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Selection by Alain Jacques of 4 stanzas from the longer poem " La jeune captive" by André Chénier: written in 1794 just before he was beheaded on the guillotine, this is a most heart-breaking appeal for life from a great poet. This poem has also been set to music by Victor Massé and by Rouget de Lisle (La jeune captive). Literal translation (AJ):
1._The corn’s budding ear ripens, by the scythe left alone; Without the fear of the press, the vine branch all summer Drinks the sweet gifts of daybreak; And me, like it tender and young like it, In spite of how much the present time has of trouble and worry, I do not want to die yet, I do not want to die yet!
2._My beautiful journey still is so far from its end! I leave, and of the elms bordering the path, I have hardly passed the first ones. At life’s banquet just started, For a moment only my lips have pressed The cup still full between my hands, The cup still full between my hands!
3._I am only at spring, I want to see the harvest, And like the sun, from season to season, I want to complete my year. Bright on my stalk and the garden’s pride, I have seen only glow the morning lights, I want to complete my day, I want to complete my day!
4._Oh death you can wait; move, move away; Go and console the hearts that shame, dread, Or the pale despair devours. For me, summer has still some green refuges, The Cupids some kisses, the Muses some concerts, I do not want to die yet, I do not want to die yet!