This is a remarkably tender poem of Éluard set to remarkably moving music. The poem is taken from the collection Cours naturel
(1938), the volume as a whole dedicated to Nusch. The poem Passionnement
(pp 18–24) is divided into seven parts of which this is the last. Poulenc dedicates the song to the memory of Raymonde Linossier, the marvellous but complicated girl he had wanted to marry in his youth, and who turned his proposal of marriage down. According to Poulenc (JdmM) she had been one of his best musical advisers. Another song dedicated to Raymonde is Voyage
at the end of Calligrammes
; that Poulenc’s memory of her should have been linked to two such wonderful songs is an indication of her importance in his life. Accordingly this is one of the few Éluard settings which suits a female voice better than a male (on the whole the songs are remarkably asexual, despite their erotic power). It is the inscrutability of Éluard’s words, their mystery, that gives this music the dignity to refute all sentimentality. The first eight bars of the song float like a bird in the ether of the treble clef, unanchored by the bass; thereafter the music has a sumptuous warmth, and a remarkably lyrical vocal line: haunting melancholy, precious memories turned into sound, perfection of a kind, and vintage Poulenc.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013