“Quand Au Mouton Bêlant” d’André Chénier

Born in 1762, André Chénier is sentenced to death by guillotine at 32 years old, as Robespierre imposes the Terror through France. Pro revolution, but also defendant of the king, Chenier is moderat at a time when moderation looks suspect to the extremists Jacobins under Robespierre's lead. Chénier wrote the poem I am about to read as he is in prison: with this poem, he delivers to his fellow men his last message of peace before being led to the guillotine. Sad irony, Chénier will die two days only before the death of his prosecutor. [Read More...]

“Le Rameur” de Paul Valéry

"Le Rameur" describes a man who is rowing on a beautiful river. All is calm and you can only hear the sounds of his oars. The images are gorgeous and so is the rhythm. Then the poet starts to compare his effort to row with the effort of living ; the river becomes the time that passes, he fights it but it brings him inevitably towards death. [Read More...]

“Le Chêne et le Roseau” de Jean de la Fontaine – Audio

This fable tells a great story about a reed (which represent the people) and an all-mighty oak (representing the king). The oak thinks he is indestructible, and says the reed is very unfortunate to be what he is. The oak wishes he could help the reed, but he knows he cannot and pities him. The reed however, says he might not be strong, but he is tough. And that is the true strength. To prove him right, a huge storm arrives and takes the oak down. This was very courageous of La Fontaine to present this fable to the king, since the message is that the king is not as powerful as he thinks he is... [Read More...]

“Le temps a laissé son manteau” de Charles d’Orléans

Today's poem is very simple and is studied by French middle school students as an introduction to Old French. I am going to read the poem, but also explain the text in French and speak about the author. It's about the arrival of Spring. The descriptions are charming and talk to all our senses: we can feel the coat of Winter against our skin, our ears capture the animal songs celebrating the upcoming Spring, and our eyes are blinded by the reflection of the sun over the rivers full of winter's waters. [Read More...]

“La Cigale et la Fourmi” de Jean de La Fontaine

Like most of La Fontaine's fables, "La Cigale et la Fourmi” is not a story that he invented. Drawing inspiration from oral traditions and the fables of Aesop and other poets of Greek and Roman antiquity La Fontaine changes the classic fable by omitting the moral. Why? Listen to the poem's analysis to find out. [Read More...]

“Préface” de Paul Claudel

Je suis rentrée en France, apres 18 ans de vie aux Etats-Unis et donc ce poème a  pour moi une signification tout à fait particulière. Vous entendrez dans ce poème que je suis très émue... [Read More...]

“Parfum Exotique” de Charles Baudelaire

I chose this poem quite simply because it is one of my favorites. Of course, like many French and Americans, I adore Baudelaire for his stylistic originality and his extreme sensitivity. I love this poem because it is simply beautiful, highly sensual, and surprisingly positive for a Baudelaire poem! [Read More...]