La jeune Tarentine

A series of photographs inspired by the poem La jeune Tarentine by Andre Chenier (1762-1794) and the sculpture based on the poem by Alexandre Schoenewerk (1820-1885) in the Musee D’Orsay. With many thanks to model Abigail Snape and assistant and digital editor Rebecca Dennis. Rebecca went into digital overdrive in editing these pictures and I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

The sculpture and poem which inspired the pictures are also included below.

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Le Jeune Tarentine by Alexandre Schoenewerk
Le Jeune Tarentine by Alexandre Schoenewerk

 

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La jeune Tarentine, Andre Chenier (1762-1794)
(English translation below)

Pleurez, doux alcyons, ô vous, oiseaux sacrés,
Oiseaux chers à Thétis, doux alcyons, pleurez!

Elle a vécu, Myrto, la jeune Tarentine.
Une vaisseau la portait aux bords de Camarine
Là, l’hymen, les chansons, les flûtes, lentement,
Devaient la reconduire au seuil de son amant.

Une clef vigilante a, pour cette journée,
Dans le cèdre enfermé la robe d’hyménée,
Et l’or dont au festin ses bras seraient ornés
Et pour ses blonds cheveux, les parfums préarés…

Mais seule sur la proue, invoquant les étoiles,
Le vent impétueux qui soufflait dans ses toiles
L’enveloppe; Étonnée et loin des matelots,
Elle crie, elle tombe, elle est au sein des flots.

Elle est au sein des flots, la jeune Tarentine;
Son beau corps a roulé sous la vague marine;
Thétis, les yeux en pleurs, dans le creux d’un rocher,
Aux monstres dévorants eut soin de le cacher.

Par ses ordres bientôt les belles Néréides
L’élèvent au-dessus des demeures humides
Le portent au rivage, et dans ce monument
L’ont au cap de Zéphir déposé mollement;

Puis, de loin, à grands cris appelant leurs compagnes,
Et les nymphes des bois, des sources, des montagnes,
Toutes, frappant leur sein et trainant un long deuil,
Répétèrent en choeur autour de son cercueil:

“Hélas! chez ton amant tu n’es point ramenée;
Tu n’as point revê-tu la robe d’hyménée
L’or autour de tes bras, n’a point serré de noeuds;
Les doux parfums n’ont point coulé sur tes cheveux.”

Pleurez, doux alcyons, ô vous, oiseaux sacrés,
Oiseaux chers à Thétis, doux alcyons, pleurez!

The young Tarentine, translated by Faith J. Cormier ©2004

Weep, sweet kingfishers, sacred birds
beloved of Thetis, sweet kingfishers, weep!

Myrto, the young Tarantine, lived.
A ship carried her to the banks of the Camarine.
There marriage, songs, flutes would have slowly
led her to her lover’s door.

A vigilant key had locked away
the wedding garment in cedar for this day,
with the gold that would adorn her arms at the feast
and perfumes prepared for her blonde hair.

But alone at the prow, praying to the stars,
the impetuous wind that blew in the sheets
enveloped her. Astonished, far from the sailors,
she cried out and fell onto the breast of the waves.

The young Tarantine is in the bosom of the waves.
Her beautiful body rolled under the waves of the sea.
Thetis, weeping, hid her in the cleft of a rock
from the monsters that would have devoured her.

By her orders, the beautiful Nereids
soon came and lifted her above their damp homes,
carried her to the shore and in this monument
laid her on Zephyr’s cape.

Then, calling their distant companions,
nymphs of the woods and the streams and the mountains,
all beat their breasts and mourned long
and repeated in chorus around her coffin,

“Alas, you never reached your lover.
You never wore the wedding garment.
The gold was never knotted around your arms,
the sweet perfume never poured onto your hair.”

Weep, sweet kingfishers, sacred birds
beloved of Thetis, sweet kingfishers, weep!

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