french-poems-about-spring

3 French Poems About Spring to Plant New Vocab in Your Head

Ah, springtime in Paris.

Okay, so springtime anywhere can be pretty great.

Wherever you are, it at least should definitely be time by now to say goodbye to winter and start thinking of all things spring.

With the turn of the weather, what greater pleasure is there than to go outside and read some original French poems?

Even if you are stuck inside on a spring day, taking the time to read just one beautiful poem can tide you over until you can go out and experience the season’s beauty for yourself.

Besides, reading French poetry is a great way to grow your French vocab.

French poetry has long been one of the most revered forms of literature, with some very important pieces dating as far back as the Middle Ages. There is certainly no limit to the great poetry that has come from and is still coming from the Francophone world.

So while you’re planting that spring garden of yours, remember to also take the time to plant some new French words in your brain.

One of the subjects French poetry has looked at the most is nature, specifically springtime, as it is the season of renewal and one of the most inspirational times of year.

The flowers are waking up, so let’s immerse ourselves in some French poems!
 

 
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Why read French poems, though?

Reading in French is a huge part of learning the language, and it is important to choose material which will spark your interest and improve your French at the same time.

Whether you are working through a French novel or reading a book of poems, reading in French will expand your vocabulary, introduce you to new French authors and show you just how beautiful the cadence of the French language can be.

What’s more, reading in French will benefit learners at all levels. You can never start reading too early!

Following, I have put together a list of just a few of my favorite French poems about spring, complete with English translations, though you should attempt to read them in their original language first to see how much you understand initially.

Follow up by reading the originals a second time after you read the translations, as this will change your perception of the poem now that you can relate the meaning with the rhythm and sounds.

I have also pointed out some language benefits that each poem has to offer, so be sure to consider these as well while reading.

So get to brushing up your French by enjoying the following sample of delightful French poems about springtime!

3 Beautiful, Vocab-packed French Poems About Spring

“Paysage” by Charles Baudelaire

About the Poet

No list of French poems would be complete without something from famed poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire.

Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821 and was publishing work as early as 1845. “Les Fleurs du mal” (“The Flowers of Evil”), from which this poem comes, was first published in 1857 and was a huge game-changer for Baudelaire’s career and reputation.

He is best known for his idea that art should be created from the “non-poetic,” or rather, depraved, parts of life.

“Les Fleurs du mal” was a prime example of this idea with its themes of sex, depression and urban life. The work caused him to become a very controversial figure in the public eye.

About the Poem

“Paysage” (“Landscape”) is a fantastic example of the way in which Baudelaire was inspired by urban life, making it unique from most other poems about springtime, which traditionally focus solely on nature.

The poem describes the various parts of an industrial city (which we know to be Paris) in a beautiful manner while keeping in tone with past romantic poems by creating a scene in which a poet is gazing out of a window at the landscape.

Throughout the poem, the speaker talks about the ways in which he will preserve himself during the cold winter by dreaming of beautiful spring. He claims that he will be able to call spring of his own free will through his imaginings and his writing.

The Original Text

“Paysage”

Je veux, pour composer chastement mes églogues,
Coucher auprès du ciel, comme les astrologues,
Et, voisin des clochers écouter en rêvant
Leurs hymnes solennels emportés par le vent.
Les deux mains au menton, du haut de ma mansarde,
Je verrai l’atelier qui chante et qui bavarde ;
Les tuyaux, les clochers, ces mâts de la cité,
Et les grands ciels qui font rêver d’éternité.

II est doux, à travers les brumes, de voir naître
L’étoile dans l’azur, la lampe à la fenêtre
Les fleuves de charbon monter au firmament
Et la lune verser son pâle enchantement.
Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes ;
Et quand viendra l’hiver aux neiges monotones,
Je fermerai partout portières et volets
Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.
Alors je rêverai des horizons bleuâtres,
Des jardins, des jets d’eau pleurant dans les albâtres,
Des baisers, des oiseaux chantant soir et matin,
Et tout ce que l’Idylle a de plus enfantin.
L’Emeute, tempêtant vainement à ma vitre,
Ne fera pas lever mon front de mon pupitre ;
Car je serai plongé dans cette volupté
D’évoquer le Printemps avec ma volonté,
De tirer un soleil de mon coeur, et de faire
De mes pensers brûlants une tiède atmosphère.

The English Translation

“Landscape”

I want to write a book of chaste and simple verse,
Sleep in an attic, like the old astrologers,
Up near the sky, and hear upon the morning air
The tolling of the bells. I want to sit and stare,
My chin in my two hands, out on the humming shops,
The weathervanes, the chimneys, and the steepletops
That rise like masts above the city, straight and tall,
And the mysterious big heavens over all.

I want to watch the blue mist of the night come on,
The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,
The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,
And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see
The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;
And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,
I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,
And build me stately palaces by candlelight.

And I shall dream of luxuries beyond surmise,
Gardens that are a stairway into azure skies,
Fountains that weep in alabaster, birds that sing
All day — of every childish and idyllic thing.
A revolution thundering in the street below
Will never lure me from my task, I shall be so
Lost in that quiet ecstasy, the keenest still,
Of calling back the springtime at my own free will,
Of feeling a sun rise within me, fierce and hot,
And make a whole bright landscape of my burning thought.

— Translated by George Dillon

Language Takeaway

One of the best things you will discover in this poem is an introduction to the French future tense. In the second stanza, there are a ton of examples of this, as the speaker begins to describe what he will do in order to see spring all year round.

You will find the future tense of some frequently used verbs like voir (to see), venir (to come) and faire (to do/to make), just to name a few.

Be sure to read carefully and take the time to look up any verbs you don’t understand, as some of the future tense conjugations will be difficult to identify. For example, serai (will be) is actually the conjugated form of être (to be).

See if you can identify each of the verbs in the future tense in the poem and then practice conjugating them on your own!

“Premier sourire de printemps” by Théophile Gautier

About the Poet

Born in Avignon in 1811, Théophile Gautier is perhaps one of the most popular and important writers in French history.

An advocate for Romanticism, his work went well beyond this and can also be classified as part of the more decadent and modern literary styles that were developing in the 19th century.

Gautier spent most of his life in Paris and produced countless poems, novels and plays in addition to working as a journalist for La Presse (The Press) and later for Le Moniteur universel (The Universal Monitor).

About the Poem

“Premier sourire du printemps” (“Spring’s First Smile”) is a beautiful poem that follows the actions of the month of March as it prepares the earth for the arrival of spring.

The poem deals explicitly with nature in the traditional Romantic vein and is full of some gorgeous imagery.

Add to that the poem’s lovely cadence and rhyme, and it would be a true tragedy not to experience this poem in its original French as it was intended.

The Original Text

“Premier sourire du printemps”

Tandis qu’à leurs oeuvres perverses
Les hommes courent haletants,
Mars qui rit, malgré les averses,
Prépare en secret le printemps.

Pour les petites pâquerettes,
Sournoisement lorsque tout dort,
Il repasse des collerettes
Et cisèle des boutons d’or.

Dans le verger et dans la vigne,
Il s’en va, furtif perruquier,
Avec une houppe de cygne,
Poudrer à frimas l’amandier.

La nature au lit se repose ;
Lui descend au jardin désert,
Et lace les boutons de rose
Dans leur corset de velours vert.

Tout en composant des solfèges,
Qu’aux merles il siffle à mi-voix,
Il sème aux prés les perce-neiges
Et les violettes aux bois.

Sur le cresson de la fontaine
Où le cerf boit, l’oreille au guet,
De sa main cachée il égrène
Les grelots d’argent du muguet.

Sous l’herbe, pour que tu la cueilles,
Il met la fraise au teint vermeil,
Et te tresse un chapeau de feuilles
Pour te garantir du soleil.

Puis, lorsque sa besogne est faite,
Et que son règne va finir,
Au seuil d’avril tournant la tête,
Il dit : << Printemps, tu peux venir ! >>

The English Translation

“Spring’s First Smile”

While up and down the earth men pant and plod,
March, laughing at the showers and days unsteady,
And whispering secret orders to the sod,
For Spring makes ready.

And slyly when the world is sleeping yet,
He smooths out collars for the Easter daisies,
And fashions golden buttercups to set
In woodland mazes.

Coif-maker fine, he worketh well his plan.
Orchard and vineyard for his touch are prouder.
From a white swan he hath a down to fan
The trees with powder.

While Nature still upon her couch doth lean,
Stealthily hies he to the garden closes,
And laces in their bodices of green
Pale buds of roses.

Composing his solfeggios in the shade,
He whistles them to blackbirds as he treadeth,
And violets in the wood, and in the glade
Snowdrops, he spreadeth.

Where for the restless stag the fountain wells,
His hidden hand glides soft amid the cresses,
And scatters lily-of-the-valley bells,
In silver dresses.

He sinks the sweet, vermilion strawberries
Deep in the grasses for thy roving fingers,
And garlands leaflets for thy forehead’s ease,
When sunshine lingers.

When, labour done, he must away, turns he
On April’s threshold from his fair creating,
And calleth unto Spring: “Come, Spring–for see,
The woods are waiting!”

— Translated by Agnes Lee

Language Takeaway

I would say that one of the main language benefits to reading this poem is the wealth of new vocabulary you will encounter.

The language in this poem is extremely rich and you will discover a number of less-used words to add to your French.

For example, haletant is another way of saying ensoufflé (out of breath). Other words you may see for the first time include l’amandier (almond tree) and le cresson (watercress).

This poem is truly rich in unique vocabulary so be sure to look up each of the words you don’t know!

“Le temps a laissé son manteau” by Charles d’Orléans

About the Poet

Charles d’Orléans was born in Paris in 1394 and was both Duke of Orléans and a prince through his relation to King Charles VI of France.

He had a passion for writing and penned hundreds of songs, poems and ballads during his lifetime.

He spent a great deal of his younger years in captivity in England, where he wrote both English and French poetry and even translated some of his former French poems and songs into English.

His poetry celebrated love, the aristocracy and chivalry while also touching on some more difficult subjects such as aging and captivity.

About the Poem

“Le temps a laissé son manteau” (“The Season Removed His Coat”) describes the manner in which the old season has shed its cold, wind and rain in order to don new garments of sunshine and other proponents of springtime.

The poem contains a lot of traditional springtime imagery, such as birds, rivers, fountains, etc., and is written as a rondeau, a fixed-form type of poetry consisting of only two rhymes used throughout the entirety of the poem and including repetition in each verse.

The Original Text

“Le temps a laissé son manteau”

Le temps a laissé son manteau.
De vent, de froidure et de pluie,
Et s’est vêtu de broderie,
De soleil luisant, clair et beau.

Il n’y a bête, ni oiseau
Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crie :
Le temps a laissé son manteau.

Rivière, fontaine et ruisseau
Portent en livrée jolie,
Gouttes d’argent d’orfèvrerie,
Chacun s’habille de nouveau :
Le temps a laissé son manteau.

The English Translation

You can find a great English translation, reading and analysis of this poem on French Today, where you can access many other poems presented in the same format. If you enjoy this material, you may also want to check out their audiobooks and lessons, which help you build useful vocabulary in context with real “street” pronunciation.

Language Takeaway

This poem could prove the easiest to understand of the three that I have chosen for you, as it contains a lot of repetition, rhyme and slightly less complicated vocabulary than the previous poems.

That being said, I believe these attributes make it the perfect poem with which to practice your pronunciation.

I suggest reading it out loud first and seeing if the rhythm and rhyme help you pronounce the words correctly. Then, you can check yourself by listening to the reading of the poem linked above.

This is a great way to practice your French speaking skills.

 

Whether you wish to read a poem outside in the lovely spring weather or, rather, must dream of springtime like the speaker in Baudelaire’s “Paysage,” these poems of spring are sure to delight you while improving your French at the same time!


Camille Turner is an American writer living in Paris, France.

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