I ask my students to translate any selection (even if it’s in their mother tongue) into their own every day vernacular, so as to have as personal a relationship to the text as possible. I’m pretty pleased with my translation of Chausson’s Le Charme:
Quand ton sourire me surprit,
When I was first caught off guard by your smile–
Je sentis frémir tout mon être,
I felt a tremor throughout my being–
Mais ce qui domptait nous esprit,
but the exact thing that captured my heart–
Je ne pus d’abord le connaître.
I wasn’t able to discern at first (I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what it was)
Quand ton regard tomba sur moi,
(After which) When your gaze fell on me–
Je sentis mon âme se fondre,
I felt myself melt inside–
Mais ce que serait cet émoi,
but whatever emotion this was–
Je ne pus d’abord en répondre.
I could not yet acknowledge it.
Ce qui me vainquit à jamais,
The thing that finally conquered me–
Ce fut un plus douloureux charme;
turned out to be a sadder charm–
Et je n’ai su que je t’aimais,
and I only knew that I (actually) loved you–
Qu’en voyant ta première larme.
upon seeing your first tear.