I love this song which is a setting of a poem by Charles-Henri Ribouté which Ribouté took from an old folk song. The melody is attributed both to Pergolesi and to Antoine Albanese and it’s found all over the place and in all sorts of settings with all sorts of lyrics — such as the the Lebanese hymn "Wa Habibi". In the original «Que ne suis-je la fougère » The singer wishes that he were a bed of ferns so that at the end of the day his shepherdess love would lie down with him. It’s a lovely song full of tender longing and a very gentle eroticism. (you’ll find Susan Higgins’ wonderfully poetic translation together with the original French lyrics below the fold). To present the melody in it’s various aspects I’ve set up a playlist with several versions. The first is by the «Musiciens du Palais Royal » (Laurence Orlowski and Kléber Besson). I like how Orlowski sings this, she gets the phrasing, the tempo, and the intonation just right all nicely enchanced by Besson’s accompaniment on the lute. The second is an instrumental interpretation for the Romantic Guitar played by Ferdinando Carulli. I like the tone of his instrument which dates from around 1800, I like his playing, and I like his variations on the tune. I hope you’ll enjoy Carulli’s performance as much as I do. I’ve added the Kronos Quartet’s instrumental version of "Wa Habibi" and Tania Kassis’ live performance of it on MTV because both blew me away the first time I heard them. Indeed I’ve come to prefer Kassis’ singing of it to Fayrouz’s versions. Playlist, lyrics and translation are all below the fold. Enjoy :-).
How to use the playlist: The playlist consists of a set of thumbnails and text links. Clicking any one of the thumbnails or the text links will load that performance in the large player on top which you use exactly the same as you use YouTube’s player.
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|Que ne suis-je la fougère||(How I wish I were a ferny bank)|
|Que ne suis-je la fougère|
Où, sur la fin d’un beau jour,
Se repose ma bergère
Sous la garde de l’amour ?
Que ne suis-je le zéphyre
Qui raffraîchit ses appas,
L’air que sa bouche respire,
La fleur qui naît sous ses pas ?
|How I wish I were a ferny bank, so my love could lie there,|
In the cool shades of evening, in Love’s tender care.
How I wish I were a Zephyr, blowing tender and sweet,
Or the air she is breathing, or the flow’rs ‘neath her feet.
|Que ne suis-je l’onde pure|
Qui la reçoit dans son sein ?
Que ne suis-je la parure
Qui la couvre après le bain ?
Que ne suis-je cette glace,
Où son minois répété
Offre à nos yeux une grâce
Qui sourit à la beauté ?
|As pure water, I would bathe her in my loving embrace;|
As her garments, I’d enfold her, adorning her grace;
As her mirror, I would tell her how smiling and fair
Is the face she sees reflected in loveliness there.
Que ne puis-je, par un songe,
Que ne puis-je du mensonge
Passer à la vérité ?
Les dieux qui m’ont donné l’être
M’ont fait trop ambitieux,
Car enfin je voudrais être
Tout ce qui plaît à ses yeux !
How I wish, in a dream, I could capture her heart;
They have made me too ambitious, those gods who dwell above,
For in truth, my one desire is to be pleasing to my love.
Les Tendres Souhaits — Charles-Henri Ribouté