“Carmen” de Théophile Gautier

In May 1840, Théophile Gautier, the enfant terrible of the French Romantic movement, was hired by the journal “La Presse” to record his experiences and impressions of Spain. The end result was the book “Voyage en Espagne” (1845), an enthralling piece of travel writing later translated into English as “A Romantic in Spain”.For Gautier, Spain was an exotic and passionate culture. “It was a revelation”, he said later, like discovering his true home, the native land of his spirit.

Click on the audio bar to listen to my slow and fast enunciated recording of this famous French poem.

1 – French Poem “Carmen” de Théophile Gautier

theophilegautier2.jpgCarmen est maigre, – un trait de bistre
Cerne son oeil de gitana.
Ses cheveux sont d’un noir sinistre,
Sa peau, le diable la tanna.

Les femmes disent qu’elle est laide,
Mais tous les hommes en sont fous :
Et l’archevêque de Tolède
Chante la messe à ses genoux ;

Car sur sa nuque d’ambre fauve
Se tord un énorme chignon
Qui, dénoué, fait dans l’alcôve
Une mante à son corps mignon.

Et, parmi sa pâleur, éclate
Une bouche aux rires vainqueurs;
Piment rouge, fleur écarlate,
Qui prend sa pourpre au sang des coeurs.

Ainsi faite, la moricaude
Bat les plus altières beautés,
Et de ses yeux la lueur chaude
Rend la flamme aux satiétés.

Elle a, dans sa laideur piquante,
Un grain de sel de cette mer
D’où jaillit, nue et provocante,
L’âcre Vénus du gouffre amer.

2 – English Translation of the French Poem

Carmen is lean – a trace of yellow
Shadows her gipsy eye.
Her hair is a sinister black,
Her skin, tanned by the devil.

[adblock]Women claim she’s ugly,
But all the men are crazy of her:
The Archbishop of Toledo
Kneels at her feet to sing Mass;

For above her amber nape
Is coiled a large chignon
That, undone, in the private room
Gives her cute body a cape.

And through her pallor, gleams
A mouth with a conquering smile;
Red chili, a scarlet flower,
Which takes its red color from the heart’s blood.

With this shape, the Moor girl
Outdoes nobler beauty,
And with her eyes that burn
Revives satiety.

She has, in her hot ugliness,
A grain of salt of that sea
From where rose, naked and provocative
Acrid Venus with her bitter abyss