La Cloche fêlée (The Cracked Bell)

Charles Baudelaire

II est amer et doux, pendant les nuits d'hiver,
D'écouter, près du feu qui palpite et qui fume,
Les souvenirs lointains lentement s'élever
Au bruit des carillons qui chantent dans la brume.
Bienheureuse la cloche au gosier vigoureux
Qui, malgré sa vieillesse, alerte et bien portante,
Jette fidèlement son cri religieux,
Ainsi qu'un vieux soldat qui veille sous la tente!
Moi, mon âme est fêlée, et lorsqu'en ses ennuis
Elle veut de ses chants peupler l'air froid des nuits,
II arrive souvent que sa voix affaiblie
Semble le râle épais d'un blessé qu'on oublie
Au bord d'un lac de sang, sous un grand tas de morts
Et qui meurt, sans bouger, dans d'immenses efforts.
The Flawed Bell
It is bitter and sweet on winter nights
To listen by the fire that smokes and palpitates,
To distant souvenirs that rise up slowly
At the sound of the chimes that sing in the fog.
Happy is the bell which in spite of age
Is vigilant and healthy, and with lusty throat
Faithfully sounds its religious call,
Like an old soldier watching from his tent!
I, my soul is flawed, and when, a prey to ennui,
She wishes to fill the cold night air with her songs,
It often happens that her weakened voice
Resembles the death rattle of a wounded man,
Forgotten beneath a heap of dead, by a lake of blood,
Who dies without moving, striving desperately.
- Translated by William Aggeler
The Cracked Bell
It's sweet and bitter, of a winter night,
To hear, beside the crackling, smoking log,
Far memories prepare themselves for flight
To carillons that sound amid the fog.
Happy's the bell whose vigorous throat on high,
in spite of time, is sound and still unspent,
To hurl his faithful and religious cry
Like an old soldier watching in his tent.
My soul is cracked, and when amidst its care
It tries with song to fill the frosty air,
Sometimes, its voice seems like the feeble croak
A wounded soldier makes, lost in the smoke,
Beneath a pile of dead, in bloody mire,
Trying, with fearful efforts, to expire.
- Translated by Roy Campbell
The Cracked Bell
Bitter and sweet it is on these long winter nights
To sit before the fire and watch the smoking log
Beat like a heart; and hear our lost, our mute delights
Call with the carillons that ring out in the fog.
What certitude, what health, sounds from that brazen throat,
In spite of age and rust, alert! O happy bell,
Sending into the dark your clear religious note,
Like an old soldier crying through the night, "All's well!"
I am not thus; my soul is cracked across by care;
Its voice, that once could clang upon this icy air,
Has lost the power, it seems, - comes faintly forth, instead,
As from the rattling throat of a hurt man who lies
Beside a lake of blood, under a heap of dead,
And cannot stir, and in prodigious struggling dies.
- Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay
La Cloche fêlée
'tis bitter joy, as winter evenings wear
before a smoking hearth which flames aghast,
to hear slow memories mounting from the past,
while church-bells pierce the pall of misty air.
blessèd the flawless bell, of metal rare,
the full-toned bourdon, void of rift and rust,
which like a guardsman faithful to his trust
hurls forth unfailingly its call to prayer!
my soul's a riven bell, that timidly
would fill the frozen night with melody,
but oft it falters, whisperingly weak
as, echoing over lakes of blood, a shriek
muffled by mounds of dead, from one who lies
moveless as they, though struggling till he dies.
- Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks
The Cracked Bell
It is bitter and sweet, during winter nights,
To listen, beside the throbbing, smoking fife,
To distant memories slowly ascending
In the sound of the chimes chanting through the fog.
Blessed the bell with the vigorous gullet
Which, despite old age, watchful and healthy,
Throws out faithfully its pious tones,
Like an old soldier in vigil under his tent!
Ah, my soul is cracked, and when in sorrows
It wishes to people the cold air of the night with its songs,
Often it happens that its feeble voice
Seems like the thick death-rattle of one wounded, forgotten
By the side of a lake of blood, under a great weight of dead,
Who dies, without moving, amongst enormous efforts.
- Translated by Geoffrey Wagner

Last updated January 14, 2019