French poem from 1836 translated anew


It is from these long days of indescribable sickness
Where we would like to sleep the heavy sleep of the dead;
From these hours of anguish where existence weighs
On the soul and on the body.

So we search in vain for a gentle thought,
A joyful image, a rich memory;
The soul fights for an instant, and finally falls again, drooping
Under its deep troubles.

So all that enchants and all that we enjoy
Has for our open eyes only deceptive brightness;
And the dreamed happiness, if it comes, cannot exactly
Overpower our fatigue.


Il est de ces longs jours d’indicible malaise
Où l’on voudrait dormir du lourd sommeil des morts ;
De ces heures d’angoisse où l’existence pèse
Sur l’âme et sur le corps :

Alors on cherche en vain une douce pensée,
Une image riante, un souvenir fécond ;
L’âme lutte un instant, puis retombe affaissée
Sous son ennui profond.

Alors tout ce qui charme et tout ce que l’on aime
Pour nos yeux dessillés n’a qu’un éclat trompeur ;
Et le bonheur rêvé, s’il vient, ne peut pas même
Vaincre notre torpeur.

About the translator:

A.R. Bekenstein is a student at Wesleyan University with poems forthcoming in Constellations. She is deeply passionate about French language and culture and hopes to highlight its beauty through her translations. She can be found on Instagram @allie_beks.

Read more translations on our website here.

About the author

Louise Colet was a 19th century French poet and novelist who won four prizes from the Académie française for her work.

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