Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Contrerime XXVIII

Apropos nothing at all, it is interesting to note that in the Middle Ages, it was believed that the sound of a bell could disperse thunder. A large number of bell-ringers were electrocuted as a result. In France between the years 1753 and 1786, 103 bell-ringers were killed during thunderstorms as a result of holding on to wet bell ropes. The Parlement of Paris enforced an edict in 1786 to forbid the practice. Deaths probably continued into the 19th century, until the lightning rod came into general use.

Contrerime XXVIII

Le sonneur se suspend, s' élance,
     Perd pied contre le mur,
Et monte : on dirait un fruit mûr
     Que la branche balance.

Une fille passe. Elle rit
     De tout son frais visage :
L' hiver de ce noir paysage
     A-t-il soudain fleuri ?

Je vois briller encor sa face,
     Quand elle prend le coin.
L' Angélus et sa jupe, au loin,
     L' un et l' autre, s' efface.


The bellringer on the rope gangles,
     Pulls, slides against the wall,
And ascends: a fruit primed to fall
     From the branch dangles.

A girl passes by. Her laughter
     Lights her fresh face:
Did winter in this gloomy place
     Bloom thereafter?

I can still see her shining face,               
     As she rounds the bend.
The Angelus, and her dress, blend
     Into the evening, erase.

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