Alarm Bells
 
Alarm Bells.



In every era, there are precursors to the disasters to come; and they always come. Disasters which are as inevitable and as inexorable as the foregone conclusions of a classical Greek tragedy. In every age there are voices unheeded that sound the clarion-call to defend, to shelter, to flee. Our own turbulent epoch is no exception. If only we had ears to hear the neglected Cassandras whose cries we mute with our indifference…

 

Glas

 

O cloches lourdes, cloches lentes,

              Dolentes,

              Râlantes,

 

Cloches des sinistres journées,

              Damnées,

              Damnées,

 

Cloches de deuil, cloches d’alarmes

              En armes,

              En larmes,

 

O cloches de sang, cloches d’âcres

              Massacres,

              Massacres,

 

O cloches, cloches, cloches, cloches,

              Plus proches,

              Plus proches,

 

Sonnez, cloches, cloches funèbres,

              Ténèbres !

              Ténèbres !

 

Voici que dans l’air qui s’étonne,

              Il tonne,

              Il tonne !

 

Sous les neiges de flamme comme

              Sodome,

              Sodome,

 

Périssent les cités infâmes

              En flammes

              En flammes !

 

Cloches sur les maisons où monte

              La honte,

              La honte,

 

Cloches sur l’église où les râbles

              Des diables,

              Des diables,

 

Remplacent pour l’Eucharistie

              L’hostie,

              L’hostie,

 

Sonnez sur le meurtre et l’inceste

              La peste,

              La peste,

 

Et sur la Foi qui s’effémine,

              Famine,

              Famine,

 

Et sur l’envie et la colère

              La guerre,

              La guerre

 

Mais nul n’écoute vos reproches,

              O cloches,

              O cloches,

 

Et c’est en vain que pour personne,

              Je sonne,

              Je sonne !

 

 

 

Iwan Gilkin, La Nuit, 1897 (chez Fischbacher)

 

 

 

 

Knell

 

O heavy bells, sluggish bells,

              Mournful,

              Maddening,

 

Bells of evil days,

              Condemned,

              Condemned,

 

Bells of grief, alarm bells

              Armed,

              In tears,

 

O bells of blood, bitter bells,

              Slaughter,

              Slaughter,

 

O bells, bells, bells, bells,

              Nearer,

              Nearer,

 

Ring, bells, funereal bells,

              Shadows !

              Shadows !

 

Here in the air which astounds itself,

              Roaring,

              Roaring !

 

Beneath the snows of fire like

              Sodom,

              Sodom,

 

Destroying the infamous cities

              In flames

              In flames !

 

Bells upon the houses where rises

              Shame,

              Shame,

 

Bells on the church where the rabble

              Of devils,

              Of devils,

 

Replace the Eucharist

              The host,

              The host,

 

Toll upon murder and incest

              Plague,

              Plague,

 

And upon the Faith which emasculates itself,

              Famine,

              Famine,

 

And upon envy and hate

              War,

              War

 

But your reproaches are unheeded,

              O bells,

              O bells,

 

And it is in vain that for anyone,

              I toll,

              I toll !

 

 

Iwan Gilkin, Night, 1897, (published by Fischbacher)

[English translation: Sardonique Schadenfreude Rictus, 2007]

[illustration: Frontispiece for Adolphe Retté's 'Cloches en la Nuit', Chez Vanier, 1889, by Émile H. Meyer]