Je viens seulement de lui exposer un passage des Soirées de Saint-Pétersburg, Joseph de Maistre parle des nombres : <<...Trente-deux, déclare-t-il, est écrit dans notre bouche...>> Je songe au vers fameux

Le sourire éternel de tes trente-deux dents.

<<...et vingt divisé par quatre, poursuit notre auteur, porte son invariable quotient a l'extrémité de nos quatre membres.>>

Nous voilà partis dans les rêveries. Les figues continuent de tomber; et l'on décide d'aller boire du lait à la métairie voisine, de ce lait délicieux, tiède encore, écumant et qui sent la menthe.

This line is from "Patachou" by Tristan Derème. I can't understand the meaning of "Nous voilà partis dans les rêveries. "

And why "et l'on décide d'aller boire du lait à la métairie voisine"?

And the milk smells menthol?

I am glad if somebody kindly teaches me.


3 Answers 3


(1) If you're wondering about the syntax, just think of "voilà" as taking a direct object much the way verbs do in the imperative: "Nous voilà" = "There we are", "Les voilà" = "There they are", etc.

A typical rendering of "Nous voilà partis dans les rêveries" might be "There we are, disappearing into (our) daydreams."

But this is a good example of the versatility of "voilà" (and voici), since an equally fair way of putting it might just have another phrase to move time along in the passage: "And then we're gone, disappearing into (our) daydreams."

(2) Your question about "aller boire du lait" isn't clear enough for me to be sure where the issue lies. Can you clarify?

(3) The verb "sentir" takes a direct object (for reasons as arbitrary as any involved in discussions about why verbs don't have the same object structure in English and French). Feel free to insert "like" or "of" in your English translation: milk "that smells like mint" or "that smells of mint".

  • Luke, thank you so much for your kind and detailed answer! Jan 30, 2017 at 7:51
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens "hop on". In rapid speech you might hear "hop onto" but not nearly as commonly, and I think the only time you'd hear it without any preposition or particle would be in the fixed compound "trainhopping".
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:51
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    Oh, I see. Perhaps AmE speakers prefer "hop": merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hop I'm wondering if the English spoken in your region is more BrE or AmE oriented? Aug 2, 2018 at 15:19
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    Being Canada, it's often somewhere between the two. Agreed that "hop" sounds a little more specifically AmE -- "trainhopping" e.g. sounds like an artefact of Depression era, Grapes of Wrath cultural capital.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 2, 2018 at 15:41
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Also compare the first line of this classic song :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 3, 2018 at 15:14

"rêveries" comes from "rêve" which means "dream" in English. So the use of the verb "partir" here is more metaphorical, they're not physically moving, it's their thought who are going into dreams.

About the milk, the correct translation of "menthe" would be more "mint" than "menthol" (but still, I'm not sure why milk would smell mint ;-) ).

  • woshilapin Thank so much for your advise! Jan 30, 2017 at 7:49

I can try to explain "Nous voici partis dans les rêveries", and that just means "We are now daydreaming". Maybe all those numbers and the way Joseph de Maistre associates them with various concrete things makes the author feel dreamy, prompts the author to start daydreaming.

As for the mint-smelling milk (not menthol, but mint), no idea.

  • Frank Thank so much for your answer. Jan 30, 2017 at 7:50

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