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.

About the headline (FAQ)


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

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.


  • 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.

Based on:


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 12
Word count: 113