“À cette heure où le ciel qui va mourir se teinte” (At that time that the sky is to lose its colour) is the opening line of Ernest Raynaud’s Crépuscule (Twilight) from his collection Le Signe (The Sign), first published in 1877. In the sonnet the French poet and writer (1864-1936) evokes the image of an ancient landscape at sunset. The last rays of sunlight shine on the ruins of a temple, revealing its bygone glory even more poignantly. A lonely faun playing the flute emphasises the desolate impression of an irretrievable past.
Most likely Diepenbrock became acquainted with the poem through its publication in Le Décadent littéraire et artistique. This magazine had been founded by Anatole Baju (1861-1903) in 1886 and one of its contributors was Paul Verlaine. Neither the poem nor the poet is mentioned in Diepenbrock’s correspondence.
It is impossible to determine whether Diepenbrock’s alteration to the first word of the opening line (“En cette heure” i.e. “In that time” instead of “À cette heure”, i.e. “At that time”) is a spelling error or a deliberate choice in order to indicate a certain duration. The syllabic setting of the first quatrain with only small descending or ascending steps in the melodic line, all pp, corresponds with the mood of vulnerability depicted by the poet. The surviving fragment of nine measures looks like a promising start to a new composition. However characteristic its extreme chromaticism might make it, it may well have been exactly this aspect that made Diepenbrock leave it at this sketch. There are accidentals missing in front of the note g in measure 4 and the d in the measures 6-7.
Jaap van Benthem & Ton Braas