Your soul is a delicate landscape –
Where roam charming masks and bergamasques –
Playing the lute and dancing and seeming almost –
Sad under their whimsical disguises. –
While singing in a minor key –
Of victorious love and easy life –
They don’t seem to believe in their happiness –
And their song mingles with the moonlight, –
With the sad and beautiful moonlight, –
Which makes the birds in the trees dream –
And sob with ecstasy the water streams, –
The great slim water streams among the marbles.
‘Clair de Lune’ is a French poem written by Paul Verlaine in 1869. It is the inspiration for the third and most famous movement of Debussy’s 1890 Suite bergamasque of the same name. Musically, ‘Clair de Lune’ belongs to French Impressionism.
Impressionism is a philosophical and aesthetic term borrowed from late 19th century French painting after Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. Composers were labeled impressionists by analogy to the impressionist painters who use starkly contrasting colors, effect of light on an object, blurry foreground and background, flattening perspective, to make the observer focus his attention on the overall impression.
‘Claire de Lune’ (for Harp And Oboe) was fully animated and scored when it was deleted from Fantasia in early 1940, a casualty of Fantasias’s excessive length.
A nitrate workprint of the original version located in 1992 has allowed ‘Clair de Lune’ to be completely reconstructed as Walt Disney intended it to be seen.