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Poet’s Corner 1: Invitation to a Voyage


Invitation to a Voyage

A young Charles Baudelaire

A young Charles Baudelaire

I’m going to start with my favorite work, Invitation to a Voyage, by the poet Charles Baudelaire, set to music by Sanford Dole.

The text Sanford used was translated from the original French by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  We sang this piece several years ago, and we were completely captivated.  The music and the words work together to create a wonderful atmosphere, painting vivid images of the scenes Baudelaire describes.

A contemporary of the Impressionist painters, Baudelaire was part of the artistic and literary scene of that era. His innovative, highly original poetry was a departure from earlier French romantic poets, and influenced many of the younger poets in his circle.

Edouard Manet's portrait of Jeanne Duvall

Lady With a Fan

As far as I have been to discover, Invitation to a Voyage may have been written with Baudelaire’s long-time mistress Jeanne Duval in mind. Edouard Manet was a friend of Baudelaire, and his wonderful, dramatic painting of Duval, titled Lady with a Fan hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

The poem itself was written around 1859 at his mother’s house in Honfleur, a seaside town in Normandy at the estuary of the Seine. Beautiful and picturesque, it was a favorite subject for the Impressionists, and it is easy to see the inspiration for the images in the poem when you look at their paintings, particularly those by Courbet, Boudin and Monet.

 Check them out and then come to the concert and hear the images come to life in Sanford’s music!

The harbor at Honfleur by Gustav Courbet

The harbor at Honfleur by Gustav Courbet

Related links:
Wikipedia has a long entry for Baudelaire  
Numerous translations of Invitation to a Voyage, with the original French 
Lady with a Fan