Matthijs Vermeulen

nl fr de

LES FILLES DU ROI D'ESPAGNE for mezzo-soprano and piano (1917)
 
One day in the spring of 1917, while working as an editor in the office of the newspaper De Telegraaf, Vermeulen's colleague Jan Greshoff presented him with the text of Les filles du roi d'Espagne, one of the many Ballades françaises written by Paul Fort (1872-1960) after old texts. In this prose poem Fort used the technique of repetition. The recurring line "la guerre et ses canons" suggests that the poem is set against the background of the war. The daughters of the king of Spain have fallen asleep in the shade of some olive trees, dreaming about their beloved. One of the princesses has died "dans ses amours", knowing or having a premonition of the toll the battle field is taking far away. The poem that never becomes concrete – it ends just as inexplicit as it started –, is shrouded with doom and yearning for love.
Vermeulen was tempted to turn these verses, in which Fort "sings and daydreams in a blue and vague endlessness, always returning to his point of departure", into a song that follows the structure and character of the text. The naiveness of the words is maintained in the music. The refrain with which the song starts, sounds like a simple nursery rhyme or dipping rhyme that can be hummed. However, the sections in between the refrain have slight variations and subtleties in melody and harmony, both in the vocal part and in the accompaniment. Each of the princesses sings about her beloved and the disappointment of his absence in her own way. The song is intimate and restrained. With the last "alas" a silent sorrow remains.
 
Les filles du roi d’Espagne
Paul Fort
 
La terre et l’horizon.
Le ciel et trois pigeons.
La mer et les moutons.
La guerre et ses canons.
L’amour sommeille…
 
Derrière chez mon père
Y-a-z-un olivier doux.
Les filles du roi d’Espagne
sont endormies dessous. Las!
 
J’aime celui qui m’aime,
ô gai, gai, gai,
j’ai le cœur tant gai.
J’entends le dieu d’Amour
sonner sons, sons, sonner mille sons.
La terre et l’horizon.
L’amour sommeille…
Les filles du roi d’Espagne
sont endormies dessous.
La première dit: ‘Mes sœurs’,
dit: ‘Mes sœurs, il est jour.’ Las!
 
J’aime celui qui m’aime,
ô gai, gai, gai,
j’ai le cœur tant gai.
J’entends le dieu d’Amour
sonner sons, sons, sonner mille sons.
Le ciel et trois pigeons.
L’amour s’éveille…
La première dit: ‘Mes sœurs’,
dit: ‘Mes sœurs, il est jour.’
La deuxième dit: ‘Mes sœurs’,
dit: ‘Où sont mes amours?’ Las!
 
J’aime celui qui m’aime,
ô gai, gai, gai,
J’ai le cœur tant gai.
J’entends le dieu d’Amour
sonner sons, sons, sonner mille sons.
La mer et les moutons.
L’amour s’éveille…
La deuxième dit: ‘Mes sœurs’,
dit: ‘Où sont mes amours?’
La troisième, elle est morte,
est morte dans ses amours. Las!
 
J’aime celui qui m’aime,
ô gai, gai, gai,
J’ai le cœur tant gai.
J’entends le dieu d’Amour
sonner sons, sons, sonner mille sons.
La guerre et ses canons.
L’amour sommeille...
 
La terre et l’horizon.
Le ciel et trois pigeons.
La mer et les moutons.
La guerre et ses canons.
L’amour sommeille...
 
 
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