Charles Baudelaire

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 is bitter and sweet, during winter nights, To listen, beside the throbbing, smoking fire, 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 The Cracked Bell 'Tis bitter-sweet, when winter nights are long, To watch, beside the flames which smoke and twist, The distant memories which slowly throng, Brought by the chime soft-singing through the mist. Happy the sturdy, vigorous-throated bell Who, spite of age alert and confident, Cries hourly, like some strong old sentinel Flinging the ready challenge from his tent. For me, my soul is cracked; when, sick with care, She strives with songs to people the cold air It happens often that her feeble cries Mock the harsh rattle of a man who lies Wounded, forgotten, 'neath a mound of slain And dies, pinned fast, writhing his limbs in vain. Translated by - Jack Collings Squire La Cloche fêlee '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 Broken Bell How sweet and bitter, on a winter night, Beside the palpitating fire to list, As, slowly, distant memories alight, To sounds of chimes that sing across the mist. Oh, happy is that bell with hearty throat, Which neither age nor time can e'er defeat, Which faithfully uplifts its pious note, Like an agèd soldier on his beat. For me, my soul is cracked, and 'mid her cares, Would often fill with her songs the midnight airs; And oft it chances that her feeble moan Is like the wounded warrior's fainting groan, Who by a lake of blood, 'neath bodies slain, In anguish falls, and never moves again. Translated by - Cyril Scott 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 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

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