Springtime In Paris
We first met entirely by accident
On a lovely bright sunny day in Spring,
It was the first of May as I recall;
Even now I remember it clearly,
Although almost four decades have passed by.
Strolling along the Boulevard Haussmann,
Just outside the Magasin au Printemps.
I wasn't looking where I was going,
Daydreaming as usual, distracted
By the pretty girls selling their bunches
Of lily of the valley, their sweet scent
Evoking pleasant thoughts of past amours
And rich with the promise of future joys
In the arms of a beautiful woman.
You could say we bumped into each other,
But more truthfully I barged into her,
Literally knocking you off balance
So that she almost fell to the pavement,
But after teetering on her high heels
For a few anxious heart-stopping-moments,
Thankfully she regained your composure,
Although she had to drop her packages
In their colourful beribboned wrappings
Scattered in disarray around my feet.
I stooped to retrieve them and as I rose,
I blurted out words of apology,
Shamefaced by my unthinking boorishness.
Which she accepted with graciousness.
“S’il vous plaît accepter mes excuses sincères,
C’était très maladroit de moi Mademoiselle,
Laissez-moi vous aider avec ces choses,”
I said in my very best schoolboy French.
“Thank you Monsieur,” she replied, “pas de mal,
And its Madame,” indicating the ring
On her right hand — which, she later told me,
Was the custom of her Spanish mother,
Although she herself was a Frenchwoman,
By virtue of having a French father.
“You must allow me to buy you coffee,”
I said, “and perhaps a patisserie,”
But she demurred, saying she was busy,
Suggesting dinner that evening instead.
I blanched a little inwardly at the name
Of the little restaurant she mentioned,
Which, although excellent, was expensive,
But she was so charming and beautiful
That I agreed without a further thought.
Besides I was entranced by the prospect
Of an enjoyable and diverting
Evening in the intimate company
Of such a captivating young lady;
And the delicious possibility
Of a mutually pleasant affair
Caused my amorous heart to beat faster –
The French are much more sophisticated
About matters of sex than we British.
We did not become lovers that evening,
Although she admitted that her marriage
Still remained unconsummated after
More than five years, her elderly husband
Seemingly uninterested in sex,
Or more probably, he was impotent.
He was a widow with grown up children,
And I surmised, correctly it turned out,
That all that he wanted was a charming
And decorous hostess to entertain
And divert his business associates.
This disgusting arrangement had been made
By her father, and without her consent —
Such things were still not unknown in those days.
Over the months following our meeting
I courted her with ardent gentleness,
Acutely sensitive to her misgivings,
But knowing that her final surrender
When it came, would be irrevocable.
With every day that passed I fell deeper
Under the spell of her beauty and charm
Until what had merely been simple lust
Blossomed into overwhelming passion.
It was on another lovely Spring night
That she finally became my mistress,
Allowing me to take her virginity,
When after her first initial shyness
She revealed a passion as great as mine.
The seductive fragrance of Spring lilies
Still carries me back to those heady weeks
Of the beginning of our love affair.
We were discreet at first, but as time passed,
We cast caution to the winds, uncaring
About the prurient judgement of the world.
We still share such wonderful memories
Of days and nights of blissful discovery
On our journey of mutual desire
To the paradise of perfect union.
We laugh together as we remember
Afternoons making love in the long grass
By some hidden backwater of the Seine
Hymned by the calls of the frogs in the reeds.
When her husband eventually died,
We were free to set up home together,
Although we have never sought the sanction
Of church or state, blessed only by heaven,
In a true marriage of hearts, minds and souls.
And now, even though the passing of time
Has left its traces on my lover’s face
These are merely the friendly marks of grace,
And she looks just as radiant today,
Seated at her dresser combing her hair,
Crowned with a bright golden halo of light
From the lamp on the stand beside her chair,
As on that felicitous day we met
By chance on a street in Paris in Spring.
As I watch her each night in the darkness
In the warm intimacy of our room,
Seduced still by the way she undresses
And the scent of her feminine perfume,
Performing those essential nightly rites,
Familiar from our years together;
I think that alone of the world's delights,
The vision of her, lover and true bride,
Preparing herself to come to my bed,
Will never fail to inspire my senses;
For only when artifice is removed,
And beauty is unmasked to set aflame
The flagging pulse, in that quickening
Of mortal flesh, love finds eternal Spring.