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by Victor Marie Hugo (1802 - 1885)
Translation © by Emily Ezust

Dans l'alcôve sombre
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG
Dans l'alcôve sombre,
Près d'un humble autel,
L'enfant dort à l'ombre
Du lit maternel,
Tandis qu'il repose,
Sa paupière rose,
Pour la terre close,
S'ouvre pour le ciel.

Il fait bien des rêves ;
Il voit par moments
Le sable des grèves
Plein de diamants,
Des soleils de flammes,
Et de belles dames
Qui portent des âmes
Dans leurs bras charmants.

Songe qui l'enchante !
Il voit des ruisseaux ;
Une voix qui chante
Sort du fond des eaux.
Ses sœurs sont plus belles ;
Son père est près d'elles ;
Sa mère a des ailes
Comme les oiseaux.

Il voit mille choses
Plus belles encor ;
Des lis et des roses
Plein le corridor ;
Des lacs de délice
Où le poisson glisse,
Où l'onde se plisse
À des roseaux d'or !

Enfant, rêve encore !
Dors, ô mes amours !
Ta jeune âme ignore
Où s'en vont tes jours.
Comme une algue morte,
Tu vas ; que t'importe !
Le courant t'emporte,
Mais tu dors toujours !

Sans soin, sans étude,
Tu dors en chemin ;
Et l'inquiétude
A la froide main,
De son ongle aride,
Sur ton front candide
Qui n'a point de ride,
N'écrit pas : Demain !

Il dort, innocence !
Les anges sereins
Qui savent d'avance
Le sort des humains,
Le voyant sans armes,
Sans peur, sans alarmes,
Baisent avec larmes
Ses petites mains.

Leurs lèvres effleurent
Ses lèvres de miel.
L'enfant voit qu'ils pleurent
Et dit : Gabriel !
Mais l'ange le touche,
Et, berçant sa couche,
Un doigt sur sa bouche,
Lève l'autre au ciel.

Cependant sa mère,
Prompte à le bercer,
Croit qu'une chimère
Le vient oppresser ;
Fière, elle l'admire,
L'entend qui soupire,
Et le fait sourire
Avec un baiser.

M. de Rothschild sets stanzas 5-6, 9
F. Boïeldieu sets stanzas 3, 5, 9
R. de Boisdeffre sets stanzas 1-3, 5
F. de la Tombelle sets stanzas 1-3, 6
L. Netzel sets stanza 5

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):

  • CZE Czech (Čeština) (Jaroslav Vrchlický) , "Kde nízký oltář stojí…", Prague, first published 1877
  • ENG English (Emily Ezust) , no title, copyright ©

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2004-01-12
Line count: 72
Word count: 290

In a somber alcove
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
In a somber alcove
Near a humble altar,
A child sleeps in the shadow
Of his mother's bed;
while he rests,
his pink eyelids,
shut to the world,
are open to heaven.

His dreams are with him deeply;
he sees at various times
the sand of a pebbly beach
covered in diamonds,
the sun in flames,
and beautiful ladies
who are carrying souls
in their lovely arms.

It is a dream that will enchant you!
He sees brooks; 
A voice sings out
from the depths of the waters.
His sisters are more lovely;
His father is there with them ;
His mother has wings
like birds do.

He sees a thousand things
even more fair;
Roses and lilies
fill the hall;
Delightful lakes
where fish glide past,
where the waves crease the surface
as they approach reeds of gold!

Child, awaken once more!
Sleep, o my loves!
Your young soul has no idea
where your days are going.
Like inert algae,
you go; what does it matter?
The current carries you,
but you are always asleep!

Without care, without consideration,
you sleep on this road;
And anxiety
with its cold hand
and dull talons
on your guileless brow
without a single wrinkle
Does not write "tomorrow!"

He sleeps -- innocence!
The serene angels
who know in advance
the lot of humanity,
watch him: unarmed,
fearless, unalarmed;
and with tears
they kiss his small hands.

Their lips brush
his lips of honey.
The child sees that they are weeping
and says: Gabriel!
But the angel, 
rocking his bed,
touches one finger to his lips
and lifts the other toward heaven.

Nevertheless, his mother,
eager to pamper him,
believes a chimera
has come to oppress him;
proudly she admires him,
listens to his sighs,
and makes him smile
with a kiss.

About the headline (FAQ)

Translations of titles:
"Dans l'alcôve sombre" = "In a somber alcove"
"Berceuse" = "Lullaby"


  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © by Emily Ezust

    Emily Ezust permits her translations to be reproduced without prior permission for printed (not online) programs to free-admission concerts only, provided the following credit is given:

    Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
    from the LiederNet Archive -- https://www.lieder.net/

    For any other purpose, please write to the e-mail address below to request permission and discuss possible fees.

Based on:


This text was added to the website: 2012-12-03
Line count: 72
Word count: 298