J’ai peur d’un baiser

Despite the title, you might notice that Verlaine’s “A poor young shepherd” is actually written in French. But the French is fairly simple and straightforward, so maybe even an English speaking reader can understand it. So it is an updating of a standard theme of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the late nineteenth century – the idyll of a shepherd in love. But this shepherd seems to be unusually shy and reticent – perhaps because he is supposed to be English?

 
Paul VERLAINE   (1844-1896)

A poor young shepherd
J’ai peur d’un baiser
Comme d’une abeille.
Je souffre et je veille
Sans me reposer :
J’ai peur d’un baiser !

Pourtant j’aime Kate
Et ses yeux jolis.
Elle est délicate,
Aux longs traits pâlis.
Oh ! que j’aime Kate !

C’est Saint-Valentin !
Je dois et je n’ose
Lui dire au matin…
La terrible chose
Que Saint-Valentin !

Elle m’est promise,
Fort heureusement !
Mais quelle entreprise
Que d’être un amant
Près d’une promise !

J’ai peur d’un baiser
Comme d’une abeille.
Je souffre et je veille
Sans me reposer :
J’ai peur d’un baiser !

From <http://www.poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/paul_verlaine/a_poor_young_shepherd.html&gt;

The poor young shepherd is afraid to ask for a kiss from his lover, despite the fact that he loves her, that she is pretty, that it is St. Valentine’s Day, and that she is betrothed to him. Poor young shepherd indeed, what more is he waiting for?

The Poetry Dude

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