“Quand Au Mouton Bêlant” d’André Chénier

Born in 1762, André Chénier is sentenced to death by guillotine at 32 years old, as Robespierre imposes the Terror through France. Pro revolution, but also defendant of the king, Chenier is moderat at a time when moderation looks suspect to the extremists Jacobins under Robespierre’s lead. Chénier wrote the poem I am about to read as he is in prison: with this poem, he delivers to his fellow men his last message of peace before being led to the guillotine. Sad irony, Chénier will die two days only before the death of his prosecutor.

1 – Poème : Quand au mouton bêlant, la sombre boucherie

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Quand au mouton bêlant la sombre boucherie
Ouvre ses cavernes de mort,
Pâtres, chiens et moutons, toute la bergerie
Ne s’informe plus de son sort.
Les enfants qui suivaient ses ébats dans la plaine,
Les vierges aux belles couleurs
Qui le baisaient en foule, et sur sa blanche laine
Entrelaçaient rubans et fleurs,
Sans plus penser à lui, le mangent s’il est tendre.
Dans cet abîme enseveli
J’ai le même destin. Je m’y devais attendre.
Accoutumons-nous à l’oubli.
Oubliés comme moi dans cet affreux repaire,

Mille autres moutons, comme moi,
Pendus aux crocs sanglants du charnier populaire,
Seront servis au peuple-roi.
Que pouvaient mes amis? Oui, de leur main chérie
Un mot à travers ces barreaux
Eût versé quelque baume en mon âme flétrie;
De l’or peut-être à mes bourreaux…
Mais tout est précipice. Ils ont eu droit de vivre.
Vivez, amis; vivez contents.
En dépit de Bavus soyez lents à me suivre.
Peut-être en de plus heureux temps
J’ai moi-même, à l’aspect des pleurs de l’infortune,
Détourné mes regards distraits;
A mon tour, aujourd’hui; mon malheur importune:
Vivez, amis, vivez en paix.

2 – Translation

When to the bleating sheep the dark slaughter house
Opens its caves death
Shepherds , dogs and sheep, all the sheepfold
No longer seeks information over his fate.
[adblock]Children who followed his galops in the plain,
Virginsin beautiful colors
Who kissed him in crowds , and on its white wool
Intertwined ribbons and flowers,
Without thinking about it, eat it if it is tender.
Buried in the abyss
I have the same fate. I had it coming.
Let’s get accustomed to oblivion.
Forgotten like me in this horrible den,
A thousand other sheeps, like me,
Hanging from the bloody fangs of the popular mass grave
Will be served to the people-king.
What could my friends do ? Yes, from their beloved hand
A word through these bars
Would have provided some balm on my withered soul;
Gold perhaps to my tormentors …
But all is precipice. They had the right to live.
Live, friends, live happy.
Despite Bavus be slow to follow me.
Perhaps at happier times
I myself from the looks of the cries of misfortuned,
Diverted my distracted gaze ;
It’s my turn : my misfortune makes people uneasy :
Live, friends, live in peace.