I’ve always known that I’m named for a piece of music. Charles Debussy’s Clair de Lune is my mother’s favorite and that’s where my name comes from. I’ve listened to that piece my whole life. (You can listen to it here.) I own four or five different recordings of it. I think it’s haunting and beautiful and have always been pleased she like that song, and not, say something from the Backstreet Boys. But this weekend I found out there’s a lot more to it.
For some reason, I never realized that Clair de Lune, which means “moonlight”, is the third movement of a larger work. In 33 years, I had never heard of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. There are three more courses of this piece of music I have always loved so much. It’s a little like discovering that your favorite book has a prequel you didn’t know about. What a treat.
And amazingly, there is even more, dessert if you will. Debussy based the third movement of his Suite, the famous Clair de Lune, on a poem by French poet Paul Verlaine. He even borrowed Paul’s title. The poem, not surprisingly, is in French (you can hear it read aloud, as poetry should be here) and has been translated as this:
Claire de Lune
by Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896)
Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masked and costumed figures go
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.
All sing in a minor key
Of all-conquering love and careless fortune
They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight.
The still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
Which gives the birds to dream in the trees
And makes the fountain sprays sob in ecstasy,
The tall, slender fountain sprays among the marble statues.
I find it rather beautiful. I love that the characters in the poem do let even their sadness stop their dancing.
For the first time in a long time, I found a poem running through my own head and scurried to write it down before it ran away. Art brings forth life, which in turn, if we’re lucky, gives us more art — whole new world of undiscovered countries and chosen landscapes.
The sad song is a realist
Who dances, even while doubting the happiness
Who dances in the sad light
And wears a mask so fantastic that all sorrows are forgotten.
The sad song dances because it has known happiness
So indescribable that even the memory of it alone
Is enough to stir the body
And feet refuse to stand still
But give in to the loveliness of what is now.
The dance is a choice
Too beautiful to be cast aside by a little sorrow.
The dancer moves, light and sorrow
Beauty and memory and
Finds happiness again
In the ethereal sad light.