by Victor Marie Hugo (1802 - 1885)
Translation © by David K. Smythe

L'enfant chantait; la mère au lit,...
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG
L'enfant chantait; la mère au lit, exténuée,
Agonisait, beau front dans l'ombre se penchant ;
La mort au-dessus d'elle errait dans la nuée ;
Et j'écoutais ce râle, et j'entendais ce chant.

L'enfant avait cinq ans, et près de la fenêtre
Ses rires et ses jeux faisaient un charmant bruit ;
Et la mère, à côté de ce pauvre doux être
Qui chantait tout le jour, toussait toute la nuit.

La mère alla dormir sous les dalles du cloître ;
Et le petit enfant se remit à chanter... 
La douleur est un fruit ; Dieu ne le fait pas croître
Sur la branche trop faible encor pour le porter.

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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 (David K. Smythe) , "Childhood", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 12
Word count: 109

Childhood
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
 The child was singing, the mother, stretched out on the bed,
 Was dying, her beautiful forehead looking into the shadow;
 Above her Death roamed about in the dense cloud;
 And I listened to that groan, and I heard that song.
 
 The child was five years old, and near the window
 Her laughter and her games made an enchanting noise;
 And the mother, beside the sweet little being
 Who sang all day, coughed all night.
 
 The mother was laid to rest beneath the flagstones of the cloister;
 And the little child returned to singing ...
 Sorrow is a fruit; God does not let it grow
 On a branch too weak to bear it.

Authorship:

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © by David K. Smythe, (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.
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This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 12
Word count: 113