You are currently viewing the part of me that dreams will break unless it bends
François-Auguste Ravier, Vue d'une vallée au crépuscule, des arbres dénudés à droite, 1814-1895.

Language: French
Poet: Louisa Siefert
Translator: Laura Nagle
Region: France


the part of me that dreams will break unless it bends

Two poems by Louisa Siefert, translated from French by Laura Nagle

Regard Mouillé

Quand tu constates les ravages
Du mal qu’autrefois tu m’as fait,
Devant cette mer sans rivages,
Tu sembles rester stupéfait.

Et de tes paupières baissées,
Sur moi tombe un regard sans prix,
Ainsi se croisent nos pensées :
Tu soupires, moi je souris !

Tears in Your Eyes

You stand before the boundless sea
Of pain you caused me long ago,
Aghast at what you’ve done to me—
As if you’d had no way to know!

With eyelids low and gaze cast down,
At last you give me, free of guile,
A look more priceless than a crown:
’Tis you who suffer, I who smile.



Je ne puis résister à la mélancolie
De la feuille qui tombe et du jour qui s’en va ;
À ce moment, en moi quelque chose se plie,
Quelque chose de fier qui souffrit et rêva.

Cette feuille qui tombe et qu’à jamais oublie
L’arbre, auquel tout à l’heure un souffle l’enleva,
Ce jour déjà mourant qui lutte et s’humilie
Comme un proscrit blessé que le ciel réprouva,

Cette feuille, ce jour, cet oubli, tout m’attriste.
Une seule pensée en mon esprit subsiste,
Qui me dit : c’est l’hiver ! qui me dit : c’est la nuit !

Demain, cieux et forêts rajeuniront encore…
Mais à la feuille morte, à l’heure qui s’enfuit,
Hélas ! qui parlera de printemps ou d’aurore ?…


I cannot help but feel a wistful, quiet woe
As a leaf gently falls—as the day, fading, ends.
More than pride, more than pain, at this moment I know
The part of me that dreams will break unless it bends.

The falling leaf, so soon forgotten by the tree
From which it was wrested by the breath of a breeze;
Day, already half dead, struggling, doomed to be
Unheard by the heavens, like an exile’s pleas—

All of it saddens me: day and leaf intertwined,
Waning, dead, forgotten. There’s a voice in my mind
That tells me winter’s come; it heralds fall of night.

The woods will see new growth; the sun will grace the sky;
But neither fallen leaves nor the hour that’s gone by
Shall hear tell of springtime or of dawn’s tender light.


Louisa Siefert (1845–1877) was among the most popular French poets of her generation. Her debut collection, Rayons perdus (Paris: Lemerre, 1868), from which these poems are drawn, was a bestseller and earned her the admiration of Arthur Rimbaud and Victor Hugo. She published four poetry collections, a play in verse, and a novel.

Laura Nagle is an Indianapolis-based translator and writer. Her translations of prose and poetry from French and Spanish have recently appeared in The Southern Review, ANMLY, and The Los Angeles Review. Songs for the Gusle, her translation of Prosper Mérimée’s 1827 hoax, La Guzla, is forthcoming from Frayed Edge Press.