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"Mes chers amis, quand je mourrai, Plantez un saule au cimetière. J'aime son feuillage éploré ; La pâleur m'en est douce et chère, Et son ombre sera légère À la terre où je dormirai." (A de Musset)

Can it be said what, if anything, the 'en' is referring back to here?

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It think en refers to feuillage du saule. I'd say that the meaning of:

La pâleur m'en est douce et chère

is equivalent to that of:

Sa pâleur m'est douce et chère

or

La pâleur du feuillage du saule m'est douce et chère

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    Couldn't it also refer to "son feuillage"? (Not that there's any difference in meaning.) Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 12:54
  • @PeterShor thanks, you probably right, as 'feuillage' appears just before the sentence with 'en'. Corrected!
    – Noil
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 13:19

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