The Shepherd’s Song

Sony Records

I cannot cross

It is not water but language that divides us

French is not my tongue

Canteloube’s Occitan beyond me

The composer stands his ground

He alone can make this work.

From the first bar I am lost to the world

For six minutes twenty seven seconds

On the soaring voice

Of Frederica Von Stade

Carried by her operatic tongue

I understand the idyllic the ancient shepherd lived

Floating on air the maiden’s warning

Reaches the far side of the river

And breaks the shepherd’s isolation

No longer alone with his sheep,

In love

With the melody lightly hovering over the meadow

This Ekphrastic poem addresses Canteloube’s Songs of d’auvergne. Especially the popular Bailero sung by Frederica Von Stade.

Bailero English words

Shepherd across the river
You’re hardly having a good time
Sing baïlèro lèrô 

Shepherd, the meadows are in bloom
You should watch your
flock on this side
Sing baïlèro lèrô 

Shepherd, the water divides us
And I can’t cross it
Sing baïlèro lèrô

I could write an essay on how wonderful it is creatives took the time to capture the folk songs sung in native dialects, or languages, now dead. Canteloube lived for most of his life in France d’auvergne area and in recording these tunes he preserves something lost in the homogenisation of language across the globe.

Many nations understand, almost too late old languages deserve to be preserved. Thank goodness some will survive a little longer.

How I came to write it is explained here