Renée Vivien translated by Samantha Pious

The Silent Flute

Ardently I listen to my singing,
The little faun with timid eyes and proud.
The soul of woodlands dwells between my teeth,
The god of rhythm lives within my mouth.

In this forest, far from prowling Pan,
My heart is sweeter than a rose in bloom;
The rays of sunlight, charged with happy scents,
Dance to the music of the verdant flute.

Mingle your tresses, join fair arm in arm,
While at your feet, the ram snorts in the hay,
Ye hedgeland nymphs! Oh, come not near!
Go take your laughter elsewhere while I play!

I hold my sacred art reserved, apart.
In honor of the haughty Muse I follow,
I will seek the shade, and I will hide
My thrilling pipes within an oak tree’s hollow.

And I will play, in shadows and in scents,
The livelong day, while waiting for the time
Of rowdy choruses and common games
And naked breasts the night breeze brushes by …

And yet my loyal, holy song I still
While the festival exults in firelight.
Only the night wind will know my pain,
The trees alone will witness my delight.

So I guard my lovely times from you
Whose goat-eyes spy upon my lonely trysts,
My friends! Go laugh somewhere else
While this singing flowers on my lips!

If not, well then, I’m a faun, after all,
And as for any billy-goat who bucks,
Then I’ll avenge myself with hooves and horns,
With one good blow I’ll lay him in the dust!

Extinguished Torchflames, 1907


La Flûte qui s’est tue

Je m’écoute, avec des frissons ardents,
Moi, le petit faune au regard farouche.
L’âme des forêts vit entre mes dents
Et le dieu du rythme habite ma bouche.

Dans ce bois, loin des aegipans rôdeurs,
Mon cœur est plus doux qu’une rose ouverte  ;
Les rayons, chargés d’heureuses odeurs,
Dansent au son frais de la flûte verte.

Mêlez vos cheveux et joignez vos bras
Tandis qu’à vos pieds le bélier s’ébroue,
Nymphes des halliers  ! Ne m’approchez pas  !
Allez rire ailleurs pendant que je joue  !

Car j’ai la pudeur de mon art sacré,
Et, pour honorer la Muse hautaine,
Je chercherai l’ombre et je cacherai
Mes pipeaux vibrants dans le creux d’un chêne.

Je jouerai, parmi l’ombre et les parfums,
Tout le long du jour, en attendant l’heure
Des chœurs turbulents et des jeux communs
Et des seins offerts que la brise effleure …

Mais je tais mon chant pieux et loyal
Lorsque le festin d’exalte et flamboie.
Seul le vent du soir apprendra mon mal,
Et les arbres seuls connaîtront ma joie.

Je défends ainsi mes instants meilleurs.
Vous qui m’épiez de vos yeux de chèvres,
O mes compagnons  ! allez rire ailleurs
Pendant que le chant fleurit sur mes lèvres  !

Sinon, je suis faune après tout, si beau
Que soit mon hymne, et bouc qui se rebiffe,
Je me vengerai d’un coup de sabot
Et d’un coup de corne et d’un coup de griffe  !

Flambeaux éteints, 1907

Samantha Pious is pursuing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mezzo Cammin, Lunch Ticket, broad!, Gertrude, and other publications.

Renée Vivien (née Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877-1909) was a lesbian writer who made her home in Paris during the Belle Époque. In 1903, she courageously "came out" by publishing a volume of adaptations from the poetry of Sappho under the feminine form of her chosen name. Rewarded with public scorn and outrage, she continued to publish her work over the next six years until her early death at the age of thirty-two.