french love poems

6 French Love Poems Sure to Pull at Your Heartstrings

What’s even more romantic than a love poem? That’s right: a French love poem.

French is known as the language of love, so it only makes sense that French poetry should live up to that reputation. 

This post will introduce you to 6 beautiful French love poems and their translations, a bit of analysis and some tips on learning French through poetry!

Contents

1. “Pour toujours !”

L’espoir divin qu’à deux on parvient à former
Et qu’à deux on partage,
L’espoir d’aimer longtemps, d’aimer toujours, d’aimer
Chaque jour davantage ;

Le désir éternel, chimérique et touchant,
Que les amants soupirent,
A l’instant adorable où, tout en se cherchant,
Leurs lèvres se respirent ;

Ce désir décevant, ce cher espoir trompeur,
Jamais nous n’en parlâmes ;
Et je souffre de voir que nous en ayons peur,
Bien qu’il soit dans nos âmes.

Lorsque je te murmure, amant interrogé,
Une douce réponse,
C’est le mot : – Pour toujours ! – sur les lèvres que j’ai,
Sans que je le prononce ;

Et bien qu’un cher écho le dise dans ton cœur,
Ton silence est le même,
Alors que sur ton sein, me mourant de langueur,
Je jure que je t’aime.

Qu’importe le passé ? Qu’importe l’avenir ?
La chose la meilleure,
C’est croire que jamais elle ne doit finir,
L’illusion d’une heure.

Et quand je te dirai : – Pour toujours ! – ne fais rien
Qui dissipe ce songe,
Et que plus tendrement ton baiser sur le mien
S’appuie et se prolonge !

English Translation:

The divine hope that together we manage to form
And that together we share,
The hope of loving long, loving forever, of loving
Each day more;

The eternal desire, chimeric and touching
That the lovers sigh,
At the adorable moment when, all search for each other,
Their lips breathing;

This disappointing desire, this dear deceiving hope,
We never talk about it;
And it pains me to see that we have some fear,
Though it is in our souls.

When I whisper to you, lover questioned
A sweet response,
It’s the word forever on  
My lips that I have,
Without my saying it;

And though a dear echo says it in your
heart,
Your silence is the same,
So that on your breast, I am dying of 
languor,
I promise that I love you.

What does the past matter? What does the future matter?
The best thing,
It’s to believe that she’ll never have to finish,
The illusion of an hour

And when I will tell you: Forever! Don’t
do anything
Who dispels this dream,
And that more tenderly your kiss on mine
Relies and extends!

This poem by François Coppée is a traditionally romantic poem that uses themes of longing in its language.

Love here is presented as something that endures beyond time, lasting well past the deaths of both parties involved.

Although more traditional in its use of the language, this poem talks about love in a timeless, classic way.

2. “À deux beaux yeux”

Vous avez un regard singulier et charmant ;
Comme la lune au fond du lac qui la reflète,
Votre prunelle, où brille une humide paillette,
Au coin de vos doux yeux roule languissamment ;

Ils semblent avoir pris ses feux au diamant ;
Ils sont de plus belle eau qu’une perle parfaite,
Et vos grands cils émus, de leur aile inquiète,
Ne voilent qu’à demi leur vif rayonnement.

Mille petits amours, à leur miroir de flamme,
Se viennent regarder et s’y trouvent plus beaux,
Et les désirs y vont rallumer leurs flambeaux.

Ils sont si transparents, qu’ils laissent voir votre âme,
Comme une fleur céleste au calice idéal
Que l’on apercevrait à travers un cristal.

English Translation:

You have a singular and charming look;
Like the moon at the bottom of a lake that reflects her,
Your apple, where a damp glitter shines,
At the corner of your sweet eyes rolls languidly;

They appear to have caught her diamond fire;
They are of more beautiful water than a perfect pearl,
And your long eyelashes, of their worried wing,
Don’t see half their brightness.

A thousand little loves, to their mirror of flame,
Are coming to watch and there they find more beautiful,
And the desires will rekindle their torches.

They are so transparent, that they let you see your soul,
Like a heavenly flower with an ideal chalice,
That you would see through a crystal.

Penned by French poet Théophile Gautier, “Two Beautiful Eyes” is an ode to…you guessed it, a lover’s pair of eyes. 

The poem uses a wide range of descriptive and creative language to express just how beautiful the writer finds his lover’s eyes to be.

3. “Lise”

J’avais douze ans ; elle en avait bien seize.
Elle était grande, et, moi, j’étais petit.
Pour lui parler le soir plus à mon aise,
Moi, j’attendais que sa mère sortît ;
Puis je venais m’asseoir près de sa chaise
Pour lui parler le soir plus à mon aise.

Que de printemps passés avec leurs fleurs !
Que de feux morts, et que de tombes closes !
Se souvient-on qu’il fut jadis des cœurs ?
Se souvient-on qu’il fut jadis des roses ?
Elle m’aimait. Je l’aimais. Nous étions
Deux purs enfants, deux parfums, deux rayons.

Dieu l’avait faite ange, fée et princesse.
Comme elle était bien plus grande que moi,
Je lui faisais des questions sans cesse
Pour le plaisir de lui dire : Pourquoi ?
Et par moments elle évitait, craintive,
Mon œil rêveur qui la rendait pensive.

Puis j’étalais mon savoir enfantin,
Mes jeux, la balle et la toupie agile ;
J’étais tout fier d’apprendre le latin ;
Je lui montrais mon Phèdre et mon Virgile ;
Je bravais tout; rien ne me faisait mal ;
Je lui disais : Mon père est général.

Quoiqu’on soit femme, il faut parfois qu’on lise
Dans le latin, qu’on épelle en rêvant ;
Pour lui traduire un verset, à l’église,
Je me penchais sur son livre souvent.
Un ange ouvrait sur nous son aile blanche,
Quand nous étions à vêpres le dimanche.

Elle disait de moi : C’est un enfant !
Je l’appelais mademoiselle Lise.
Pour lui traduire un psaume, bien souvent,
Je me penchais sur son livre à l’église ;
Si bien qu’un jour, vous le vîtes, mon Dieu !
Sa joue en fleur toucha ma lèvre en feu.

Jeunes amours, si vite épanouies,
Vous êtes l’aube et le matin du cœur.
Charmez l’enfant, extases inouïes !
Et quand le soir vient avec la douleur,
Charmez encor nos âmes éblouies,
Jeunes amours, si vite épanouies !

English Translation:

I was twelve years old, she was sixteen.
She was tall and me, I was short.
To talk to her at night more at ease,
Me, I would wait for her mother to leave;
Then I would come to sit next to her chair
To talk to her at night more at ease.

What spring past with their flowers!
So many dead fires, and so many closed graves!
Does anyone remember that he was once hearts?
Does anyone remember that he was once flowers?
She loved me. I loved her. We were
Two pure children, two perfumes, two rays.

God made her an angel, fairy and princess.
As she was much taller than me,
I would ask her questions constantly
For pleasure, I ask her: Why?
At times she evaded, fearful,
My dreamy eye that made her thoughtful.

Then I was spreading my childish knowledge,
My games, the ball and the agile top;
I was all proud to learn Latin;
I would show her my Phaedre and my Virgil;
I braved everything, nothing could do me harm;
I would tell her: My father is a general.

Whatever you’re a woman, you have to read sometimes
In the Latin you spell while dreaming;
To translate a verse for her, at the church,
I looked over her book often.
An angel would open on us his white wing,
When we were at vespers on Sunday.

She would say of me: It’s a child!
I called her Miss Lise.
To translate a psalm for her very often,
I looked over her book at church;
So much that one day, you see it, my God!
Her blushing cheek touched my lip on fire.

Young love, so quickly blossomed,
You are dawn and the morning of my heart.
You charm the child, incredible ecstasies!
And when the night comes with pain, 
You again charm our dazzled souls,
Young love, so quickly blossomed!

One of the most celebrated French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote this tale of first love, told from the perspective of a young boy who has now become a man.

The poem looks back in reflection on the memories the speaker has of the girl he loved, who was older than he.

Hugo is an extremely skilled wordsmith, so pay attention to his incredible play on words within this poem.

4. “Nous dormirons ensemble”

Que ce soit dimanche ou lundi
Soir ou matin minuit midi
Dans l’enfer ou le paradis
Les amours aux amours ressemblent
C’était hier que je t’ai dit
Nous dormirons ensemble.

C’était hier et c’est demain
Je n’ai plus que toi de chemin
J’ai mis mon cœur entre tes mains
Avec le tien comme il va l’amble
Tout ce qu’il a de temps humain
Nous dormirons ensemble.

Mon amour ce qui fut sera
Le ciel est sur nous comme un drap
J’ai refermé sur toi mes bras
Et tant je t’aime que j’en tremble
Aussi longtemps que tu voudras
Nous dormirons ensemble.

English Translation:

Whether it’s Sunday or Monday
Evening or morning, midnight or noon
In hell or heaven
Love resembles love
It was yesterday that I told you
We will sleep together.

It was yesterday and it’s tomorrow
I have no path but you
I put my heart between your hands
With yours as it goes amble
All that he has of human time
We will sleep together.

My love what was will be
Heaven is on us like a sheet
I’ve closed my arms around you
And I love you so much that I shake
As long as you want
We will sleep together. 

A love poem by Louis Aragon, “We Will Sleep Together” describes the strong bond formed between a couple.

Mentioning the potential obstacles that could come between them, the poem focuses on how the relationship can last through the hardest of times. Despite whatever else might go on in the world the author claims that nous dormirons ensemble (we’ll sleep together, and in this case the author really does mean sleep).

5. “Sensation”

Par les soirs bleus d’été, j’irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l’herbe menue :
Rêveur, j’en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien :
Mais l’amour infini me montera dans l’âme,
Et j’irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, – heureux comme avec une femme.

English Translation:

By the blue nights of summer, I’ll go on the trails,
Tickled by the wheat, trample the small grass:
Dreamy, I will feel the freshness at my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head.

I will not speak, I will think of nothing:
But the infinite love will rise in my soul,
And I will go far, very far, like a gypsy,
By nature, happy as with a woman.

Written by celebrated French writer Arthur Rimbaud, “Sensation” takes on a unique perspective of love that admires nature rather than a romantic relationship.

The poem describes the natural environment in adoration as the speaker takes an evening stroll through corn fields. The romantic tone and descriptive language paints a beautiful image of Mother Nature, sure to inspire your own affection for the Earth.

6. “Mignonne, allons voir si la rose”

Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil,
A point perdu ceste vesprée
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,
Et son teint au vostre pareil.

Las ! voyez comme en peu d’espace,
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place
Las ! las ses beautez laissé cheoir !
Ô vrayment marastre Nature,
Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure
Que du matin jusques au soir !

Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,
Tandis que vostre âge fleuronne
En sa plus verte nouveauté,
Cueillez, cueillez vostre jeunesse :
Comme à ceste fleur la vieillesse
Fera ternir vostre beauté.

English Translation:

Sweetheart, let’s see if the rose
Who this morning unfurled
Her dress of crimson to the sun,
Has lost at evening
The folds of her crimson dress,
And her color at the same rate.

Alas! See how in a little bit of space,
Sweetheart, she has the place.
Alas! Weary of its beauties she let fall!
Oh, truly cruel Mother Nature,
That such a flower doesn’t last
From morning to evening!

So, if you believe me, sweetheart, 
While your age is flowering, 
In its most green freshness,
Gather, gather your youth:
Like this old flower
It will tarnish your beauty.

“Sweetheart, Let’s See if the Rose” is a poem written by Pierre de Ronsard that uses nature as a way of talking about romantic love. 

Unlike other poems that may talk about love as infinitely lasting, de Ronsard looks at the fleeting nature of beauty and how you must seize it when you still have it.

“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose” follows an AABCCB structure, which can make for a great learning challenge that helps you really think about how the structure contributes to the overall aesthetic of the poem. 

How to Get the Most out of French Love Poetry

Learn native terms of affection

If you want to read French love poems, it’s a good idea to know some French terms of affection so you can understand the poems.

Here are some of the most common terms you might run into:

Mon amour  My love

Ma biche  My doe

Mon canard  My duck

Mon/ma chéri(e)  My dear

Mon chou  My cabbage

Mon cœur — My heart

Mon loulou — My little one

Mon/ma grand(e)  My big guy/girl

Ma puce  My flea

Mon trésor  My treasure

While many terms of affection are meant to work in the romantic sense, you might often hear them used between parents and their children, too. 

Learn the different uses of aimer

One of the biggest confusions between the French and English languages is how and when to use the verb aimer (to like/to love).

If you follow aimer with a person, it means that you love them or you’re in love with them. J’aime ma sœur means “I love my sister” and Il aime Chloe means “He is in love with Chloe.”

If you want to say that you like someone, then you can pair aimer with an adverb in order to weaken its meaning.

Adverbs like bien (good/well) make aimer less strong, so if you say Je t’aime bien, it means “I like you.” Beaucoup (a lot) also has this effect, so Je t’aime beaucoup means “I really like you,” not “I really love you.”

Spotting the different uses of aimer can help you get to the heart of French love poetry and understand the type of relationship being presented.

If the writer is qualifying the verb with an adverb, it could be a case of unrequited or doomed love. If they are declaring their love, they will not use any additional language around the verb: Je t’aime will say it all!

Spotting these subtle differences can really help you get to the heart of the poetic matter.

Listen to love songs

Songs are poems themselves, and French culture is full of love poems in song form!

If you’re learning French using French love songs for listening exercises can be a great way to hear how terms of affection might be spoken aloud and will enable you to take your learning with you on the go.

You can also check out FluentU, which has interactive, dual-language captioning on all the videos in its French library, including the music video section. If you don’t understand a word, you can click or tap on it for a definition and additional info.

Buy a book of love poetry

If you really want to focus on love poetry, buying an entire book of it will serve you well.

Working through the texts of one writer in particular can be a great way of understanding style and tone, making translation much easier.

Once you pick up on specific turns of phrase that a writer may use, you will be able to understand more of their work with much greater ease!

Read the poems out loud

If you read a poem out loud, you will be able to better understand the emotion and flow of the poem. 

This is also great speaking and pronunciation practice if you’re trying to learn the French language.

Annotate and take notes

If you are trying to learn French and there are certain words and phrases you don’t understand, I’d recommend looking them up and writing them in the margin. 

You can also write any analytical notes to help you grasp the literary aspects of the poems.

Make flashcards

If you’re a French learner, you can take those words and phrases that you had to look up and turn them into a flashcard deck so you can study them later and really get a grasp of their meaning!

Explore More French Poetry

If this post has whetted your appetite for French poetry, we’ve got you covered!

 


French Poetry: 8 Short Works to Learn the Language of Love | FluentU French Blog

French poetry is world renowned for its beautiful imagery and particular artistic flair. Many French poets write with a style that is difficult to forget and sure to move.…

Now that you’ve seen the beauty of French love poems, you know why French is the language of romance!

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