The Seine River in France runs for 780 kilometres (485 miles) — shorter than the country’s longest river, the Loire (1,020 kilometres or 634 miles). But it is the beloved river of Paris and one of Europe’s great historic rivers. And like other great rivers such as the Volga and the Mississippi, it has, through the centuries, held a strong fascination for creative spirits — poets, musical composers and artists. The stream of inspiration has never stopped flowing.

Click here to learn more about the Seine.

Chanson de la Seine

par Jacques Prévert (French, 1900–1977)

La Seine a de la chance
Elle n’a pas de souci
Elle se la coule douce
Le jour comme la nuit
Et elle sort de sa source
Tout doucement, sans bruit
Et sans se faire de mousse,
Sans sortir de son lit
Elle s’en va vers la mer
En passant par Paris

La Seine a de la chance
Elle n’a pas de souci
Et quand elle se promène
Tout le long de ses quais
Avec sa belle robe verte
Et ses lumières dorées
Notre-Dame jalouse,
Immobile et sévère
Du haut de toutes ses pierres
La regarde de travers

Mais la Seine s’en balance
Elle n’a pas de souci
Elle se la coule douce
Le jour comme la nuit
Et s’en va vers le Havre
Et s’en va vers la mer
En passant comme un rêve
Au milieu des mystères
Des misères de Paris

Song of the Seine

by Jacques Prévert (French, 1900–1977)

The Seine is lucky
She has no worries
She flows smoothly
Day and night
And she comes out of her source
Slowly, without noise
And without foaming,
Without getting out of her bed
She goes to the sea
By way of Paris

The Seine is lucky
She has no worries
And when she walks around
All along her quays
With her beautiful green dress
And her gilded lights
The jealous Notre-Dame,
Immobile and severe
From the top of all its stones
Looking the other way

But the Seine balances
She has no worries
She flows smoothly
Day and night
And goes to Le Havre
And goes to the sea
Passing by like a dream
In the midst of mysteries
The miseries of Paris.

translation by Marine Café Blog

Listen to the famous French singer, Jacqueline François (1922–2009), perform the beautiful song, ‘La Seine’. (This is a Marine Café Blog remaster of a 1948 recording published on the Internet Archive. The complete French lyrics can be found here).

When it comes to inspirational power, the Seine River undoubtedly can hold a candle to the Eiffel Tower. The 19th century in particular yielded a huge harvest of paintings, etchings and other works of art depicting the Seine. Artists from France and other nations came to the banks of the river to partake of its beauty. The following oil paintings are but a few examples of their artistic outpouring.

Paris, 1897
Arthur Joseph Meadows (British, 1843–1907)
Courtesy of Bonhams auction house via Wikimedia Commons.

Banks of the Seine, Vétheuil, 1880
Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The Banks of the Seine River in Paris, 1893
Maximilien Luce (French, 1858–1941)
Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery

On the Seine, 1869
Martín Rico y Ortega (Spanish, 1833–1908)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Landscape along the Seine with the Institut de France and the Pont des Arts, c. 1875
Alfred Sisley (British, 1839–1899)
Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Seine, c. 1902
Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, 1859–1937)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

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