Once, il fut un temps

I wrote this poem and translated it into English. For the dverse open link night. I don’t often write poetry in French. Just occasionally one comes out like that.


Ces jours-ci,

la lumière m’aveugle,

trop dorée, trop silencieuse,

pensées flottent ou se noient

parmi les grains de poussière

là où, il fut un temps,

il y avaient des oiseaux.

Á la fin, c’est la nuit,

ailée de noir comme l’océan

qui couvrira ces yeux

d’écailles, éclats

de poisson-étoiles

et tous ces jours

de lumière aveuglante

s’éteindront dans le douceur

de l’infinie.


These days,

the light blinds me,

too golden, too silent,

thoughts sink or swim

among the dust motes

where once there were birds.

In the end, night,

black-winged as the ocean

will cover these eyes with scales,

splinters of fish-stars,

and all those days

of blinding light

will fade away

in the softness of infinity.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

49 thoughts on “Once, il fut un temps”

      1. I think you need to live in a country and use the language every day to really get to grips with it. I never studied French beyond age 16 so my written French is a bit ropey 🙂

  1. Gorgeous in french and English – I had to read the French version aloud, Jane, but my accent didn’t do it justice! I love the contrast of the gold light of day and silver light of night – I prefer moonlight to sunlight, and I especially loved the ‘splinters of fish-stars’.

    1. I’m glad you liked it Kim. I’m very reticent about writing in French as it’s such a pernickety language, but French poetry has a particular quality, a bit surreal, that I like.

  2. This is beyond beautiful! ❤ Especially like; “thoughts sink or swim among the dust motes where once there were birds.” 😊

      1. That is great. We only get the chance to learn English. At Gymnasium then we were able to choose French, but there also was the need to learn Greek, Latin and better English too. We had fear to learn French. 😉

      2. The kids here don’t much want to learn German either. They think Spanish seems easier. There are a lot of Franco-Spanish families, so maybe that helps spread the myth 🙂

  3. “These days…” sets the stage for the ambiguity you mentioned, this is a shift, a change. The light blinds rather than elucidates. Soft infinity is framed, but we really don’t want to go, but oh that night that precedes it, so lovely!

  4. Love this… my French is lousy, but I did get a word in some places… such as fish star… I think your translated poem comes out with a different voice than your normal… maybe there’s a bit of French still there 🙂

    1. It goes back to what we were talking about the other week, that translation is not just the reproduction of words in a different language, there’s something about the way they are strung together that’s different too. Maybe this worked as a translation, then, if you hear an unusual sound in it 🙂

      1. If ever I think of a poem in French, it isn’t at all the same as a poem that comes to me in English. The structure is different and the way the ideas are expressed. It must be the same for you.

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