Last Updated on February 17, 2022 by Jella Erhard
Read the most enchanting French Poems about love, friendship, death, and nature translated to English. Explore French poetry through some of the most famous and short French poems in English.
Famous French Poems About Love Translated To English
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Thank you for your support, you’re awesome! =) Poetry not only soothes the soul but also helps readers get a deeper understanding of a culture’s history and even gives a glimpse into its everyday life. French poetry and poets are well-known all over the world and their poems inspired and motivated poetry lovers for many generations.
While French poems of love are the favorites of many couples in love, there are many other longer and short French poems about friendship, nature, death, and life poetry lovers should know about. Especially since one can never exist without the others… definitely not for an extended period of time. So if you’re a hopeless romantic these enchanting French poems translated to English will surely feed your romance cravings as well as your wanderlust.
We collected here some of the most famous French poets’ works as well as some lesser-known jewels whose work will take your breath away and make you think. While these poems all essentially love poems they’re also about loss, passion, and love not only towards our lovers but family, nature, friends, and our homeland. We also added to the list some essential short love poems for Valentine’s Day you can surprise your partner with. It’s especially a great idea to find a unique and personal poem if your loved one enjoys romantic French poems.
10| Deadly Kisses by Pierre de Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585) was one of the most important French Renaissance poets and was a favored poet of the Kings of France himself. He was a beloved poet of his time and even got the nickname “prince of poets”. Ronsard’s works are considered to be among the most remarkable in literary history. He enjoyed a long and successful career as a poet and he actively wrote even in his final years.
While he was loved, he also had a few passionate haters, however, this never interfered with his work or life in a meaningful way. He’s one of France’s most well-known and appreciated poets to this day and his work has influenced countless poets since the 16th century.
Deadly Kisses by Pierre de Ronsard
All take these lips away; no more,
No more such kisses give to me.
My spirit faints for joy; I see
Through mists of death the dreamy shore,
And meadows by the water-side,
Where all about the Hollow Land
Fare the sweet singers that have died,
With their lost ladies, hand
in hand; Ah, Love, how fireless are their eyes,
How pale their lips that kiss and smile!
So mine must be in little while
If thou wilt kiss me in such wise.
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9| Moonlight By Paul Verlaine
Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) is without a doubt one of the greatest and most popular French poets. Verlaine’s famous and volatile relationship with Rimbaud fascinated literary lovers for centuries. While the two could never sustain a healthy relationship, their passionate love and respect for each other as poets influenced both of them.
After Verlaine shot but only injured Rimbaud he was sentenced to jail for 18 months. He gave up his bohemian lifestyle and converted to Catholicism. However, he couldn’t change completely. He had another long relationship with Lucien Letinois. After Lucien’s death, Verlaine lost his footing again and spent most of his time in slums or public hospitals or drinking absinthe in Parisian cafes. When his earlier works got rediscovered he got also elected as France’s “Prince of Poets” in 1894 which finally brought in some steady income for him. His poetry has been well-known since, not only in France but all over the world. If you enjoy symbolist poetry and want to read beautifully flowing French poems about love you should read his works.
Moonlight By Paul Verlaine
Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and Bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.
Singing in minor mode of life’s largesse
And all-victorious love, they yet seem quite
Reluctant to believe their happiness,
And their song mingles with the pale moonlight,
The calm, pale moonlight, whose sad beauty, beaming,
Sets the birds softly dreaming in the trees,
And makes the marbled fountains, gushing, streaming—
Slender jet-fountains—sob their ecstasies.
8| Song of the Jailer by Jacques Prevert
Jacques Prevert (1900-1977) is one of the most popular poets in France. He is also one of the most widely read ones, over one million copies of his poetry books have been published. While most of his poems are about life after the Second World War and about life in Paris, he also wrote beautiful poems about love. He was over 30 years old when his first poetry book Paroles got finally published. Paroles became an instant success selling hundreds of thousands of copies unparalleled by any other poets around the world. Prevert has been one of the most well-read poets in France since.
Song of the Jailer by Jacques Prevert
Where are you going handsome jailer
With that key that’s touched with blood
I am going to free the one I love
If there’s still time
She whom I’ve imprisoned
Tenderly and cruelly
In my most secret desire
In my deepest torment
In falsehoods of the future
In stupidities of vows
I want to free her
I want her to be free
And even to forget me
And even to go off
And even to come back
And even to love me again
And love me again
Or love another
If another pleases her
And if I stay alone
And she gone off
I will only keep
I will always keep
In my two hollowed hands
To the end of all my days
The softness of her breasts moulded by love.
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7| A Single Smile by Paul Eluard
Paul Eluard (1896-1952) was no ordinary French poet but one of the most successful founders of the surrealist movement. He soon became one of the most important lyrical poets of the 20th century. His life was full of adventures both horrible and sensational ones.
After he served in the First World War, he was discharged with gangrene. While his health wasn’t good, he never gave up and kept on writing. Later he got married but unfortunately, the relationship didn’t work out for them. In 1924 Eluard went on a seven-month journey around the world and visited many countries including India, Panama, and New Zealand.
Eventually, he returned to Paris, and with the publication of Capitale de la Douleur his reputation was finally restored. If you’re looking for a few beautiful French poems about love for Valentine’s day you should read some of his works.
A Single Smile by Paul Eluard
A single smile disputes
Each star with the gathering night
A single smile for us both
And the blue of your joyful eyes
Against the mass of night
Finding its flame in my eyes
I have seen by needing to know
The deep night create the day
With no change in our appearance.
6| Eastern Day by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859) is probably the least known French poet on our list but this doesn’t mean that you should skip her works. She was not only a skilled poet and novelist but a talented actress and opera singer. She wrote several poetry collections between 1819 and 1843. Desbordes-Valmore’s poetry is lyrical and is considered highly romantic.
She became an acclaimed poet of her time and was celebrated by many other poets including Balzac. However, after her unfortunate death, her name faded. Later on, many poets rediscovered and loved her works most notably Verlaine who called her ‘the poetess of genius’. If you’re looking for melancholic French love poems you should read her deeply emotional and touching works.
Eastern Day by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
It was a day as fine as this day here
which — to ruin all — love set on fire.
It was a day of divine munificence
When eternity strolls in the sky’s blue expanse;
When, escaping from her pressing chain,
The earth is free to play, a child again.
It was like a mother’s kisses everywhere,
A long dream wandering in the fleeting hour,
Hours of birds, of scent, of the sun’s blaze,
Forgetful of all except the one great prize.
Two of us!… One too many when love’s at play,
To save oneself… Alas! There were two of us.
To protect us from ourselves, no witnesses.
Never did we need others as that day
We needed them! He, leaning all too closely
Upon my soul, with his soul dazed my eyes;
That double flame dazzled and blinded me,
And I saw all too well, when I saw the skies.
To save myself, I was much too naïve;
To forget him… Well, I’m still alive!
It was a day as fine as this day here
which — to ruin all — love set on fire.
5| To Death Of His Lady by Francois Villon
Francois Villon (1431-1463) is one of the most well-known French poets and is the best-known French poet of the Late Middle Ages. He is known as one of the greatest French lyric poets of all time. He led a quite volatile life and was never afraid to break the law. He even got into a brawl during which he killed a priest. Villon was arrested but since the priest publicly forgave him on his death bed he was eventually royally pardoned.
Villon left the city and only returned in 1456 when he wrote one of his most important works Le Lais. He was later accused and banished from Paris by authorities because he got involved in multiple robberies. He even shortly got imprisoned again but got pardoned once more this time by King Charles VII. However, the third time he got arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death. A last-minute appeal saved his life and his sentence got reduced to ten-year banishment from Paris. The then 34-year-old young poet disappeared from Paris and to this day no one knows what really happened to him after that.
To Death Of His Lady by François Villon
Death, of thee do I make my moan,
Who hadst my lady away from me,
Nor wilt assuage thine enmity
Till with her life thou hast mine own:
For since that hour my strength has flown.
Lo! what wrong was her life to thee,
Two we were, and the heart was one;
Which now being dead, dead I must be,
Or seem alive as lifelessly
As in the choir the painted stone,
4| The Woman and the Flame by Aime Cesaire
Aime Cesaire (1913-2008) is one of the most accomplished contemporary French poets. Cesaire also had Afro-Caribbean roots and was a talented playwright, and politician. He was a cofounder with Léopold Sédar Senghor of Negritude, an influential movement to restore the cultural identity of black Africans. He published several collections of poetry and later got heavily involved in politics. He even established his own Martinique Independent Revolution Party.
His writing often reflects his love for social engagement and civic rights but he has many poems about love, friendships, and life itself. Thanks to Cesaire’s works African unity and Black culture were conceptualized in new ways that finally allowed the creation of Black spaces. His works were foundational for postcolonial literature in France, its then colonies, and the Caribbean.
The Woman and the Flame by Aimé Césaire
A bit of light that descends the springhead of a gaze
twin shadow of the eyelash and the rainbow on a face
and round about who goes there angelically
Woman the current weather the current weather
matters little to me
my life is always ahead of a hurricane
you are the morning that swoops down on the lamp a night stone
between its teeth
you are the passage of seabirds as well
you who are the wind through the salty ipomeas of consciousness
insinuating yourself from another world
you are a dragon whose lovely color is dispersed and darkens so
as to constitute the
inevitable tenor of things
I am used to brush fires
I am used to ashen bush rats and the bronze ibis of the flame
Woman binder of the foresail gorgeous ghost
helmet of algae of eucalyptus
dawn isn’t it
and in the abandon of the ribbands
very savory swimmer
3| Tomorrow At Dawn by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) is probably best known for his novels Notre-Dame de Paris and Les Misérables. Not many readers know that he was also a skilled poet and wrote many heartachingly beautiful poems. Hugo is probably one of the most known poets and authors of the Romantic movement. He was also heavily involved in politics and was an infamous womanizer.
However, the woman who had the most impact on his life and writing was his daughter Leopoldine and her unfortunate early passing. After Leopoldine’s death, Hugo had clinical depression and stopped writing for several years. Victor Hugo’s literary works have inspired -and keep inspiring to this day- not only writers and poets but many artists all over the world, including many musicians and composers.
Tomorrow At Dawn by Victor Hugo
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,
I will set out. You see, I know that you wait for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I can no longer remain far from you.
I will walk with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Seeing nothing of outdoors, hearing no noise
Alone, unknown, my back curved, my hands crossed,
Sorrowed, and the day for me will be as the night.
I will not look at the gold of evening which falls,
Nor the distant sails going down towards Harfleur,
And when I arrive, I will place on your tomb
A bouquet of green holly and of flowering heather.
2| Beauty by Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is France’s most controversial poet so much so that some of his poems were even banned for a while. His poetry book The Flowers of Evil is considered as the book that launched modern poetry but at a time (1857) was highly controversial and six of the poems were considered so obscene that they ended up banning them till 1949.
Baudelaire has already earned the nickname ‘Cursed Poet‘ and the banning of his poems only grew his ill-fated reputation. While Baudelaire often wrote about beauty and love, his works about sex, lesbianism, alcohol, and death earned them quite a bit of controversy.
However, he also had his loyal following and admirers, especially in literary circles. He had a major influence on modernism and despite reputation -or rather because of it-, he became an integral part of the literary history of the world.
Beauty by Charles Baudelaire
Conceive me as a dream of stone:
my breast, where mortals come to grief,
is made to prompt all poets’ love,
mute and noble as matter itself.
With snow for flesh, with ice for heart,
I sit on high, an unguessed sphinx
begrudging acts that alter forms;
I never laugh, I never weep.
In studious awe the poets brood
before my monumental pose
aped from the proudest pedestal,
and to bind these docile lovers fast
I freeze the world in a perfect mirror:
The timeless light of my wide eyes
1| Sensation by Arthur Rimbaud
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) was a French poet and adventurer who was one of the most important poets of the Symbolist movement. Despite the fact that Rimbaud only produced a handful of poems, his works profoundly influenced modern poetry.
Rimbaud stopped writing poetry by the age of 21. He, unfortunately, passed away from cancer at the early age of 37. However, he did live an adventurous and passionate life from an early age that clearly showed in his poetry.
He wrote some of the most beloved and famous French poems about love and became known internationally as one of the most renowned poets of history. If you’re looking for thought-provoking poems about life and resilience, you should read his works.
Sensation by Arthur Rimbaud
On the blue summer evenings, I shall go down the paths,
Getting pricked by the corn, crushing the short grass :
In a dream I shall feel its coolness on my feet.
I shall let the wind bathe my bare head.
I shall not speak, I shall think about nothing :
But endless love will mount in my soul ;
And I shall travel far, very far, like a gipsy,
Through the countryside – as happy as if I were with a woman.