ANDRÉ CHÉNIER (1762-1794): I was an Infant

Translated by Timothy Adès

J’étais un faible enfant qu’elle était grande et belle.
Elle me souriait et m’appelait près d’elle.
Debout sur ses genoux, mon innocente main
Parcourait ses cheveux, son visage, son sein,
Et sa main quelquefois, aimable et caressante,
Feignait de châtier mon enfance imprudente.
C’est devant ses amants, auprès d’elle confus,
Que la fière beauté me caressait le plus.
Que de fois (mais, hélas! que sent-on à cet âge?)
Les baisers de sa bouche ont pressé mon visage!
Et les bergers disaient, me voyant triomphant:
– Oh! que de biens perdus! ô trop heureux enfant!

I was an infant: she, a full-blown rose!
She smiled at me, and called me to come close.
I stood upon her knees, and, guiltless, pressed
With roving hand her hair, her face, her breast;
And, many times, her own hand’s sweet caress
Feigned to rebuke my childish recklessness.
When her admirers, all abashed, stood by,
She, proud and fair, caressed more eagerly.
How often (what was I to feel, alas,
So young?) her lips with kisses touched my face!
The rustic lads looked on: I crowed and smiled:
“Ah, what a waste!” they cried; “ah, lucky child!”

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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