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Spectre of a Rose

In March we only hope that our Valentines day roses ended up dried and pressed, or under a pillow somewhere. What of all the roses sacrificed at the altar of love?

Theophile Gautier wrote this beautiful poem (1840 or 1841) taking the perspective of the Rose. It was put to music by Hector Berlioz and sung by Jose Van Dam at the Boston Symphony Orchestra a few years ago. Again, how fortunate I was to have heard this. Even though the words were in the original french (I can only say, “nae parle fron-say”), the meanings were absolutely clear and I had goosebumps, and my eyes could not hold back the joy. Enjoy this translation:

The Spectre of the Rose

Lift up your eyelids
That glow with a maiden dream.
I am the ghost of a rose
Which you wore last night at the ball.
You took me still moist
And glistening from the Gardner’s spray,
And through the sparkling scene
You walked me with you all evening.

Oh you who was cause of my death:
Without your being able to escape it,
Night after night my fragrant ghost
Will come to dance at your pillow.
But do not be afraid.
I exact no mass or De Profundis.
This faint perfume is my soul
And it is from paradise that I come.

My destiny was one to be coveted;
Many would give their lives
To have a fate as beautiful as mine.
For my tomb is on your breast,
And on the marbled whiteness where I rest
A poet wrote with a kiss:
“Here lies a rose
That kings will envy.”

PS. On V-day, I took my sweetheart out for a long walk and a hazelnut latte.

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