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The Cracked Bell – a new translation by Ian Brinton

This is a new translation of Baudelaire’s ‘Spleen’ poem, ‘La Cloche Fêlée’ which was published in 1851. It is a bleak poem which presents the reader with the poet’s sense of loss and his isolation within a confined urban landscape.

The Cracked Bell

To Hayley McLintock


Throughout the smoky winter nights,
Crouched by a fire which flickers,
It is bitter-sweet to listen to memories of long ago
Return rising slowly in a peal of bells through fog.

An iron-throated bell,
Awake and loud despite its age,
Booms a pious call upon the hour
Like a veteran on guard at the tent’s mouth!

But as for me my soul is cracked and in striving
To fill the cold night air with song
My weary feeble voice

Is a thick gasp of sound from the wounded and forgotten
Trapped below the dead on the bank of a bloody lake,
Dying pent in vain strife to stir.


See also:

Baudelaire’s ‘Chant d’Automne’ translated by Ian Brinton

Le Serpent Qui Danse – a translation by Ian Brinton

Crowds – a new translation of a Baudelaire prose poem from 1861


Some of Ian Brinton’s translations of Baudelaire have been published in the Leafe Press magazine Litter and his version of the Tableaux Parisiens will appear from Two Rivers Press in July under the title Paris Scenes. His translations of poems by Paul Valéry were published by Muscaliet Press early this year and a selection of poems by Philippe Jaccottet is due to appear from Equipage in May.

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