Guillaume Apollinaire: “Le Pont Mirabeau / The Mirabeau Bridge”

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante
L’amour s’en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l’Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure
Guillaume Apollinaire (b. 26 August 1880)

Listen to Apollonaire read his poem in this 1913 recording, thanks to uBuweb (opens in new window)…

Photo: Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure by нσвσ

Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine
Must I recall
Our loves recall how then
After each sorrow joy came back again

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

Hands joined and face to face let’s stay just so
While underneath
The bridge of our arms shall go
Weary of endless looks the river’s flow

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

All love goes by as water to the sea
All love goes by
How slow life seems to me
How violent the hope of love can be

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

The days the weeks pass by beyond our ken
Neither time past
Nor love comes back again
Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

Translation by Richard Wilbur


~ by matt on 26 August 2008.

10 Responses to “Guillaume Apollinaire: “Le Pont Mirabeau / The Mirabeau Bridge””

  1. The recording of Apollinaire reading was a great idea!

  2. This is probably untranslatable. Even Wilbur, by a very wide margin the finest translator of poetry the English language has yet seen, is defeated by it.

  3. Great comment, canadiancomposer–thanks very much.

    I don’t read French with any flunecy, but I’m sure you’re right. “Probably untranlatable” might well be the very reason Wilbur took the task on. While my fragile French doesn’t allow me to elaborate in this case, this “defeat” is something I have experienced in translating from languages in which I am fluent.

    I’d deeply appreciate it if you (with your depth in French)could expand some on your strong reaction that the translator is “defeated by it.” I imagine your reaction is coming from something deeper than a “straightforward” issue of diction, syntax, or grammar. Probably it’s something less easily articulated, perhaps a basic difference between the musical possibilities in French and English? Is there a Spanish or Italian translation you know of that gets closer than Wilbur’s English (which is, probably as good as an English translation could be)?

    Sorry for all the questions, but your comment is getting at the core of what a poem is and, if you have the time to elaborate, golempoem would surely appreciate it! Thanks again. Matt

  4. i really appreciate the translation because it eased the stress of translating french to english as a beginner in learning french.i tried translating the poem but to no meaning and i need to understand it to analyse the poem in french. merci beacoup.

  5. I am attempting to compose a song based on Apollinaire’s poem. I interpret the key words of the poem to be “Et nos amours.” At this point in the lyrics, the singer rests, with the piano accompaniment simply playing four notes to the rhythm of the words on one note. This note and this rhythm provide the underpinnings for the entire accompaniment. The sorrow/joy cycle is depicted musically because phrases overlap, so that the melody of one phrase becomes part of the accompaniment for the next. The song is basically in a minor key, with shifts to the relative major. But always in the same “Et nos amours” spot in the cyclical structure of the poem the same haunting, “unsung” four notes occur in the piano. And then, as the final phrase of the poem dies away, the piano insistently repeats these notes and the voice picks up “etnosamoursetnosamoursetnosamours,” singing these words for the first time as the final phrase of the song. The problem with this approach is that it literally forces the listener into MY interpretation of the poem. But this is the very nature of song: if music is going to “share the stage” with the poetry, the listener’s view of the poetry must, of necessity, change. Therefore, forcing the listener to change his view of the poem can actually be a good, a useful, thing–provided, of course, that the change being forced enhances the new entity being offered.

  6. Dennis–thanks for your description of how you’re moving this poem into your song. The question that seems to bother you–imposing your interpretation on the listener–is really what happens in some ways in every creative act. Please keep us posted on your progress.

  7. […] Paris’s first bridge, the Mirabeau Bridge, which was immortalized by a popular poem written by Guillaume Apollinaire. The interior is decorated with luxurious lilac carpeting and lavished couches. It also revisits […]

  8. Merci d’avoir mis ce brilliant poeme d’Apollinaire sur ce Web page. J’adore sa voix chantante quand il recite le poeme.
    Thank’s for posting this wonderful poem by Apollinaire. I specifically adore his chanting voice as he recites the text.

  9. I chose this poem to recite for a French competition. I love Guilliame Apollinaire I really appriciate the translation. I am being judged not only on memorization and pronunciation, but the way I say the poem with emotion and the English translation really helps. Thank you.

  10. See also

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Natalie E. Illum...

is a poet, performer and disability activist. Bring her stumbling to your city.

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