MAURICE RAVEL:

CHANSONS MADÉCASSES (Madagascan Songs)

Poetry: ÉVARISTE DE PARNY

Translation: Laura Virella

I. NAHANDOVE

Nahandove, oh beauteous Nahandove!

The nocturnal bird has commenced its call,

the full moon shines upon my head

and the budding dew moistens my hair.

The time has come. Who might be keeping you,

Nahandove, oh beauteous Nahandove?

 

The bed of leaves is prepared;

I've sprinkled it with flowers and aromatic herbs;

it is worthy of your charms,

Nahandove, oh beauteous  Nahandove!                                                                                       

 

Here she comes. I recognize the fast breathing

that arises from a rushed stride;
I await the rustle of the slip in which she's wrapped;
it's her, it's Nahandove, the beauteous Nahandove!

 

Catch your breath, my young friend;

lie upon my lap.

How enchanting is your glance!

How vibrant and delicious the movement of your bossoom

beneath the hand that presses against it. You smile,

Nahandove, o beauteous Nahandove!

 

Your kisses penetrate into my soul;

your caresses burn my senses;

stop, or I will die,

one dies of exquisite delight,

Nahandove, oh beauteous Nahandove!

 

Pleasure passes through like a flash.

Your sweet breath turns feeble,

your wet eyes start closing,

your head tilts gently
and your transcendence is extinguished by languor.

You've never been more beautiful in my eyes,

Nahandove, oh beauteous Nahandove! 

You leave, and I shall languish among regrets and desires.

I shall languish until evening.

You will come back this evening,

Nahandove, oh beauteous Nahandove!

II. AWA

Awa! Awa!

Trust not the white man,

you dwellers of the shore!

From the times of our forefathers,

the white men descended upon this island;

they were told: Here's some land,

let your women cultivate it.

Be just, be good

and become our brethren.

 

The white men promised, yet

at the same time made entrenchments.

They built a menacing fort;

they held thunder captive

in mouths of steel;

their priests insisted on giving us

a god whom we did not know.

Finally they spoke of obedience and slavery:

We'd rather have death!

The carnage was long and terrible;

yet, despite the thunderbolt they vomited,

which flattened entire armies,

they were all exterminated.

Do not trust the white man!

We saw new tyrants rise,

stronger and in bigger numbers,

pitching their tents on the shore:

the sky fought for us;

it threw upon them rains,

tempests and poisoned winds.

They are no more, and we live in freedom.

Awa! Awa!

Trust not the white man,

you dwellers of the shore.

                                                                   

III. IT IS SWEET

It is sweet to lie down, in the warm hours, under a bushy tree, and wait for the evening breeze to bring in the cool air.

Women, come close. While I rest here, under the bushy tree, entertain my ear with your sustained tones. Repeat the song about the young girl who braids her hair, or the one who sits near the rice to chase away the eager birds.

The melody pleases my soul. The dance is almost as sweet to me as a kiss. May your steps be slow; may they emulate the postures of pleasure and the abandonment of ecstasy.

The evening breeze starts to blow; the moon begins to glow through the trees on the mountain. Go and prepare dinner.  

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