fauré’s “les berceaux” in ayotla, mexico

I met Cora at her ranch in Ayotla, a hamlet near Puebla (Mexico).  It wasn’t her house, remote from the world, that attracted me, nor it’s surroundings or people. It was the connection between her and me and the feeling that there were lessons to be learned. Cora, an eccentric 90 year old, captivated me with her stories. Stories about her youth in Egypt in the heydays of the Ottoman Empire, her artist years in Paris during the 1920’s and her work with the Mexican Indigenous people around Puebla. I was sent on a writing assignment to Mexico with a grant from the Dutch government. Here’s an impression of the book, yet to be finished:

… Before returning home I visit Cora one last time. It’s a beautiful though somewhat cold day in January and the two of us settle down in her courtyard filled with roses. Cora tells me she studied voice and that she would have liked to become a singer, just like me. We talk about all the great songs she and I studied and I’m pleasantly surprised when discovering she and I share a similar taste in music. Swaying, like little boats adrift at sea, we sing a song that has captivated us both for years: “Les Berceaux” by Gabriel Fauré… (turning left at the third cactus by christel veraart)

live recording “les berceaux” at ucsd, san diego, 2007, christel veraart (voice), luciane cardassi (piano)

Les Berceaux
Gabriel Fauré / René-François Sully-Prudhomme

Le long du quai, les grands vaisseaux
Que la houle incline en silence
Ne prennent pas garde aux berceaux
Que la main des femmes balance.

Mais viendra le jour des adieux,
Car il faut que les femmes pleurent,
Et que les hommes curieux
Tentent les horizons qui leurrent.

Et ce jour-là, les grands vaisseaux
Fuyant le port qui diminue,
Sentent leur masse retenue
Par l’âme des lointains berceaux

Along the quay, the great ships,
that ride the swell in silence,
take no notice of the cradles.
that the hands of the women rock.


But the day of farewells will come,
when the women must weep,
and curious men are tempted
towards the horizons that lure them!


And that day the great ships,
sailing away from the diminishing  port,
feel their bulk held back
by the spirits of the distant cradles.