a Cycle of Flower Songs (4 – Chabrier)

Few are the temptresses who smoke in a public square in Seville (in Carmen) or dance in a magic garden facing Seville (that is, Moorish Spain, in Parsifal) and seduce men with flowers in exchange for their freedom.  Most women are themselves flowers which men adore for their blooming beauty.  Perhaps thinking of a youth drunk with erotic synesthesia rather than scared by it, Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-94) dedicated his romance “Toutes les fleurs” (1889) to France’s first Parsifal.

Graham Johnson (1950) is a great collaborative pianist who combines tremendous musical, scholarly, and reflective skills in a brilliant fusion that Pantelis Polychronidis too seeks to achieve in his work. He has written a splendid commentary on this song worth reading in full, and aloud, because it does justice to its recurring double affirmations surtou surtou, lilas lilas, and roses roses which echo the lover loving.

May 14, 2015

Toutes les fleurs[4’30]
Toutes les fleurs, certes, je les adore!
Les pâles lys aux saluts langoureux,
Les lys fluets dont le satin se dore,
Dans leur calice, d’ors poudreux!
Et les bleuets bleus
Dont l’azur décore
Les blés onduleux,
Et les liserons qu’entr’ouvre l’aurore
De ses doigts frileux …
Mais surtout, surtout, je suis amoureux,
Cependant que de folles gloses
S’emplissent les jardins heureux,
Des lilas lilas
Et des roses roses!
Toutes les fleurs, certes, je les adore!
Les cyclamens aux fragiles bouquets,
Les mimosas dont le buisson se dore,
Et les chers jasmins si coquets,
Et les doux genêts
Dont la brise odore,
Et les fins muguets,
Les muguets d’argent,
Si frais quand l’aurore
Mouille les bosquets.
Mais surtout, surtout, je suis amoureux,
Cependant que de folles gloses
S’emplissent les jardins heureux,
Des lilas lilas
Et des roses roses!

Toutes les fleurs, certes, je les adore!
Toutes les fleurs dont fleurit ta beauté,
Les clairs soucis dont la lumière dore
Tes cheveux aux blondeurs de thé,
L’iris velouté
Qui te prête encore
Sa gracilité,
Et l’œillet qui met ta joue et l’aurore
En rivalité!
Mais surtout, surtout, je suis amoureux,
Dans tes chères lèvres décloses
Et dans les cernes de tes yeux,
Des lilas lilas
Et des roses roses!

by Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)

All the flowers—of course I adore them!
Pale lilies with languid bows,
Slender lilies with gold-tinged satin
In calyxes of powdered gold!
Blue cornflowers
Whose blueness beautifies
The waving corn,
And convulvulus half-opened
By cold-fingered dawn …
But most of all I’m in love,
Though wild rumour
Fills the happy gardens,
With the lilac lilac
And rose-coloured rose!
All the flowers—of course I adore them!
Cyclamen in fragile clusters,
Mimosa that gilds the thickets,
And dear coquettish jasmine
And sweet broom
That scents the breeze,
Pretty, silver
Lilies-of-the-valley,
So fresh when dawn
Bedews the groves.
But most of all I’m in love,
Though wild rumour
Fills the happy gardens,
With the lilac lilac
And rose-coloured rose!

All the flowers—of course I adore them!
All the flowers with which your beauty blooms,
The bright marigold whose golden light
Bathes your hair the colour of tea,
The velvety iris
Which lends you
Her slender form,
And the pinks that cause your cheeks
To vie with the dawn!
But most of all I’m in love—
In your dear lips in bloom
And your round eyes—
With the lilac lilac
And rose-coloured rose!

translation by Richard Stokes © 2002

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