Feb 172012

Marilyn McCabe has a new book of poems —Perpetual Motion— just out in the Word Works Hilary Tham Capital Collection selected by Gray Jacobik. But today we feature another of her gorgeous translation and performance pieces. It became something of a tradition for French composers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to set lyric poems by their poetry contemporaries to mélodies for solo voice and piano. Inspired by the poetry of the likes of Verlaine and Baudelaire, composers from Berlioz to Saint-Saens created these musical settings, attempting to “translate,” in a way, the lyric into a musical format that created a form greater than the two elements. This time Marilyn sings a little surrealist poem by the highly eccentric (he abandoned surrealism, eventually, for communism and revered Joseph Stalin) French poet Paul Éluard (1895-1952), set to music by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963).

See also Marilyn McCabe Sings (& Translates) a Guillaume Apollinaire Poem and Marilyn McCabe Translates (& Sings) a Paul-Armand Silvestre Poem. Marilyn’s chapbook Rugged Means of Grace was published by Finishing Line Press, 2011. She earned an MFA in poetry at New England College.



Click the player and listen to Marilyn’s voice while you read the poem.


Une Ruine Coquille Vide
By Paul Éluard

Une ruine coquille vide
Pleure dans son tablier.
Les enfant qui jouent autour d’elle
Font moins de bruit que des mouches.

La ruine s’en va à tâtons
Chercher ses vaches dans un pré.
J’ai vu le jour, je vois cela
Sans en avoir honte.

 Il est minuit comme une fleche
Dans un coeur à la portée
Des folâtres lueurs nocturnes
Qui contredisent le sommeil.


A Ruined Empty Shell
Translated by Marilyn McCabe

A ruined empty shell
weeps in her apron.
The children who play around her
make less noise than the flies.

She goes groping
to search for cows in a meadow.
I saw the day; I see it here
without shame.

It is midnight like an arrow
in the heart open
to the folly of night’s gleams
that deny sleep.

—Translated and sung by Marilyn McCabe




  5 Responses to “Une Ruine Coquille Vide By Paul Éluard, Music by Poulenc, Sung (& Translated) by Marilyn McCabe”

  1. Man, I love these songs. Thanks, dg, for getting them out and about the ether. I’ve been remiss in not giving giant credit to pianist Michael Clement on these.

    • Marilyn,

      Thanks. I will go back in when I get a chance and credit Michael. They are lovely. I’m really glad to have them on NC. Congratulations on the new book!


  2. love the poem! lovely voice lifting it out. way cool, d.g.

  3. So sweet, Marilyn.

  4. Lovely work, yours and Poulenc’s. I found your post because I just this evening returned from Caryl Churchill’s latest play LOVE AND INFORMATION, in the course of which this little gem is performed by the actors (although the piece is not credited and was never mentioned in any of the reviews!). Thanks so much for making the text(s) and your performance available.

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