French Language Blog

Edgar Allan Poe En Français – Le Corbeau Posted by on Sep 26, 2018 in Culture, Vocabulary

Learning French is can often be difficult when everything about la langue et la culture (the language and the culture) is completely new. There is so much grammar and vocabulary that finding a comfort zone often feels like an impossible task.

Edgar Allan Poe in 1849. Public Domain.

After following the reference in la chanson de Joyce Jonathan (Joyce Jonathan’s song), we learned about le poète français (the French Poet), Charles Baudelaire.

In the post on le poète français, I added a small side note about how he was one of the first people to translate Edgar Allan Poe en français. Ces traductions (those translations) allowed Poe‘s work spread across la francophonie and led to many people around the world appreciating le poète américain.

For French learners, those same translations offer a fun way to practice la langue with something more familiar than la littérature française (French Litterature).

Poe‘s writing is generally a winding narrative, which means most of les traductions by Baudelaire are very long. For eager French learners, that translates into a lot of material, but malheureusement (unfortunately), it also takes a very long time to get through the stories.

Rather than slowly working through un poème, I wanted to share la première strophe (the first stanza) of Le Corbeau (The Raven). It’s un poème every anglophone (English speaker) is familiar with and is a fun way to make the famous lines come to life en français:

« Une fois, sur le minuit lugubre, pendant que je méditais, faible et fatigué, sur maint précieux et curieux volume d’une doctrine oubliée, pendant que je donnais de la tête, presque assoupi, soudain il se fit un tapotement, comme de quelqu’un frappant doucement, frappant à la porte de ma chambre. « C’est quelque visiteur, — murmurai-je, — qui frappe à la porte de ma chambre ; ce n’est que cela, et rien de plus. »

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door — Only this, and nothing more.”

Si vous voulez lire le reste (if you want to read the rest), check out Baudelaire‘s full translation in La Genèse d’un poëme (The Genesis of a Poem). Open the page and scroll down until you see Le Corbeau:

While trying to read it, make sure you have a copy of the original poem so you can easily look up any difficult words en français, and if you are up for the challenge, try to listen to le poème en français as well!

The long story can be hard to understand, but it also provides a fun way to learn des nouveax mots (new words). Don’t worry if you struggle to make it through the whole poem and remember that even if you don’t finish, you’re still improving your French by trying and making mistakes!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.