Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960)

Papillon (The Butterfly)

Rudén no. 143

  • Year of composition: Publishing contract 27 July 1936
  • Work category: Male choir a cappella
  • Text author: Gustaf Alexanderson
  • Duration: 3 min

Solo voices/choir


Examples of printed editions

Stockholm 1936, CG 2816. Gehrmans kvartett-bibliotek, 160
Sångarförbundet, vol. 5, no. 268. Stockholm 1948, CG 2816

  • Possible call no. and autograph comment: Autograph missing

Description of work

Allegretto grazioso e rubato G major 3/4

Work comment

Alfvén composed the song about the dancing butterfly, as was his wont, first for men´s choir, and immediately thereafter for mixed choir. It is sung pretty much equally often by both choir types. The song is a good example of how Alfvén carefully works with multiple-verse texts. He gives the verses widely differing features, almost as if the work consisted of various songs joined together, and in addition varies the harmony between major and minor. The last verse, however, takes up the melody and the character of the first verse.


Papillon dansar i solens ljus
lätt som blommornas älva,
dansar i livslust och glädjerus;
vingarna skimra och skälva.

Papillon kom som ett bud om vår
vintern var tung att bära vårsolens glans om vingarna står.
Papillon, solbarn, kära.

Blomman knoppas och vecklas ut,
vissnar och frukter sätter.
Papillon dansar var minut,
fladdrar dagar och nätter.

Hösten kommer, soln går bort.
Vingarna vilja ej bära.
Sommarens ljuvliga dag var så kort;
Papillen, döden är nära.

Papillon ännu så munter nyss,
ångest och köld förnimmer;
darrar och somnar vid dödens kyss
lätt under kvällssols skimmer.

In English:
Papillon flutters at break of dawn,
light as spring flower fairies,
dances with zest and elation,
wings that glisten and quiver.

Papillon, tidings of spring anew,
winter was hard to muster,
spring sunrays gleam, on wings that emerge.
Papillon, sun child, darling.

Floral buds open, swell, unfold,
wither and fruit develop.
Papillon dances ceaselessly,
flutters daytime & night-time.

Fall approaches, sun fades away,
Wings that no longer can carry.
Short were the summertime days, yet so sweet,
Papillon, death now draws near.

Papillon, sprightly not long ago,
dreadingly senses the bitter cold,
shudders and peacefully slips away,
kissed by the sunset shimmer.

Translation: Annika Vallgren