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La cloche (1855)

La cloche

Seule en ta sombre tour aux faîtes dentelés,
D'où ton souffle descend sur les toits ébranlés,
Ô cloche suspendue au milieu des nuées,
Par ton vaste roulis si souvent remuées,
Tu dors en ce moment dans l'ombre, et rien ne luit
Sous ta voûte profonde où sommeille le bruit!
Oh! Tandis qu'un esprit qui jusqu'à toi s'élance,
Silencieux aussi, contemple ton silence,
Sens-tu, par cet instinct vague et plein de douceur
Qui révèle toujours une soeur à la sœur
Qu'à cette heure où s'endort la soirée expirante,
Une âme est près de toi, non moins que toi vibrante,
Qui bien souvent aussi jette un bruit solennel,
Et se plaint dans l'amour comme toi dans le ciel!

The bell

Alone in your dark and crenelated tower,
From where your breath drifts onto shaken rooves,
O bell suspended amid clouds
So often disturbed by your mighty swinging,
You sleep now in the shadows, no light gleams
Beneath your deep vault where sound is slumbering.
Ah! while a spirit, leaping towards you
And silent too, contemplates your silence,
Do you sense through that vague, sweet instinct
Which always reveals one sister to another,
That at this hour when the dying evening falls asleep,
A soul, no less vibrant than your own, is near you,
Who also utters frequent solemn sounds,
And mourns in love as you do in the sky!

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Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist of the Romantic era. A musical prodigy, he gave his first concert at only 10 years old, before studying at the Paris Conservatoire.

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Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry and then from his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He also produced more than 4,000 drawings, which have since been admired for their beauty, and earned widespread respect as a campaigner for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.

Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French franc banknotes.

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