French Romanticism was a literary and artistic movement that flourished in the 19th century. At its heart was a celebration of individualism, emotion, and imagination. Romantic poets sought to break free from the constraints of classical literature and explore new themes and styles. In France, Romanticism was particularly influential in poetry, where it gave rise to some of the most beloved and enduring works of the French literary canon.
Here are ten of the most famous French Romantic poems, along with some excerpts to give you a taste of their beauty and power.
“Les Orientales” is a collection of poems by Victor Hugo, first published in 1829. The poems are inspired by the exotic and mysterious world of the Orient, and they explore themes of love, death, and the beauty of nature. The collection includes some of Hugo’s most famous works, such as “Le Feu du Ciel” and “La Captive.”
Excerpt from “Le Feu du Ciel”:
“Je suis la flamme éternelle,
Qui brûle sans s’éteindre jamais;
Je suis le vent qui souffle au ciel,
Je suis la mer qui bat les rochers.”
“I am the eternal flame,
That burns without ever extinguishing;
I am the wind that blows in the sky,
I am the sea that beats against the rocks.”
“Les Fleurs du Mal” is a collection of poems by Charles Baudelaire, first published in 1857. The collection is divided into six sections, each exploring different themes such as love, death, and beauty. The poems are known for their vivid imagery and their exploration of taboo subjects.
Excerpt from “L’Albatros”:
“Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.”
“The poet is like the prince of the clouds
Who haunts the storm and laughs at the archer;
Exiled on the ground amidst the jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.”
“Les Contemplations” is a collection of poems by Victor Hugo, first published in 1856. The collection is divided into two parts: the first explores themes of love, loss, and memory, while the second is more political in nature. The poems are known for their emotional depth and their exploration of the human condition.
Excerpt from “A celle qui est restée en France”:
“Vous aviez l’air d’une coquette,
Et moi d’un jeune homme éperdu;
Vous cachiez mal votre étiquette,
Moi ma redingote à longs plis.”
“You had the air of a coquette,
And I that of a young man in distress;
You poorly concealed your etiquette,
And I my coat with long pleats.”
“Le Lac” is a beautiful and romantic poem written by Alphonse de Lamartine in 1820. It is considered one of the finest examples of French romantic poetry, known for its tender and melancholic tone. The poem tells the story of a lost love, and the memories that linger on in the mind of the narrator.
Excerpt from “Le Lac”:
“Un lac, —et sous le ciel tout est pur et charmant!
Le lac!—nul écho n’y répond;
Mille échos, pourtant, murmurent entre eux
Et le coeur trouve partout le silence et le calme.
Leur voix étourdissante a passé dans les airs;
Leur souvenir ému murmure à mon oreille.”
“A lake, and under the sky everything is pure and charming!
The lake!—no echo responds there;
A thousand echoes, however, murmur amongst themselves
And the heart finds everywhere silence and calm.
Their deafening voice has passed into the air;
Their emotional memory murmurs in my ear.”
“Les Feuilles Mortes” or “Autumn Leaves” is a famous poem by Paul Verlaine, published in 1881. The poem has become famous through the song version composed by Joseph Kosma and sung by Yves Montand. The poem is a symbol of the transience of life, love and the beauty of nature. The words have a haunting quality, evoking the melancholic beauty of the autumn season.
Excerpt from “Les Feuilles Mortes”:
“Oh, je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes,
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis;
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu’aujourd’hui.”
“Oh, I wish so much that you remember,
The happy days when we were friends;
In those times life was more beautiful,
And the sun hotter than today.”
“Le Pont Mirabeau” is a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, published in 1912. The poem is a tribute to the famous Parisian bridge of the same name and is a symbol of the passage of time and the fleeting nature of love. The poem has become famous through the song version composed by Léo Ferré.
Excerpt from “Le Pont Mirabeau”:
“Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine.”
“Under the Mirabeau Bridge flows the Seine
And our love
Must I remember it
Joy always came after pain.”
French romantic poetry has played a significant role in the development of Western literature, and its influence can be seen in many languages and cultures. The above-mentioned French romantic poems and their excerpts have captivated generations of readers and continue to inspire poets and writers around the world. They remind us of the beauty and power of language, and the emotional depth that can be expressed through poetry. Reading and studying these poems can help us to understand the human condition, to appreciate the fleeting moments of joy and beauty in our lives, and to find solace in the face of loss and sadness.