About the poem Ce qu'il y a dans l'oeil du chat of Marc Alyn, I saw two versions

Verion 1 from the site De la lecture pour les enfants et de la lecture pour les parents:

Si vous saviez ce qu’il y a
Dans l’oeil sans fond d’un petit chat,
Qu’il soit jaune, vert ou lilas
Vrai, vous n’en reviendriez pas!

On y voit des oiseaux de lune,
Des palais de laine et de lait,
Le Sphinx émergeant de ses dunes,
Et des ballets ultraviolets.

Sur des bassins d’une eau sans rides
S’épanouit la fleur de lotus
Tandis qu’une main transluscide
Peint des soleils sur papyrus.

Tout l’univers est reflété
Dans cette goutte de lumière
Qui ouvre sur l’éternité
Ainsi qu’un hublot sur la mer.

Vers 2 from Poèmes, with everything almost the same except instead of reviendriez, it uses reviendez:

Qu’il soit jaune, vert ou lilas Vrai,
vous n’en reviendrez pas!

May I ask, which version is better?

  • A typo: the line break is between lait and Le, and not after Le. Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 13:55
  • @PeterShor sorry about that, just corrected.
    – athos
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:04
  • This is an irrelevant aside, but when I first read the poem I thought it was saying that the cat was yellow, green, or lilac. But now I realize that it's the cat's eye. Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:32
  • @PeterShor i think it's a poem for children, maybe nonsense is ok :)
    – athos
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:35
  • There's another discrepancy between the two versions. In the first, it's Le Sphinx émergeant de ses dunes, which makes a lot more sense. Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


It's reviendriez.

There are two ways of seeing this. First, getting rid of the intervening clauses, the first verse is a sentence that reads:

Si vous saviez ... vous n’en reviendriez pas!

And according to the grammar of si clauses, if the verb after si is in the imperfect, the main verb should be in the conditional.

Second, this poem is an octasyllabe, which means there are 8 syllables in each line. The only way to get 8 syllables is to syllabify it as:

Vrai, vous n’en re·vien·dri·ez pas!

If the word were reviendrez, the line would only have seven syllables

  • I did found each line is about 7 or 8 syllables.. just curious : for "Si vous saviez ce qu’il y a" to have 8, seems "qu'il y a" need to be 4? but normally I read it as "qui·l y·a", seems there're only 3?
    – athos
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:33
  • 1
    You are right that qu'il y a only has three syllables, but the rest of the line has five. Si · vous · sa·viez · ce · qu’il · y · a. And you do need to make some pronunciation decisions to get eight syllables in each line, but aside from the treatment of mute e, which is handled the way it usually is in French poetry, they're all reasonably consistent with normal French pronunciation. Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:48
  • Sorry I miscounted the first line. On the mute e, is it the 3rd line? i.e. Qu’il soit jaune, vert ou lilas = Qu’il · soit · jau · ne, · vert · ou · li · las = 8?
    – athos
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:56
  • 1
    The syllable count reasoning doesn't work: reviendrez could be pronounced re-vi-en-drez. The word reviendriez could be pronounced any of re-vien-driez (3), re-vi-en-driez (4), re-vien-dri-ez (4) or re-vi-en-dri-ez (5). I do find /dʁje/ hard to pronounce so re-vien-dri-ez is what I would consider the “normal” pronunciation, but re-vi-en-dri-ez would be unremarkable if the meter required it. Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 15:30
  • thank you both, now i learnt a lot!
    – athos
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 15:35

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