisir
Combien que ma bouche se taise.

Quand Merancolie mauvaise
Me vient maintes fois assaillir,
Laissez-moy penser a mon aise,
Helas! donnez-m’en le loysir.

Car enfin que mon coeur rapaise
J’appelle Plaisant Souvenir,
Qui tantost me vient rejouir.
Pour ce, pour Dieu! ne vous deplaise, Laissez-moy penser a mon aise.


Le temps a laissie son manteau
De vent, de froidure et de pluye,
Et s’est vestu de brouderye,
De soleil luyant, cler et beau.

Il n’y a beste, ne oyseau,
Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crye: Le temps a laissie son manteau
De vent, de froidure et de pluye.

Riviere, fontaine et ruisseau
Portent, en livree jolie,
Gouttes d’argent, d’orfavrerie,
Chascun s’abille de nouveau:
Le temps a laissie son manteau.


Les fourriers d’Este sont venus
Pour appareillier son logis,
Et ont fait tendre ses tappis,
De fleurs et verdure tissus.

En estandant tappis velus,
De vert herbe par le pais,
Les fourriers d’Este sont venus
Pour appareillier son logis.

Cueurs d’ennuy pieca morfondus,
Dieu mercy, sont sains et jolis;
Alez vous en, prenez pais,
Yver, vous ne demourrez plus:
Les fourriers d’Este sont venus.


Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder,
La gracieuse, bonne et belle!
Pour les grans biens qui sont en elle, Chascun est prest de la louer.

Qui se pourrait d’elle lasser?
Tousjours sa beaute renouvelle;
Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder
La gracieuse, bonne et belle!

Par deca, ne dela la mer
Ne scay dame ne damoiselle
Qui soit en tous biens parfaits telle– C’est ung songe que d’y penser:
Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder!



Dictes-moi ou, n’en quel pays,
Est Flora, la belle Romaine;
Archipiada, ne Thais,
Qui fut sa cousine germaine;
Echo, parlant quand bruyt on maine
Dessus riviere ou sus estan,
Qui beaute eut trop plus qu’humaine? Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan!

Ou est la tres sage Helois,
Pour qui fut blesse et puis moyne
Pierre Esbaillart a Sainct-Denys
(Pour son amour eut cest essoyne)?
Semblablement, ou est la royne
Qui commanda que Buridan
Fust jette en ung sac en Seine?…
Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

La royne Blanche comme ung lys,
Qui chantait a voix de sereine;
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys Harembourges, qui tint le Mayne,
Et Jehanne, la bonne Lorraine,
Qu’Anglais bruslerent a Rouen;
Ou sont-ilz, Vierge souveraine?…. Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan!


Prince, n’enquerez de sepmaine
Ou elles sont, ne de cest an,
Que ce refrain ne vous remaine.
Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan!


Mort, j’appelle de ta rigueur.
Qui m’as ma maistresse ravie,
Et n’es pas encore assouvie,
Se tu ne me tiens en langueur.
Depuis n’euz force ne vigueur;
Mais que te nuysait-elle en vie,

Deux estions, et n’avions qu’ung cueur; S’il est mort, force est que devie,
Voire, ou que je vive sans vie,
Comme les images, par cueur,


Je congnois bien mouches en laict;
Je congnois a la robe l’homme;
Je congnois le beau temps du laid;
Je congnois au pommier la pomme;
Je congnois l’arbre a veoir la gomme; Je congnois quand tout est de mesme;
Je congnois qui besongne ou chomme: Je congnois tout, fors que moy-mesme.

Je congnois pourpoinct au collet;
Je congnois le moyne a la gonne;
Je congnois le maistre au valet:
Je congnois au voyle la nonne;
Je congnois quand pipeur jargonne;
Je congnois folz nourriz de cresme; Je congnois le vin a la tonne:
Je congnois tout, fors que moy-mesme.

Je congnois cheval du mullet;
Je congnois leur charge et leur somme; Je congnois Bietrix et Bellet;
Je congnois gect qui nombre et somme; Je congnois vision en somme;
Je congnois la faulte des Boesmes;
Je congnois le povoir de Romme:
Je congnois tout, fors que moy-mesme.


Prince, je congnois tout en somme;
Je congnois coulorez et blesmes;
Je congnois mort, qui nous consomme: Je congnois tout, fors que moy-mesme.



Au bon vieulx temps un train d’amour regnoit Qui sans grand art et dons se demenoit,
Si qu’un bouquet donne d’amour profonde, C’estoit donne toute la terre ronde,
Car seulement au cueur on se prenoit.

Et si par cas a jouyr on venoit,
Scavez-vous bien comme on s’entretenoit? Vingt ans, trente ans: cela duroit un monde Au bon vieulx temps.

Or est perdu ce qu’amour ordonnoit:
Rien que pleurs feincts, rien que changes on n’oyt. Qui vouldra donc qu’a aymer je me fonde, Il faut premier que l’amour on refonde,
Et qu’on la meine ainsi qu’on la menoit Au bon vieulx temps.



Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui, ce matin, avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au soleil,
A point perdu, cette vespree
Les plis de sa robe pourpree
Et son teint au vostre pareil.

Las! voyez comme, en peu d’espace,
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place,
Las, las, ses beautez laisse cheoir! O vrayment marastre nature,
Puisqu’une telle fleur ne dure
Que du matin jusques au soir!

Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,
Tandis que votre age fleuronne
En sa plus verte nouveaute,
Cueillez, cueillez vostre jeunesse: Comme a cette fleur, la vieillesse
Fera ternir vostre beaute.


Pour boire dessus l’herbe tendre
Je veux sous un laurier m’estendre. Et veux qu’Amour d’un petit brin
Ou de lin ou de cheneviere
Trousse au flanc sa robe legere
Et my-nud me verse du vin.

L’incertaine vie de l’homme
De jour en jour se roule comme
Aux rives se roulent les flots:
Puis apres notre heure derniere
Rien de nous ne reste en la biere
Qu’une vieille carcasse d’os.

Je ne veux, selon la coustume,
Que d’encens ma tombe on parfume,
Ny qu’on y verse des odeurs :
Mais tandis que je suis en vie,
J’ai de me parfumer envie,
Et de me couronner de fleurs.

De moy-mesme je me veux faire
L’heritier pour me satisfaire :
Je ne veux vivre pour autruy.
Fol le pelican qui se blesse
Pour les siens, et fol qui se laisse Pour les siens travailler d’ennuy.



Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, a la chandelle, Assise aupres du feu, devisant et filant, Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous esmerveillant : Ronsard me celebroit du temps que j’estois belle.

Lors vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle Desja sous le labeur a demy sommeillant, Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille resveillant, Benissant vostre nom de louange immortelle.

Je seray sous la terre, et, fantosme sans os, Par les ombres myrteux je prendray mon repos: Vous serez au foyer une vieille accroupie,

Regrettant mon amour et vostre fier desdain. Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez a demain: Cueillez des aujourd’huy les roses de la vie.


Quand je suis vingt ou trente mois
Sans retourner en Vendomois,
Plein de pensees vagabondes,
Plein d’un remors et d’un souci,
Aux rochers je me plains ainsi,
Aux bois, aux antres et aux ondes:

Rochers, bien que soyez agez
De trois mil ans, vous ne changez
Jamais ny d’estat ny de forme :
Mais toujours ma jeunesse fuit,
Et la vieillesse qui me suit
De jeune en vieillard me transforme.

Bois, bien que perdiez tous les ans
En hyver vos cheveux mouvans,
L’an d’apres qui se renouvelle
Renouvelle aussi vostre chef.
Mais le mien ne peut de rechef
Ravoir sa perruque nouvelle.

Antres, je me suis vu chez vous
Avoir jadis verds les genous,
Le corps habile et la main bonne:
Mais ores j’ai le corps plus dur
Et les genous, que n’est le mur
Qui froidement vous environne.

Ondes, sans fin vous promenez
Et vous menez et ramenez
Vos flots d’un cours qui ne sejourne: Et moy sans faire long sejour,
Je m’en vais de nuict et de jour
Au lieu d’ou plus on ne retourne.


Dieu vous gard, messagers fidelles
Du printemps, vistes arondelles,
Huppes, coucous, rossignolets,
Tourtres, et vous oiseaux sauvages
Qui de cent sortes de ramages
Animez les bois verdelets!

Dieu vous gard, belles paquerettes.
Belles roses, belles fleurettes,
Et vous, boutons jadis cognus
Du sang d’Ajax et de Narcisse:
Et vous, thym, anis et melisse,
Vous soyez les bien revenus.

Dieu vous gard, troupe diapree
De papillons, qui par la pree
Les douces herbes sucotez:
Et vous, nouvel essaim d’abeilles
Qui les fleurs jaunes et vermeilles De vostre bouche baisotez!

Cent mille fois je resalue
Vostre belle et douce venue:
O que j’aime ceste saison
Et ce doux caquet des rivages,
Au prix des vents et des orages
Qui m’enfermoient en la maison.


Bel aubespin verdissant,
Le long de ce beau rivage,
Tu es vestu jusqu’au bas
Des longs bras
D’une lambrunche sauvage.

Deux camps de rouges fourmis
Se sont mis
En garnison sous ta souche:
Dans les pertuis de ton tronc
Tout du long
Les avettes ont leur couche.

Le chantre rossignolet
Courtisant sa bien aimee,
Pour ses amours alleger
Vient loger
Tous les ans en ta ramee.

Sur ta cyme il fait son ny
Tout uny
De mousse et de fine soye
Ou ses petits esclorront,
Qui seront
De mes mains la douce proye.

Or vy, gentil aubespin,
Vy sans fin,
Vy sans que jamais tonnerre
Ou la cognee ou les vents
Ou les temps
Te puissent ruer par terre.


Escoute, bucheron, arreste un peu le bras: Ce ne sont pas des bois que tu jettes a bas; Ne vois-tu pas le sang lequel degoute a force Des nymphes qui vivoient dessous la dure escorce? Sacrilege meurtrier, si on pend un voleur Pour piller un butin de bien peu de valeur, Combien de feux, de fers, de morts et de detresses Merites-tu, meschant, pour tuer nos deesses?

Forest, haute maison des oiseaux bocagers! Plus le cerf solitaire et les chevreuls legers Ne paistront sous ton ombre, et ta verte criniere Plus du soleil d’este ne rompra la lumiere.

Plus l’amoureux pasteur sus un tronq adosse, Enflant son flageolet a quatre trous perse, Son mastin a ses pieds, a son flanc la houlette, Ne dira plus l’ardeur de sa belle Janette: Tout deviendra muet; Echo sera sans vois; Tu deviendras campagne, et en lieu de tes bois, Dont l’ombrage incertain lentement se remue, Tu sentiras le soc, le coutre et la charrue; Tu perdras ton silence, et Satyres et Pans, Et plus le cerf chez toy ne cachera ses fans.

Adieu, vieille forest, le jouet de Zephire, Ou premier j’accorday les langues de ma lyre, Ou premier j’entendi les fleches resonner D’Apollon, qui me vint tout le coeur estonner; Ou premier admirant la belle Calliope,
Je devins amoureux de sa neuvaine trope, Quand sa main sur le front cent roses me jetta, Et de son propre laict Euterpe m’allaita.

Adieu, vieille forest, adieu, testes sacrees, De tableaux et de fleurs en tout temps reverees, Maintenant le desdain des passans alterez, Qui, bruslez en l’este des rayons etherez, Sans plus trouver le frais de tes douces verdures, Accusent tes meurtriers, et leur disent injures!

Adieu, chesnes, couronne aux vaillans citoyens, Arbres de Jupiter, germes Dordoneens,
Qui premiers aux humains donnastes a repaistre; Peuples vrayment ingrats, qui n’ont sceu recognoistre Les biens receus de vous, peuples vrayment grossiers, De massacrer ainsi leurs peres nourriciers!

Que l’homme est malheureux qui au monde se fie! O dieux, que veritable est la philosophie, Qui dit que toute chose a la fin perira, Et qu’en changeant de forme une autre vestira!

De Tempe la vallee un jour sera montagne, Et la cyme d’Athos une large campagne:
Neptune quelquefois de ble sera couvert: La matiere demeure et la forme se perd.



Si nostre vie est moins qu’une journee En l’eternel, si l’an qui fait le tour
Chasse nos jours sans espoir de retour, Si perissable est toute chose nee,

Que songes-tu, mon ame emprisonnee?
Pourquoy te plaist l’obscur de nostre jour, Si pour voler en un plus clair sejour,
Tu as au dos l’aile bien empennee?

La est le bien que tout esprit desire, La le repos ou tout le monde aspire,
La est l’amour, la le plaisir encore.

La, o mon ame, au plus haut ciel guidee. Tu y pourras recognoistre l’idee
De la beaute qu’en ce monde j’adore.


Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage, Ou comme cestuy la qui conquit la toison, Et puis est retourne, plein d’usage et raison, Vivre entre ses parens le reste de son age!

Quand reverray-je, helas! de mon petit village Fumer la cheminee, et en quelle saison,
Reverray-je le clos de ma pauvre maison, Qui m’est une province, et beaucoup davantage?

Plus me plaist le sejour qu’ont basty mes ayeux, Que des palais romains le front audacieux, Plus que le marbre dur me plaist l’ardoise fine;

Plus mon Loyre gaulois que le Tybre latin, Plus mon petit Lire que le mont Palatin
Et plus que l’air marin la douceur Angevine.


A vous, trouppe legere,
Qui d’aile passagere
Par le monde volez
Et d’un sifflant murmure
L’ombrageuse verdure
Doucement esbranlez:

J’offre ces violettes,
Ces lis et ces fleurettes,
Et ces roses ici,
Ces merveillettes roses,
Tout freschement ecloses,
Et ces oeillets aussi.

De vostre douce haleine
Eventez ceste plaine,
Eventez ce sejour,
Ce pendant que j’ahanne
A mon ble que je vanne
A la chaleur du jour.



Mes volages humeurs, plus sterilles que belles, S’en vont; et je leur dis: Vous sentez, irondelles, S’esloigner la chaleur et le froid arriver. Allez nicher ailleurs, pour ne tascher, impures, Ma couche de babil et ma table d’ordures; Laissez dormir en paix la nuict de mon hyver.

D’un seul point le soleil n’esloigne l’hemisphere; Il jette moins d’ardeur, mais autant de lumiere. Je change sans regrets, lorsque je me repens Des frivoles amours et de leur artifice. J’ayme l’hyver qui vient purger mon coeur de vice, Comme de peste l’air, la terre de serpens.

Mon chef blanchit dessous les neiges entassees, Le soleil, qui reluit, les eschauffe, glacees, Mais ne les peut dissoudre, au plus court de ses mois. Fondez, neiges; venez dessus mon coeur descendre, Qu’encores il ne puisse allumer de ma cendre Du brazier, comme il fit des flammes autrefois.

Mais quoi! serai-je esteint devant ma vie esteinte? Ne luira plus sur moi la flamme vive et sainte, Le zele flamboynt de la sainte maison?
Je fais aux saints autels holocaustes des restes, De glace aux feux impurs, et de napthe aux celestes: Clair et sacre flambeau, non funebre tison!

Voici moins de plaisirs, mais voici moins de peines. Le rossignol se taist, se taisent les sereines: Nous ne voyons cueillir ni les fruits ni les fleurs; L’esperance n’est plus bien souvent tromperesse; L’hyver jouit de tout. Bienheureuse vieillesse, La saison de l’usage, et non plus des labeurs!

Mais la mort n’est pas loin; cette mort est suivie D’un vivre sans mourir, fin d’une fausse vie: Vie de nostre vie, et mort de nostre mort. Qui hait la seurete pour aimer le naufrage? Qui a jamais este si friand de voyage,
Que la longueur en soit plus douce que le port?



Les Cieux inexorables
Me sont si rigoureux,
Que les plus miserables
Se comparans a moy se trouveraient heureux.

Je ne fais a toute heure
Que souhaiter la mort,
Dont la longue demeure
Prolonge dessus moy l’insolence du Sort.

Mon lict est de mes larmes
Trempe toutes les nuits:
Et ne peuvent ses charmes,
Lors mesme que je dors, endormir mes ennuis.

Si je fay quelque songe
J’en suis espouvante,
Car mesme son mensonge
Exprime de mes maux la triste verite.

Toute paix, toute joye
A pris de moy conge,
Laissant mon ame en proye
A cent mille soucis dont mon coeur est ronge.

La pitie, la justice,
La constance, et la foy,
Cedant a l’artifice,
Dedans les coeurs humains sont esteintes pour moy.

L’ingratitude paye
Ma fidelle amitie:
La calomnie essaye
A rendre mes tourments indignes de pitie.

En un cruel orage
On me laisse perir,
Et courant au naufrage
Je voy chacun me plaindre et nul me secourir.

Et ce qui rend plus dure
La misere ou je vy,
C’est, es maux que j’endure,
La memoire de l’heur que le Ciel m’a ravi.

Felicite passee
Qui ne peux revenir:
Tourment de ma pensee,
Que n’ai-je en te perdant perdu le souvenir!

Helas! il ne me reste
De mes contentements
Qu’un souvenir funeste,
Qui me les convertit a toute heure en tourments.

Le sort plein d’injustice
M’ayant en fin rendu
Ce reste un pur supplice,
Je serois plus heureux si j’avois plus perdu.



Jamais ne pourray-je bannir
Hors de moy l’ingrat souvenir
De ma gloire si tost passee?
Toujours pour nourrir mon soucy.
Amour, cet enfant sans mercy,
L’offrira-t-il a ma pensee!

Tyran implacable des coeurs,
De combien d’ameres langueurs
As-tu touche ma fantaisie !
De quels maux m’as-tu tourmente!
Et dans mon esprit agite
Que n’a point fait la jalousie !

Mes yeux, aux pleurs accoutumez,
Du sommeil n’estoient plus fermez;
Mon coeur fremissoit sous la peine: A veu d’oeil mon teint jaunissoit;
Et ma bouche qui gemissoit,
De soupirs estoit toujours pleine.

Aux caprices abandonne,
J’errois d’un esprit forcene,
La raison cedant a la rage:
Mes sens, des desirs emportez,
Flottoient, confus, de tous costez, Comme un vaisseau parmy l’orage.

Blasphemant la terre et les cieux,
Mesmes je m’estois odieux,
Tant la fureur troubloit mon ame:
Et bien que mon sang amasse
Autour de mon coeur fust glace,
Mes propos n’estoient que de flame.

Pensif, frenetique et resvant,
L’esprit trouble, la teste au vent, L’oeil hagard, le visage blesme,
Tu me fis tous maux esprouver;
Et sans jamais me retrouver,
Je m’allois cherchant en moy-mesme.

Cependant lors que je voulois,
Par raison enfraindre tes loix,
Rendant ma flame refroidie,
Pleurant, j’accusay ma raison
Et trouvay que la guerison
Est pire que la maladie.

Un regret pensif et confus
D’avoir este, et n’estre plus,
Rend mon ame aux douleurs ouverte;
A mes despens, las! je vois bien
Qu’un bonheur comme estoit le mien
Ne se cognoist que par la perte.



Ta douleur, du Perier, sera donc eternelle, Et les tristes discours
Que te met en l’esprit l’amitie paternelle L’augmenteront toujours?

Le malheur de ta fille, au tombeau descendue Par un commun trepas,
Est-ce quelque dedale ou ta raison perdue Ne se retrouve pas?

Je sais de quels appas son enfance etait pleine, Et n’ai pas entrepris,
Injurieux ami, de soulager ta peine Avecque son mepris.

Mais elle etait du monde, ou les plus belles choses Ont le pire destin;
Et, rose, elle a vecu ce que vivent les roses, L’espace d’un matin.

Puis quand ainsi serait que, selon ta priere, Elle aurait obtenu
D’avoir en cheveux blancs termine sa carriere, Qu’en fut-il advenu?

Penses-tu que, plus vieille, en la maison celeste Elle eut eu plus d’accueil,
Ou qu’elle eut moins senti la poussiere funeste Et les vers du cercueil?

Non, non, mon du Perier; aussitot que la Parque Ote l’ame du corps,
L’age s’evanouit au deca de la barque, Et ne suit pas les morts.

Tithon n’a plus les ans qui le firent cigale, Et Pluton aujourd’hui,
Sans egard du passe, les merites egale D’Archemore et de lui.

Ne te lasse donc plus d’inutiles complaintes; Mais, sage a l’avenir,
Aime une ombre comme ombre, et des cendres eteintes Eteins le souvenir.

C’est bien, je le confesse, une juste coutume, Que le coeur afflige,
Par le canal des yeux vidant son amertume, Cherche d’etre allege.

Meme quand il advient que la tombe separe Ce que nature a joint,
Celui qui ne s’emeut a l’ame d’un barbare, Ou n’en a du tout point.

Mais d’etre inconsolable, et dedans sa memoire Enfermer un ennui,
N’est-ce pas se hair pour acquerir la gloire De bien aimer autrui?

Priam, qui vit ses fils abattus par Achille, Denue de support
Et hors de tout espoir du salut de sa ville, Recut du reconfort.

Francois, quand la Castille, inegale a ses armes, Lui vola son Dauphin,
Sembla d’un si grand coup devoir jeter des larmes Qui n’eussent point de fin.

Il les secha pourtant, et comme un autre Alcide Contre fortune instruit,
Fit qu’a ses ennemis d’un acte si perfide La honte fut le fruit.

Leur camp, qui la Durance avoit presque tarie De bataillons epais,
Entendant sa constance eut peur de sa furie, Et demanda la paix.

De moi, deja deux fois d’une pareille foudre Je me suis vu perclus,
Et deux fois la raison m’a si bien fait resoudre Qu’il ne m’en souvient plus.

Non qu’il ne me soit grief que la terre possede Ce qui me fut si cher;
Mais en un accident qui n’a point de remede, Il n’en faut point chercher.

La mort a des rigueurs a nulle autre pareilles; On a beau la prier,
La cruelle qu’elle est se bouche les oreilles, Et nous laisse crier.

Le pauvre en sa cabane, ou le chaume le couvre, Est sujet a ses lois;
Et la garde qui veille aux barrieres du Louvre N’en defend point nos Rois.

De murmurer contre elle et perdre patience Il est mal a propos;
Vouloir ce que Dieu veut est la seule science Qui nous met en repos.


Ils s’en vont, ces rois de ma vie,
Ces yeux ces beaux yeux
Dont l’eclat fait palir d’envie
Ceux meme des cieux.
Dieux amis de l’innocence,
Qu’ai-je fait pour meriter
Les ennuis ou cette absence
Me va precipiter?

Elle s’en va, cette merveille
Pour qui nuit et jour,
Quoi que la raison me conseille,
Je brule d’amour.
Dieux amis, etc.

En quel effroi de solitude
Assez ecarte
Mettrai-je mon inquietude
En sa liberte?
Dieux amis, etc.

Les affliges ont en leurs peines
Recours a pleurer;
Mais quand mes yeux seraient fontaines, Que puis-je esperer?
Dieux amis, etc.


N’Esperons plus, mon ame, aux promesses du monde: Sa lumiere est un verre, et sa faveur une onde Que toujours quelque vent empeche de calmer. Quittons ces vanites, lassons-nous de les suivr C’est Dieu qui nous fait vivre,
C’est Dieu qu’il faut aimer.

En vain, pour satisfaire a nos laches envies, Nous passons pres des rois tout le temps de nos vies A souffrir des mepris et ployer les genoux. Ce qu’ils peuvent n’est rien; ils sont comme nous sommes, Veritablement hommes,
Et meurent comme nous.

Ont-ils rendu l’esprit, ce n’est plus que poussiere Que cette majeste si pompeuse et si fiere Dont l’eclat orgueilleux etonne l’univers; Et dans ces grands tombeaux ou leurs ames hautaines, Font encore les vaines,
Ils sont manges des vers.

La se perdent ces noms de maitres de la terre, D’arbitres de la paix, de foudres de la guerre; Comme ils n’ont plus de sceptre, ils n’ont plus de flatteurs, Et tombent avec eux d’une chute commune
Tous ceux que leur fortune
Faisait leurs serviteurs.




Dieu fait triompher l’innocence;
Chantons, celebrons sa puissance.


Il a vu contre nous les mechants s’assembler, Et notre sang pret a couler;
Comme l’eau sur la terre ils allaient le repandre: Du haut du ciel sa voix s’est fait entendre, L’homme superbe est renverse,
Ses propres fleches l’ont perce.


J’ai vu l’impie adore sur la terre;
Pareil au cedre il cachait dans les cieux Son front audacieux;
Il semblait a son gre gouverner le tonnerre, Foulait aux pieds ses ennemis vaincus:
Je n’ai fait que passer, il n’etait deja plus.


Que le Seigneur est bon! que son joug est aimable! Heureux qui des l’enfance en connait la douceur’ Jeune peuple, courez a ce maitre adorable; Les biens les plus charmants n’ont rien de comparable

Aux torrents de plaisirs qu’il repand dans un coeur. Que le Seigneur est bon! que son joug est aimable! Heureux qui des l’enfance en connait la douceur!


Il s’apaise, il pardonne;
Du coeur ingrat qui l’abandonne
Il attend le retour;
Il excuse notre faiblesse;
A nous chercher meme il s’empresse: Pour l’enfant qu’elle a mis au jour
Une mere a moins de tendresse.
Ah! qui peut avec lui partager notre amour!


Il nous fait remporter une illustre victoire.

Il nous a revele sa gloire.


Ah! qui peut avec lui partager notre amour!


Que son nom soit beni; que son nom soit chante; Que Ton celebre ses ouvrages
Au dela des temps et des ages,
Au dela de l’eternite.



Fortine dont la main couronne
Les forfaits les plus inouis,
Du faux eclat qui t’environne
Serons-nous toujours eblouis?
Jusques a quand, trompeuse idole,
D’un culte honteux et frivole
Honorerons-nous tes autels?
Verra-t-on toujours tes caprices
Consacres par les sacrifices
Et par l’hommage des mortels?

Apprends que la seule sagesse
Peut faire les heros parfaits;
Qu’elle voit toute la bassesse
De ceux que ta faveur a faits;
Qu’elle n’adopte point la gloire
Qui nait d’une injuste victoire
Que le sort remporte pour eux ;
Et que, devant ses yeux stoiques,
Leurs vertus les plus heroiques
Ne sont que des crimes heureux.

Quoi! Rome et l’Italie en cendre
Me feront honorer Sylla?
J’admirerai dans Alexandre
Ce que j’abhorre en Attila?
J’appellerai vertu guerriere
Une vaillance meurtriere
Qui dans mon sang trempe ses mains; Et je pourrai forcer ma bouche
A louer un heros farouche,
Ne pour le malheur des humains?

Quels traits me presentent vos fastes, Impitoyables conquerants!
Des voeux outres, des projets vastes, Des rois vaincus par des tyrans;
Des murs que la flamme ravage,
Des vainqueurs fumants de carnage,
Un peuple au fer abandonne;
Des meres pales et sanglantes,
Arrachant leurs filles tremblantes
Des bras d’un soldat effrene.

Juges insenses que nous sommes,
Nous admirons de tels exploits!
Est-ce donc le malheur des hommes
Qui fait la vertu des grands rois?
Leur gloire, feconde en ruines,
Sans le meurtre et sans les rapines Ne saurait-elle subsister?
Images des Dieux sur la terre,
Est-ce par des coups de tonnerre
Que leur grandeur doit eclater?

Montrez-nous, guerriers magnanimes,
Votre vertu dans tout son jour,
Voyons comment vos coeurs sublimes
Du sort soutiendront le retour.
Tant que sa faveur vous seconde,
Vous etes les maitres du monde,
Votre gloire nous eblouit;
Mais au moindre revers funeste,
Le masque tombe, l’homme reste,
Et le heros s’evanouit.



Son age echappait a l’enfance;
Riante comme l’innocence,
Elle avait les traits de l’Amour.
Quelques mois, quelques jours encore, Dans ce coeur pur et sans detour
Le sentiment allait eclore.
Mais le ciel avait au trepas
Condamne ses jeunes appas;
Au ciel elle a rendu sa vie,
Et doucement s’est endormie,
Sans murmurer contre ses lois.
Ainsi le sourire s’efface;
Ainsi meurt sans laisser de trace
Le chant d’un oiseau dans les bois.



J’ai revele mon coeur au Dieu de l’innocence; Il a vu mes pleurs penitents:
Il guerit mes remords, il m’arme de constance; Les malheureux sont ses enfants.

Mes ennemis, riant, ont dit dans leur colere: Qu’il meure et sa gloire avec lui!
Mais a mon coeur calme le Seigneur dit en pere: Leur haine sera ton appui.

A tes plus chers amis ils ont prete leur rage: Tout trompe ta simplicite:
Celui que tu nourris court vendre ton image Noire de sa mechancete.

Mais Dieu t’entend gemir; Dieu, vers qui te ramene Un vrai remords ne des douleurs;
Dieu qui pardonne, enfin, a la nature humaine D’etre faible dans les malheurs.

“J’eveillerai pour toi la pitie, la justice De l’incorruptible avenir.
Eux-meme epureront, par un long artifice, Ton honneur qu’ils pensent ternir.”

Soyez beni, mon Dieu, vous qui daignez me rendre L’innocence et son noble orgueil;
Vous qui, pour proteger le repos de ma cendre, Veillerez pres de mon cercueil!

Au banquet de la vie, infortune convive, J’apparus un jour, et je meurs!
Je meurs, et sur ma tombe, ou lentement j’arrive, Nul ne viendra verser des pleurs.

Salut, champs que j’aimais, et vous, douce verdure, Et vous, riant exil des bois!
Ciel, pavillon de l’homme, admirable nature, Salut pour la derniere fois!

Ah! puissent voir longtemps votre beaute sacree Tant d’amis sourds a mes adieux!
Qu’ils meurent pleins de jours, que leur mort soit pleuree. Qu’un ami leur ferme les yeux!



Allons, enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrive;
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’etendard sanglant est leve.
Entendez-vous dans ces campagnes
Mugir ces feroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

La Marseillaise

Aux armes, citoyens! formez vos bataillons! Marchons, marchons!
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!

Que veut cette horde d’esclaves,
De traitres, de rois conjures?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers des longtemps prepares?
Francais, pour nous, ah! quel outrage! Quels transports il doit exciter!
C’est nous qu’on ose mediter
De rendre a l’antique esclavage!
Aux armes, citoyens! etc.

Quoi! ces cohortes etrangeres
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers!
Quoi! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers! Grand Dieu! par des mains enchainees
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient! De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maitres de nos destinees!
Aux armes, citoyens! etc.

Tremblez, tyrans, et vous, perfides, L’opprobre de tous les partis;
Tremblez! vos projets parricides, Vont enfin recevoir leur prix!
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre; S’ils tombent, nos jeunes heros,
La France en produit de nouveaux
Contre vous tout prets a se battre! Aux armes, citoyens! etc,

Francais, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups;
Epargnez ces tristes victimes
A regret s’armant contre nous;
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais les complices de Bouille,
Tous ces tigres qui sans pitie
Dechirent le sein de leurs meres! Aux armes, citoyens, etc.

Amour sacre de la patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs, Liberte, Liberte cherie,
Combats avec tes defenseurs!
Sous nos drapeaux que la Victoire Accoure a tes males accents;
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire Aux armes, citoyens! etc.

Nous entrerons dans la carriere
Quand nos aines n’y seront plus;
Nous y trouveront leur poussiere
Et la trace de leurs vertus!
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre!

Aux armes, citoyens! formez vos bataillons! Marchons, marchons!
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons.



“L’epi naissant murit de la faux respecte; Sans crainte du pressoir, le pampre tout l’ete Boit les doux presents de l’aurore;
Et moi, comme lui belle, et jeune comme lui, Quoi que l’heure presente ait de trouble et d’ennui, Je ne veux pas mourir encore.

“Qu’un stoique aux yeux secs vole embrasser la mort, Moi je pleure et j’espere; au noir souffle du nord Je plie et releve ma tete.
S’il est des jours amers, il en est de si doux! Helas! quel miel jamais n’a laisse de degouts? Quelle mer n’a point de tempete ?

“L’illusion feconde habite dans mon sein: D’une prison sur moi les murs pesent en vain, J’ai les ailes de l’esperance.
Echappee aux reseaux de l’oiseleur cruel, Plus vive, plus heureuse, aux campagnes du ciel Philomele chante et s’elance.

“Est-ce a moi de mourir? Tranquille je m’endors, Et tranquille je veille, et ma veille aux remords Ni mon sommeil ne sont en proie.
Ma bienvenue au jour me rit dans tous les yeux; Sur des fronts abattus mon aspect dans ces lieux Ranime presque de la joie.

“Mon beau voyage encore est si loin de sa fin! Je pars, et des ormeaux qui bordent le chemin J’ai passe les premiers a peine.
Au banquet de la vie a peine commence, Un instant seulement mes levres ont presse La coupe en mes mains encor pleine.

“Je ne suis qu’au printemps, je veux voir la moisson; Et, comme le soleil, de saison en saison Je veux achever mon annee.
Brillante sur ma tige et l’honneur du jardin, Je n’ai vu luire encor que les feux du matin, Je veux achever ma journee.

“O mort! tu peux attendre: eloigne, eloigne-toi; Va consoler les coeurs que la honte, l’effroi, Le pale desespoir devore.
Pour moi Pales encore a des asiles verts, Les Amours des baisers, les Muses des concerts; Je ne veux pas mourir encore.”

Ainsi, triste et captif, ma lyre toutefois S’eveillait, ecoutant ces plaintes, cette voix, Ces voeux d’une jeune captive;
Et secouant le joug de mes jours languissants,