RC 143* La grenouille (“En ramassant un fruit dans l’herbe qu’elle fouille”)

  • Samain, Albert ()
  • solo voice and piano
  • 1918-07-05 00:00:00.0

It was Berthe Seroen who, in the summer of 1918, introduced Diepenbrock to the poetry by Albert Samain (1858-1900). The singer sent him Samain’s posthumously published collection Aux Flancs du Vase, suivi de Polyphème et de Poèmes inachevés (On the Vase’s Side, Followed by Polyphemus and Unfinished Poems, 1902); its third edition had appeared in 1917. Diepenbrock must have been immediately charmed by the uninhibited mood of La grenouille (The Frog), a poem of 24 twelve and thirteen-syllable lines, as he made an attempt to set it to music on 5 July.

The poem is about the beautiful nymph Chloris (azure eyes, wavy hair and pink cheeks) who is picking forest fruit when she sees a startled frog leap up and hop towards a small pond. Chloris tries to catch the quick little animal. After she has felt it slip away between her fingers several times, she manages – crowing with delight – to get hold of the frog. Curiously she observes the little body that feels at the same time alive and cold. The trembling animal looks at her. Its tiny heart is beating fast and Chloris feels compassion for it.

Diepenbrock only got as far as writing a four-measure piano introduction and the vocal melody for the first two lines. The following day he selected a different poem from Samain’s collection, see RC 144. Stylistically the sketch from 5 July is in keeping with the songs from this period which he did complete: Incantation (RC 132) from 1916 and Come raggio di sol (Like a Ray of Sun, RC 138) from 1917. La grenouille is never mentioned in his correspondence.

Ton Braas