Erik Satie: Je te veux


Erik Satie’s instantly recognisable Je te veux was originally scored for voice and piano, however, over the years this well-loved melody has also been scored for chamber orchestra, and most famously – solo piano. Translated into English, the title simply means ‘I Want You’, and the original song was performed by soprano Paulette Darty. The text for Je te veux is by Henry Pacory. The original French lyrics (with English translations) can be seen below:


Verse I

J’ai compris ta détresse/I understand your distress

Cher amoureux/Dear lover

Et je cède à tes voeux/And I yield to your wishes

Fais de moi ta maîtresse/Make me your mistress

Loin de nous la sagesse/Far from us is wisdom

Plus de tristesse/No more sadness

J’aspire à l’instant précieux/I look forward to the beautiful

Où nous serons heureux/When we will be happy

Je te veux/I want you


Verse II

Je n’ai pas de regrets/I have no regrets

Et je n’ai qu’une envie/And I have only one desire

Près de toi là tout près/Beside you there so close

Vivre toute ma vie/To live all my life

Que mon corps soit le tien/May my body be yours

Que ta lèvre soit mienne/May your lips be mine

Que ton coeur soit le mien/May your heart be mine

Et que toute ma chair soit tienne/And may all flesh be yours


Verse III

Oui je vois dans tes yeux/Yes I see in your eyes

La divine promesse/The divine promise

Que ton coeur amoureux/That your loving heart

Vient chercher ma caresse/Comes looking for my caress

Enlacés pour toujours/Joined forever

Brûlant des mêmes flammes/Burning in the same flames

Dans un rêve d’amour/In a dream of love

Nous échangerons nos deux âmes/We will swap our two souls

Paulette Darty (L) and Erik Satie (R) c.1900


The Music

Je te veux is in 3/4 time, which gives it its distinct waltz feel throughout. The piece has often been described as a ‘nostalgic’ or ‘sentimental’ waltz, with the lyrics veering away from this and actually being quite exotic and sensual. This dichotomy between the lyrics and the music creates a certain charm about this work, and is perhaps one of the reasons that it is so well-loved today. In the solo piano version, Satie adds an extra section between where the text verses would come, which allows Satie to develop the nostalgic melody further.

The sheer change in character in this work in comparison to many other works by Satie of this time makes Je te veux a real stand-out for the composer. A lot of Satie’s other works are much darker in their general atmosphere, whereas Je te veux is much lighter and seemingly positive in character. The gentle ‘oom-pah’ accompaniment keeps the pace driving, with the sentimental melody line sitting comfortably above it. The piece could be seen as quite reflective, and rather ironically this has become one of Satie’s most famous compositions.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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