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OiseauFrance and its Poets Poetry Oiseau
Middle Ages to the 19th Century

     Come and discover the Greatest Poets of France
and their magnificent works in English
Travel through the Centuries with Ronsard, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, and many more

France and its poets

Click here to order France and its Poets: Middle Ages to the 19th Century ISBN 97809802888-3.4

Press Release

Poetry Lovers: The Pearls of French Literature in English

Anthology of French poems from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century in French and English versions with a brief History of France and poets’ biographies. 
The new-released book France and its Poets: Middle Ages to the 19th Century written by Tasmania author Christiane Guise, gives the readers an opportunity to experience French poetry at its best without having to know a single word of French. Through the enchainment of historical events, the readers will see the evolution of a language and its influence on French and English literature
France and its Poets is an innovation as French poetry has always been translated by English-speaking poets; this time, the author is French and as Reviewer Lynette Kapiteijn from Tasmania says: “This anthology opens the door to a new understanding of the history and development of poetry in France; and being French, Christiane Guise was able to brilliantly convey the poets’ emotions, the essence of French poetry.”
This essence entered poetry at a very early stage. Though language and style were quite coarse and tenuous at first, like the butterfly in its chrysalides, French poetry languorously unfolded its beauties through the centuries. Superbly emerging with Ronsard in the Renaissance, it reached its apogee with Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud, the illustrious Romantics of the 19th Century
By using the present tense in her narration, the author invites the readers on the scene; they voyage through the centuries, feel Cassandre’s skin soft as a rose petal, dance with Ronsard’s muses and weep with him in the Gastine Forest. They sail with Lamartine and Julie on the Bourget Lake. Horrified, they watch the decimation of Napoleon’s Grand Army at Waterloo,and join the French Resistance at the call of Verlaine’s Autumn Song... These are only few of the numerous stopovers this literary voyage offers
France and its Poets features stunning portraits and paintings including Claudine Bigaut’s beautiful watercolours.

About the Author
Christiane Guise is a life-long scholar, a lover of Poetry and Philosophy. Born in France, she moved to Australia in her early twentieths and now lives in Tasmania. She is currently writing an essay on the origin of the Book of Changes and prepares a new English compilation of Ronsard’s best poems


Alice Jaworski
Manager Language Link’s Manager
—Interpreting, Translating, and Training Services—
... In her book ‘France and its Poets: Middle Age to the 19th Century’, Christiane conveyed the taste of French poetry at its best. The choice of writers and poems has been influenced by her enthusiasm for life. Her realistic and romantic mixture is also reflecting her selection as well as her passion for her native language – French; without such bases this book would not have the emotions and the meanings that Christiane has passed on to the reader. This is indeed an innovation, as translations are usually done by English writers. For this reason, Christiane’s translations beautifully reproduce the poets’ emotions. This is what Christiane wanted to achieve as she emphasises in the Preface  
In this new book, Christiane provides two options; readers with small knowledge of French are able to appreciate the poetry in both languages—original version in French and English translation. Furthermore, the very helpful biography of the poets gives wider understanding of the life and events that may have influenced the writing of the poems
Personally, I have been excited to read the English translations and read it again in French. In comparing the two versions, I found that she kept as close as possible to the originals and adroitly conveyed the poets’ feelings so that the English version could appear as an original work
I commend Christiane Guise for her book ‘France and its Poets’, it is an outstanding work deserving the 2009 NSW Premier's Translation Prize

Renee Smith
Former Primary School Teacher now retired

Christiane’s book has opened the way for English speaking people to further their knowledge of French poets and their writings
The fact that the book contains a brief account of the poets’ lives puts the reader into the respective time of the French language being written
In translating French poetry into English, Christiane has succeeded in retaining the beauty, the poets’ meanings and the sensibility of the verses
Through her book, the author also writes about the history of the evolution of French language. The many illustrations chosen are of high quality and indicate the lengthy hours that Christiane Guise has put into her outstanding work

Revd Dr Philip C Blake
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Dip.Th., Dip.R.E., Dip.P.S., F.A.I.W.C.W., M.A.C.C.

With Renee's encouragement I have gained some familiarity with Christiane Guise's work France and its Poets - Middle Ages to the 19th Century, l was very impressed by the scope and content of her research and writing. I make no claim for authority on the subject or original language but from my experience as an historian I consider this to be a work of very great merit. It has the potential to open many doors to a world unfamiliar to many and also being of great historical and cultural value. I have no hesitation in commending this work

Lynette Kapiteijn
Database Analyst-Consultant

Christiane’s book ‘France and its Poets: Middle Age to the 19th Century’, enabled me to experience the beauty and romance of French poetry and its beginnings. The diligence and dedication she has displayed over many years is inspiring and her ability to produce such a poignant translation will allow people like myself who only have the benefit of one language, English, to experience and understand the history of poetry categorically linked to that of the great English poets
She has chosen poems that have also influenced our language through a progression of historical events that paved the way for the development of our arts and culture
This book opens the door to a new understanding of the history and development of rhyme and the literary expression of emotion
Her enthusiasm for life is reflected in this work. The ability to allow the reader to experience the factual events that affected the poets lives by her clever use of narration in the present tense is exciting
As a lover of poetry I have been privileged to be allowed to review this brilliant book and believe that it will enrich the reader
I congratulate and will always be grateful to Christiane Guise for her book ‘France and its poets’, without it I would not have been able to enjoy some of the most beautiful poems ever written
I recommend this exceptional work for the 2009 NSW Premier's Translation Prize

Irina Gan
Dr Philosophy

This is a wonderful collection of selected French poetry masterly translated into English by a Tasmanian enthusiast, Christiane Guise
Christiane was born in France. She and her family later moved to Australia and finally settled in Tasmania a decade ago. Her French origin, together with inspiration from the unique Tasmanian landscape, knowledge of both languages and love for poetry and France resulted in the publication of a remarkable book. The book was born here in Tasmania where the French connection is strong, dating back to the time of first French explorers who sailed to Van Diemen’s Land two centuries ago
Her translation is easy and flowing and, for those who do not speak French, gives a brilliant opportunity to experience the wonders of French poetry of centuries gone by...
The beginning of each chapter briefly and knowledgeably portrays the characteristic of the epoch and its influence on poetry: it gives a first-class background to the poetical story which follows. The illustrations are appropriate and vivid.
I consider that both the book and the author deserve to be highly commended and would like to nominate Madame Guise for the 2009 NSW Premier's Translation Prize


     Poetry is the language of the soul and the beauty of language itself. As Dante once says, French seems to have been created for poetry and it is probably why so many people love the sound of it. Being a lover of poetry, to them and to those who have no or very rudimentary knowledge of French, I wrote this anthology on France’s most prestigious poets. I did it with no pretension and enjoyed every minute of this very demanding but fascinating task
     French poetry is built on rhymes, number of syllables, caesura, enjambments and rejects. Furthermore, the rhyme scheme is incorporated to the poem’s meaning; for instance, the successive rhymes aabb generally present two thoughts while the embrasure abbaindicates that the first idea encompasses the next. In the 19th Century, versification changes drastically. The caesura moves as the poets want, and free verses of various lengths are introduced; furthermore, the first poems in prose mark the coming of modern poetry
     Of course, I would have been delighted to keep the poems’ structure but my first priority was to convey the poets’ feelings and the music of their magnificent works; this was at the expense of meters and rhymes.
     The art of translating French poetry is very complex. According to my research, translations from French to English are generally ‘versions’ which means that a document in foreign language is translated in one’s native language. The present work is not a version but a ‘theme’ and if deep inside you, waves of emotions flow into your heart when you read or listen to the most beautiful poems of France whether in French or in English language, this will be my ultimate reward
      A brief word now about the selection of poets and poems. Though the beauty of French poetry is in the music of its language, it is not only the sound of words precisely chosen and arranged that convey delightful emotions but their meaning. French poetry evolved as the French language evolved and it really began when the French were able to communicate their feelings. Tristan et Iseult, the Arthurian legends and the Roman de la Rose are marvellous works of art praised all over Europe simply because Middle Ages people finally realised that Love was one of their raisons d’être (reasons of being). This anthology therefore starts with them and even if they sometimes hurt our modern ear, they nevertheless mark the beginning of French poetry
     For the next centuries, I must concede that my choice was arbitrary; I simply selected those I love the most. At first, my aim was to present one poet and his best works per century. For the 19th, this was impossible; I could not even choose all the poets and poems I love, as this would have required many volumes. Consequently, I chose only the greatest and sincerely apologise if you do not find those you expected
      Finally, I must say that this book is the result of meticulous research in numerous libraries. I cannot however assert that every document refers with certitude to the original.  Furthermore, this is not a philological work and my dear readers will most certainly find many signs of ignorance and regrettable distractions. I sincerely hope that these blunders will not spoil their pleasure
     In texts, all French words or phrases are in italic; and to help readers who do not really master French but want to feel the music of the poem in French, letters that must be stressed are written in bold and mute vowels in italic. Liaisons are underlined. An audio CD of all the poems in French and English will be released soon but poetry lovers can already listen to them online www.bellepage. So stay with me for few hours of history and beautiful poetry. Light the fire, prepare your favourite drink, sit on your best armchair, and listen to the music of the words



     Lamartine’s most exquisite poem is Le lac. The Bourget Lake exists but what the poet describes is the inner landscapes of his desperate mind. Charmingly, he mingles the themes of love, destiny, immortality, infinity, and unbearable suffering. His cry contained for so long in his distressed soul suddenly rises and bursts almost as a relief. When Lamartine writes Le Lac in August-September 1817, Julie is still alive but the poet is very aware of the fragility of life and the flight of time. Lamartine’s lake symbolises eternal love, as the Geneva Lake immortalises the impossible love of Saint-Preux and Julie in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse.  At first, Lamartine calls this poem Ode au lac du B and says:

     C'’est une de mes poésies qui a eu le plus de retentissement dans l’âme de mes lecteurs, comme elle en avait eu le plus dans la mienne…Niedermeyer a fait de cette ode une touchante traduction en notes. J’ai entendu chanter cette romance, et j’ai vu les larmes qu’elle faisait répandre. Néanmoins, j’ai toujours pensé que la musique et la poésie se nuisaient en associant. Elles sont l’une et l’autre des arts complets : la musique porte en elle son sentiment, de beaux vers portent en eux leur mélodie.

     This is one of my poems, which had the greatest effect on my readers’ soul and on mine… Niedermeyer made from this ode a touching translation in notes. I heard this romance and I saw the tears it caused. Nevertheless, I have always thought that music and poetry are detrimental to one another. Both are complete arts: music carries its meaning; beautiful verses carry their melody
     Here, the rimes abab are suffisantes; but Lamartine’s choice of words and excellent use of alexandrins and hexasyllablescreate a tragic atmosphere; and with its frequent enjambments and alternate long and short verses, the haunting prayer becomes a poignant melody rocked by the sound of the oars penetrating the calm water of the lake

The Lake

Always driven toward new shores,
Carried away in the eternal Night,
Could we ever on the ocean of Time
One day throw the anchor?

O Lake! The Year is just ending its course,
And near the waves she hoped to see again
Look! I come alone and sit on this rock
Where you saw her sitting!

Like today you roared below these deep rocks;
Like today, you broke upon their worn flanks.
Like today, the wind threw your foamy waves
On her lovely feet.

One evening, you remember; we sailed in silence
And beneath the skies we could only hear
The sound of the rowers striking in cadence
Your harmonious waves.

Suddenly, a sound unknown to this Earth
Echoed forth from the enchanted shore;
The waves were attentive and the voice dear to me
Let fall these few words:

"O time! Hold your flight! And you, propitious hours,
Please hold your endless course!
Let us savour the fleeting delights
Of these marvellous days!

"Many unhappy souls implore you down here!
So flow, flow for them.
Take them and their consuming sorrows.
Forget the happy lads.

"But in vain, I beg for few more instants
Time slips away and flees;
I say to the Night: "Please slow down", but dawn
Soon dissipates the Night.

"Let us love, let us love! Let us quickly enjoy
The fleeting hour.
Man has no port, time has no shore;
 It flows, and we just pass!"

When in long draughts, love pours into our heart,
Is it true, jealous time, that those blissful moments
Can fly away as fast
As our days of  sorrow?

What did you say! Even their trace we cannot keep?
They have gone forever? Completely lost?
The Time that gives and wipes them off 
Will never give them back?

Eternity, chaos, past, and dark abysses,
What do you do with the days you swallow?
Speak! Will you give us back the heavenly raptures
That you steal from us?

O Lake! Silent rocks! Caves! Obscure forest!
You that Time spares and revives,
Please beautiful nature, keep from this night,
Its sweetest memory!

Keep it in your silence, keep it in your storms,
Beautiful lake, keep it on the smiling hills,
The black fir-trees, and the wild rocks
Hanging over your waves!

Keep it in the zephyr that shivers and goes by
In the sounds of your shores re-echoed by your shores,
In the silvery moon whitening your waves
With its gleaming radiance!

Let the moaning breeze and the fragile reed,
The subtle perfumes of your scented wind,
All that can hear and see,
Let them say how they loved!

     Amazingly, Lamartine’s style does not charm everyone; some accuses him of using too many abstractions, and they even question his sanity. Who would ask a lake to keep the memory of a beautiful night? Who would ask time to stop its course? No one except a Romantique.

     Alfred de Vigny is a romantic and his poetry is essential based on spiritual solitude. All his life, Vigny has regretted the mediocrity of his condition; but too proud to expose his misery in lyricism, he chooses to adopt a stoic attitude, which is to rise above the vicissitudes of life with dignity and resignation. Indifferent to pleasure and pain, Vigny controls his passions by showing compassion and humanity to all fellow human beings who suffer the same cruel fate.

      In Vigny’s creepy atmosphere and vivid wilderness descriptions, we recognise the romantic style and deeply feel his loneliness. La Mort du Louptaken from Les destinées is certainly the finest expression of Vigny’s philosophy where he honours the stoic grandeur of a dying wolf and her companion: the father who dies without uttering a sound and the mother whose duty is to save her cubs not her mate so they may learn to live and suffer with dignity. Vigny presents a graphic account of the hunt with concrete and striking symbols; then, facing the ultimate moment of the death sentence, he admires the animals who proudly accept the fatal denouement. Vigny plays with tenses, suddenly using the present when the wolf is trapped and returning to the past, skilfully marking the animal’s recognition of the futility of an unequal combat and an impossible flight. 

The Death of the wolf

The clouds were running fast on the blazing moon
As we could see the smoke fleeing from the fire,
And the woods were black up to the horizon.
We were walking, in silence, on the wet lawn,
In the thick heather and the high yellow grass,
When, under the fir-trees like those in the Landes,
We saw imprinted on the path the big claws
Of the wandering wolves that we were hunting.
We listened cautiously while holding our breath
And we stopped on the track. –The wood and the plain
Did not let out a sigh in the air; only
The sad weathercock moaned to the firmament;
For the wind, well above the lands, could only
Brushed with his feet the solitary towers,
And the oaks below, lying against the rocks
On their elbows, seemed to have fallen asleep.
Not a rustling sound then, when, bending his head,
The oldest of the hunters who watched the track
Looked carefully at the sand and layed down; soon,
He whom no one ever saw making mistakes,
Declared beneath his breath that these recent marks
Announced the proud gait and the powerful claws
Of two big wolves, the stag-hunters, and two cubs.
At once, all of us prepared our sharpest knives
And, hiding our riffles and their too white glint,
We walked slowly pushing the branches aside.
Three stopped, and looking at what they were seeing,
I suddenly notice two big eyes glowing
And not far away, I see the four light shapes
Dancing under the moon amid the heather
As always do, with great noise, before our eyes,
When the master comes back, the happy greyhounds.
Their shapes were the same and the same were their dance;
But the Wolf’s children were playing in silence,
Knowing well that two steps away, half-asleep,
Man, their worst enemy, lies behind his walls.
The father was standing, and against a tree,
His She-wolf was resting as the marble one
That the Romans adored and whose hairy flanks
Fed the demi-gods Remus and Romulus.
The Wolf comes closer and sits down, his legs straight
On their hooked claws sunken deep into the sand
Taken by surprise, he knew that all was lost,
His retreat cut off and the other ways blocked;
So, he seized, in his burning mouth,
The panting throat of the hardiest dog
And did not loose his iron jaws,
Despite the gun-shots which were piercing his flesh
And our sharp knives, which like pincers
Criss-crossed and plunged in his entrails,
Until the last moment, when the strangled dog
Dead longer before him, rolled under his feet.
The Wolf then leaves it and proudly looks at us.
The knives were still hanging deep into his flank
Nailing him onto the lawn all bathed with blood;
Our riffles encircled him in a crescent.
He looks at us again, and then, he lies down,
Licking the warm blood on his mouth,
And, without deigning to know how he perished,
He closes his eyes, and dies without a cry.

My forehead lying on my empty riffle,
I started thinking unable to pursue
His She-wolf and his brave sons, who, the all three,
Had waited for him, and, as I do believe,
Without her two cubs, the beautiful widow
Would never have left him fighting all alone;
But her duty was to save her sons so that
She could teach them how to suffer hunger,
To never get caught in the pact of the towns
That Man made one day with servile animals
Which now hunt with him for a small place to sleep,
They, who were the owners of the wood and rocks.
Alas! I thought, despite this great name of Men
How ashamed I am of us, how fool!
How we should leave life and all its sufferings,
Only you, sublime animals, know!
Seeing what we were and what we leave behind,
Silence alone is great; all else is weakness.
–Ah! I understand you now, wild wanderer,
And your last look went just straight into my heart!
Saying: “If you can, make sure that your soul climbs,
By always remaining studious and thoughtful,
Up to the highest degree of stoic pride
Where, born in the woods, I naturally reached.
To moan, weep, and pray are coward attitudes.
With good energy, do your long and hard task
As destiny has seen fit to call you and
As I do, suffer and die without a word.”

     Le Dormeur du Val, is a magnificent sonnet certainly inspired by Victor Hugo’s Souvenir de la nuit du quatre, Leconte de Lisle’s La Fontaine aux lianes, and Léon Dieux’s Dolorosa mater. Here, Rimbaud uses a classic form of poetry, the sonnet dear to Ronsard with a somewhat new pattern abab cdcd eef ggf; dismembering the alexandrin with rejets, contre-rejets, and punctuation, the poet gives life to his poem; and the clever alliterations and assonances skilfully change the atmosphere. 

     First, the poet presents a panoramic view of an idyllic and lively landscape bathing in sunlight. In this quatrain, the two rejets ‘D’argent’ and ‘luit’ accentuate the brightness of the light; and the personified elements symbolise the easy-going character of youth. The singing river, the watchfulness of protective parents, the proud mountain and the shining sun, all convey a feeling of naïve cheerfulness, the pleasure of being alive and happy in a secure environment. In the second quatrain, the photographer-poet uses his zoom and we can now see someone resting peacefully in the grass. In the diffused light, the colours are slightly cooler where the pale soldier sleeps; but again, the light suggests a peaceful atmosphere skilfully reproduced with the artful arrangement of the labial and liquid consonants at the beginning and the end of the verse as well as the assonances vert and lumière. In the tercets, the photographer-poet gets closer and closer.

     Le Dormeur du Val is not only one of the greatest French masterpieces; literally it is the Chef d’oeuvre, par excellence.

The sleeper in the vale

It is a green hollow, where a river sings
Hanging here and there pretty silver tatters
On the grass; where the sun, on the proud mountain,
Shines: It is a little vale sparkling with light,

A young soldier, his mouth opened, bareheaded,
And the nape of his neck in the cool blue cress.
Sleeps; he lays there in the grass, under the clouds,
Pale in his green bed where light is pouring down.

His feet in gladioli, he sleeps. Smiling as
An ill child would smile, he is taking a nap:
Nature, cuddle him warmly; he is cold.

The sweet scents do not make his nostril quiver;
He sleeps in the sun, his hand on his breast
Tranquil. He has two red holes in his right side.
Owned by BellePage © 2005
Last revised in August 2021