No Comment, Quotation — May 17, 2009, 5:00 am

Saint-Amant/Purcell – Solitude

mignard-clio

O que j’ayme la solitude!
Que ces lieux sacrez à la nuit,
Esloignez du monde et du bruit,
Plaisent à mon inquietude!
Mon Dieu! que mes yeux sont contens
De voir ces bois, qui se trouverent
A la nativité du temps,
Et que tous les siècles reverent,
Estre encore aussi beaux et vers,
Qu’aux premiers jours de l’univers!

Un gay zephire les caresse
D’un mouvement doux et flatteur.
Rien que leur extresme hauteur
Ne fait remarquer leur vieillesse.
Jadis Pan et ses demi-dieux
Y vinrent chercher du refuge,
Quand Jupiter ouvrit les cieux
Pour nous enoyer le deluge,
Et, se sauvans sur leurs rameaux,
A peine virent-ils les eaux.

Que sur cette espine fleurie
Dont le printemps est amoureux,
Philomele, au chant langoureux,
Entretient bien ma resverie!
Que je prens de plaisir à voir
Ces monts pendans en precipices,
Qui, pour les coups du desespoir,
Sont aux malheureux si propices,
Quand la cruauté de leur sort,
Les force a rechercher la mort!

Que je trouve doux le ravage
De ces fiers torrens vagabonds,
Qui se precipitent par bonds
Dans ce valon vert et sauvage!
Puis, glissant sour les arbrisseaux,
Ainsi que des serpens sur l’herbe,
Se changent en plaisans ruisseaux,
Où quelque Naïade superbe
Regne comme en son lict natal,
Dessus un throsne de christal!


O solitude, my sweetest choice!
Places devoted to the night,
Remote from tumult and from noise,
How ye my restless thoughts delight!
O solitude, my sweetest choice!
O heav’ns! what content is mine
To see these trees, which have appear’d
From the nativity of time,
And which all ages have rever’d,
To look today as fresh and green
As when their beauties first were seen.
O, how agreeable a sight
These hanging mountains do appear,
Which th’ unhappy would invite
To finish all their sorrows here,
When their hard fate makes them endure
Such woes as only death can cure.
O, how I solitude adore!
That element of noblest wit,
Where I have learnt Apollo’s lore,
Without the pains to study it.
For thy sake I in love am grown
With what thy fancy does pursue;
But when I think upon my own,
I hate it for that reason too,
Because it needs must hinder me
From seeing and from serving thee.
O solitude, O how I solitude adore!

–Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant, from La Solitude (1617)(Katherine Philip transl. 1664)

Listen to Henry Purcell’s setting of La Solitude from 1684 (Z. 406), using the translation of his contemporary Katherine Philip, sung here by Susan Gritton on Hyperion’s collection of the Complete Secular Songs (CDS44161/3). This song is composed as a ground, with twenty-eight repetitions of the same ground base. One would think this monotonous, but the effect instead is mesmerizing, and Purcell colors the work beautifully to match the text.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean
Article
The Quietest Place in the Universe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Gaitskell and his colleagues are approaching the revelation of a new order, a new universe, in which even light will be known differently, and darkness as well.”
Painting by Sebastiaan Bremer
Article
The Test of Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“One by one his books dismantle the idea that art consoles, that art contains truths, that art expresses the soul. He insists on the artificiality and createdness of his narratives.”
[Browsings]
On Broadway·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph by the author

Estimated number of genetically modified mosquitoes released since 2012 to combat dengue and chikungunya:

70,000,000

In Brazil, a herpetologist reported seeing a male black-and-white tegu copulate with a dead female. “I felt a sense of wonder,” he said.

Florida state officials announced plans to patrol Palm Beach County four to six times a month in order to kill five-foot-long lizards that are presumed to be responsible for a drop in the population of feral cats and the disappearance of a number of Dachshund puppies.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today