Alfred de Musset’s “To Julia”

Alfred de Musset (1810-1857) was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist; his day job was as a librarian for the Interior Ministry. This poem, “To Julia,” is a melancholy reflection of a libertine as he is wasting his time in idleness, perhaps realizing that he is wasting his time. It reflects a past romance that he wants to rekindle while, at the same time, he had past literary success that seems impossible to duplicate.
My Translation
To Julia
People ask me, on the streets,
Why I gape at girls,
Smoking cigars in the sun—
Why I pass through my youth,
The past three years in idleness,
Spending sleepless nights.
Give me your lips, Julia;
The wild nights that turned you pale
Have dried their shiny coral.
Perfumed with your breath,
Give them to me, my African,
Your lips of pure blood.
My printer cries his head
That his machine is always ready
And mine is not helping.
Honest people, that club admired,
Don’t deign to say
That I will never return.
Julia, have you the wine of Spain?
Yesterday we fought the good fight;
Let us see if it remains.
Your mouth is burning, Julia;
So make some folly
That we may lose our body and soul.
They say the wild oats I sowed have come back,
That there’s nothing left in the stomach,
That I am empty and afraid;
I think, if I were worth the trouble,
They would send me to St. Helena,  *
With cancer of the heart.
Well, Julia, you must wait
To see me rise from the ashes someday,
As Hercules on a rock.
Since it is through you that I’m to die,
Open your robe, Déjanire,  **
That I may mount my funeral pyre.
* St. Helena: The island where Napolean was imprisoned after losing at the Battle of Waterloo.
** Déjanire: Hercules’ wife
Original French
A Julie
On me demande, par les rues,
Pourquoi je vais bayant aux grues,
Fumant mon cigare au soleil,
A quoi se passe ma jeunesse,
Et depuis trois ans de paresse
Ce qu’ont fait mes nuits sans sommeil.
Donne-moi tes lèvres, Julie;
Les folles nuits qui t’ont pâlie
Ont séché leur corail luisant.
Parfume-les de ton haleine;
Donne-les-moi, mon Africaine,
Tes belles lèvres de pur sang.
Mon imprimeur crie à tue-tête
Que sa machine est toujours prête,
Et que la mienne n’en peut mais.
D’honnêtes gens, qu’un club admire,
N’ont pas dédaigné de prédire
Que je n’en reviendrai jamais.
Julie, as-tu du vin d’Espagne ?
Hier, nous battions la campagne ;
Va donc voir s’il en reste encor.
Ta bouche est brûlante, Julie;
Inventons donc quelque folie
Qui nous perde l’âme et le corps.
On dit que ma gourme me rentre,
Que je n’ai plus rien dans le ventre,
Que je suis vide à faire peur;
Je crois, si j’en valais la peine,
Qu’on m’enverrait à Sainte-Hélène,
Avec un cancer dans le coeur.
Allons, Julie, il faut t’attendre
A me voir quelque jour en cendre,
Comme Hercule sur son rocher.
Puisque c’est par toi que j’expire,
Ouvre ta robe, Déjanire,

Que je monte sur mon bûcher.

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