"Clair de lune", ("Moonlight") Op. 46 No 2, is a song by Gabriel Fauré, composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine. The pianist Graham Johnson writes that it closes Fauré's second period and opens the doors into his third. Johnson notes that it is "for many people the quintessential French mélodie".
The lyric is from Verlaine's early collection Fêtes galantes (1869). It inspired not only Fauré but Claude Debussy, who set it in 1881 and wrote a well known piano piece inspired by it in 1891. Fauré's 1887 setting is for voice and piano; in 1888, at the instigation of the Princesse de Polignac, he made a version for voice and orchestra, first performed at the Société Nationale de Musique in April of that year, with the tenor Maurice Bàges as soloist. In its orchestral form the song was included in Fauré's incidental music Masques et bergamasques in 1919. The original published version (Hamelle, Paris, 1888) is in B-flat minor. The song is dedicated to Fauré's friend the painter Emmanuel Jadin, who was a talented amateur pianist.
Clair de lune
Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.
Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masqueraders and bergamasquers go
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.
They all sing in a minor key
About triumphant love and fortunate life,
They do not seem to believe in their fortune
And their song blends with the light of the moon,
In the calm moonlight, sad and beautiful,
Which has the birds dreaming in the trees
And the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
The tall fountains, slender amid marble statues.[n 1]