The leaves are so intensely green
And the sky is so intensely blue
Far from home, an unforeseen
Loneliness awakes anew.

The fruits are too tender, too sweet
The sun too fierce, the air too still.
Sometimes my heart burns to retreat
From this land that fits me so ill.

Sometimes I weary of beautiful places,
Of the fragrance of the tropical loam,
The unending array of unknown faces,
And of everything that is not my home!


I hasten to add I don’t often feel like this… indeed mostly I am full of energy and curiosity, and determined to explore to the full the amazing opportunity to live and work abroad. But as every traveller knows, there are moments, particularly when overheated, ill, tired or all three, when everything just seems too foreign. And this poem tries to capture that mood – or rather, to vent that spleen!

This was written in part for this week’s Totally Optional Prompt – to write about foreign lands. I have lots of positive poems to share which are about the amazing side of the places I’ve been visiting lately – but they will have to wait until I can upload the pictures from my camera!

In writing this I found I had Paul Verlaine’s poem Spleen (which I sing in the Debussy setting) very much in my mind – and deliberately echoed its form and structures in several places. Here’s the original poem, and a translation:

Spleen – Paul Verlaine

Les roses étaient toutes rouges,
Et les lierres étaient tout noirs.
Chère, pour peu que tu te bouges,
Renaissent tous mes désespoirs.

Le ciel était trop bleu, trop tendre,
La mer trop verte et l’air trop doux;
Je crains toujours, ce qu’est d’attendre,
Quelque fuite atroce de vous!

Du houx à la feuille vernie,
Et du luisant buis je suis las,
Et de la campagne infinie,
Et de tout, fors de vous. Hélas!

The roses were all red
And the ivy was all black.
My love, the smallest move from you
And all my despair reawakens.

The sky was too blue, too tender,
The sea too green and the air too soft.
I am afraid all the time, always waiting,
Some terrible flight from you.

Of the holly with its varnished leaf
And of the shining boxwood I am weary
And of the never-ending countryside,
And of everything, except you. Alas!

The text and translation are from the excellent Lied and Song Texts page


6 responses to “Spleen

  1. When it’s all going well, you don’t have a care, but the balance is disturbed, then you realise just how foreign things can be.

  2. Ah, yes. I remember the sudden awakening when things went awry and home was distant. Very nicely done.

  3. Yes, I recognise those feelings…

  4. Sometimes, no matter how great and exciting life can be, we long for the familiar and mundane…because the comfort is in the well known and well worn slippers of daily life.

    Great poem.


  5. Yeah, sometimes at the end of the day, there’s no place like home!

  6. Very recognisable! I liked the Verlaine and your translation of it too.

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