'Bell Song' From the Opera 'Lakme' Lyrics and English Translation

One of the famous arias from the Delibes opera

Delibes' opera "Lakme" Dress Rehearsal
Patrick Riviere / Getty Images

"The Bell Song" from Delibes' opera "Lakme" is just as famous and easily recognizable as another aria from the same opera - the Flower Duet.

Leo Delibes' 1883 opera, with a libretto in French by Philippe Gille and Edmond Gondinet, is based on the story "Les babouches du Brahmane" by Theodore Pavie. Set in late 19th century India, "Lakme" tells the story of star-crossed lovers Lakme, daughter of a Brahmin priest, and Gerald, a British soldier.

The Plot of 'Lakme' 

As the story opens, Lakme's father Nilakantha is angry that he and his fellow Indians must practice their religion in secret, since imperial British colonizers did not allow them to practice in public. 

Lakme Sings 'The Bell Song'

In the town square of a village in India, Lakme, as instructed by her father, tells the legend of a pariah's daughter who saved the son of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu. Lakme's father hopes the story will lure a trespasser out into the open, revealing himself (that trespasser happens to be Gerald).

"The Bell Song" is written for a coloratura soprano, a singer able to cover a wide variety of vocal range within a melody.

French Lyrics of 'The Bell Song' from 'Lakme'

Ou va la jeune Indoue, Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille.
Filles des Parias,
Quand la lune se joue,
Dans le grand mimosas?
Elle court sur la mousse
Et ne se souvient pas
Que partout on repousse
L'enfant des parias;
Le long des lauriers roses,
Revant de douce choses, Ah!
Elle passe sans bruit
Et riant a la nuit.
Labas dans la foret plus sombre,
Quel est ce voyageur perdu?
Autour de lui
Des yeux brillent dans l'ombre,
Il marche encore au hasard, e perdu!
Les fauves rugissent de joie,
Ils vont se jeter sur leur proie,
Le jeune fille accourt
Et brave leur fureurs:
Elle a dans sa main la baguette
ou tinte la clochette des charmeurs!
L'etranger la regarde,
Elle reste eblouie.
Il est plus beau que les Rajahs!
Il rougira, s'il sait qu'il doit
La vie a la fille des Parias.
Mais lui, l'endormant dans un reve,
Jusque dans le ciel il l'enleve,
En lui disant: 'ta place et la!'
C'etait Vishnu, fils de Brahma!
Depuis ce jour au fond de bois,
Le voyageur entend parfois
Le bruit leger de la baguette
Ou tinte la clochette des charmeurs!

English Translation of 'The Bell Song'

Where will the young Indian girl,
daughter of the paraiahs,
go when the moon dances
In the large mimosas trees?
She runs on the moss
And does not remember
That she is pushed around
The child of outcasts;
Along the oleanders,
Dreaming of sweet things, Ah!
She goes without noise
And laughs a night.
There in the dark forest
Who is the lost traveler?
Around him
Eyes shining in the darkness,
He wonders randomly, aimless and lost!
The wild beasts roar of joy,
They will pounce on their prey,
The girl runs to him
And braves their fury
She has in her hand the baton
with tinkle bell charms!
The stranger looks at her,
and remains dazzled.
She is more beautiful than the Rajahs!
He will blush if he knows he must owe
his life to the daughter of the pariahs.
But they fall asleep and drift into a dream,
Up in the sky, they are transported,
The traveler tells her: 'your place is here!'
It was Vishnu, son of Brahma!
From that day on, in the depths of the dark forest,
a traveler may sometimes hear
the slight noise of the baton
with the tinkle bell charms!