Quand nos bourgeons se rouvriront

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When the Spring Comes Round song cover.jpg

”Quand nos bourgeons se rouvriront” ("When the spring comes round") is a song for solo soprano, part of a staged recitation with orchestra Une voix dans le désert written by the English composer Edward Elgar in 1915. The words are by the Belgian poet Émile Cammaerts.

It was first performed in a performance of Une voix dans le désert at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, on 29 January 1916, sung by the soprano Olga Lynn,[1] with the recitation by the Belgian dramatic performer Carlo Liten,[2] and the orchestra conducted by the composer.

The French title "Quand nos bourgeons se rouvriront" literally translates into "When our buds shall re-open", but in the English version of the lyrics, by Cammaerts' wife Tita Brand, it became "When the spring comes round".

The song was published separately by Elkin & Co. in 1916, inscribed "English version by R. H. Elkin". The words are the same as in the vocal score of Une voix dans le désert, so it is not clear whether the English translation of the song is by Tita Brand or by Elkin.

The Pall Mall Gazette described the scene on the wartime front in West Flanders, Belgium:

'It is night when the curtain rises, showing the battered dwelling, standing alone in the desolate land, with the twinkling of camp fires along the Yser in the distance, and in the foreground the cloaked figure of a man, who soliloquises on the spectacle ... the voice of a peasant girl is heard coming from the cottage, singing a song of hope and trust in anticipation of the day the war shall be ended ...'[3]

Lyrics[edit]

French

Quand nos bourgeons se rouvriront,
Saules rouges at gris chatons
Quand nos bourgeons se rouvriront,
Nos vaches meugleront.
Elles sonneront du cor
Coqs rouges et fumiers d'or
Elles sonneront si fort,
Qu'elles réveilleront les morts.


Frapperont nos marteaux,
Bras nus et torses chauds
Et ronfleront nos scies,
Autour de nos prairies.
S'ouvriront nos églises,
Nieuport, Ypres et Pervyse,
Et tonneront nos cloches
Le dur tocsin des Boches.[4]
Tinteront nos truelles
Dixmude et Ramscapelle
Et reluiront nos pelles
Et cogneront nos pioches.


Glisseront nos bateaux,
Goudron noir et mouette
Chantera l'alouette
Le long de nos canaux,
Et fleuriront nos tombes
Mésanges et pigeons bleus
Et fleuriront nos tombes,
Sous le soleil de Dieu.

English translation

When the spring comes round again,
Willows red and tassels grey
When the spring comes round again,
Our cows will greet the day,
They'll sound their horn triumphant,
White sap and greening spear
Sound it so loud and long,
Until the dead once more shall hear.


We shall hear our anvils,
Strong arm and naked breast
And in our peaceful meadows,
The scythe will never rest.
Ev'ry church will ope its door,
Antwerp, Ypres and Nieuport,
The bells will then be ringing,
The foe's death knell be ringing.
The shall sound spade and shovel,
Dixmude and Ramscapelle
And gaily gleam the trowel,
While through the air the pick is swinging.


From the ports our boats will glide.
Anchor up and mooring slipt
The lark on high will be soaring
Above our rivers wide.
And then our graves will flower,
Heart'sease and golden rod
And then our graves will flower
Beneath the peace of God.

References[edit]

  • Kennedy, Michael, Portrait of Elgar (Oxford University Press, 1968) ISBN 0-19-315414-5
  • Moore, Jerrold N. “Edward Elgar: a creative life” (Oxford University Press, 1984) ISBN 0-19-315447-1

Recordings[edit]

  • The CD with the book Oh, My Horses! Elgar and the Great War[5] has many historical recordings including Une voix dans le désert with Quand nos bourgeons se rouvriront, a 1985 recording with Alvar Lidell (narrator), Valerie Hill (soprano) and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leslie Head

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Olga Lynn (1882-1961) was a famous singing teacher associated with Covent Garden Opera House. Her autobiography is "Oggie, The Memoirs of Olga Lynn", pub. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1955.
  2. ^ Carlo Liten was born in 1879 in Antwerp, Belgium of a Belgian father and Italian mother. He was a distinguished theatre actor and reciter, at the time well-known in Europe and America. He performed in Elgar's Carillon, Le drapeau belge and Une voix dans le désert. After World War I he acted in three films "The Strongest" (1920), "L'Affaire du train" (1921) and "Les Mystères de Paris" (1922). It was said of him by John Palmer (assistant editor of the London Saturday Review) that Liten "had the most wonderful voice in the memory of any living person ... for resonance, servicableness and charm the most remarkable I have ever heard from any actor. Add to this mastery of gesture and expression dictated by a refined intelligence and we get a rare personality."
  3. ^ The Pall Mall Gazette, 31 January 1916
  4. ^ Boche: French slang meaning "rascal", an offensive term applied by French soldiers to German soldiers in World War 1.
  5. ^ Foreman, Lewis (ed.),Oh, My Horses! Elgar and the Great War, Elgar Editions, Rickmansworth, 2001 ISBN 978-0-9537082-3-9