by Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)
Translation © by Corinne Orde

La cloche fêlée
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG
Il 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, 
Il 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.

Confirmed with Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1857, in Spleen et Idéal, pages 136-137.

First published 1851-04-09 in Le Messager de l'Assemblée under the title "Le Spleen"; also appears published June 1855 in Revue des Deux Mondes under the title "La Cloche". The title "La Cloche fêlée" is used in all editions of Les Fleurs du mal. This was number 58 in the 1857 edition of Les Fleurs du mal but 74 or 76 in subsequent editions.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Corinne Orde) , "The cracked bell", copyright © 2007, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Cyril Meir Scott) , "The Broken Bell", appears in The Flowers of Evil, London, Elkin Mathews, first published 1909
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Terese Robinson, née Therese Langenbach) , "Die zersprungene Glocke", first published 1925

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 14
Word count: 115

The cracked bell
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
It is bitter and sweet, during winter nights,
To listen, by the fire that flickers and smokes,
To long-distant memories slowly rising
At the sound of the bells chiming in the mist.

Happy is that bell with the vigorous throat,
Which, in spite of its age, is alert and healthy,
And faithfully sends forth its religious cry,
Like some old soldier on watch in his tent.

As for me, my soul is cracked; and when in its troubles
It wants to fill the cold night air with its songs,
It often happens that its weakened voice

Seems like the thick gasp of a wounded man, forgotten
Beside a lake of blood, underneath a large heap of dead,
And who dies, without moving, with immense effort.


  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2007 by Corinne Orde, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on:


This text was added to the website: 2007-11-20
Line count: 14
Word count: 125