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Best Famous Victor Hugo Poems

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Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

A Sunset

 I love the evenings, passionless and fair, I love the evens, 
Whether old manor-fronts their ray with golden fulgence leavens, 
In numerous leafage bosomed close; 
Whether the mist in reefs of fire extend its reaches sheer, 
Or a hundred sunbeams splinter in an azure atmosphere 
On cloudy archipelagos.
Oh, gaze ye on the firmament! a hundred clouds in motion, Up-piled in the immense sublime beneath the winds' commotion, Their unimagined shapes accord: Under their waves at intervals flame a pale levin through, As if some giant of the air amid the vapors drew A sudden elemental sword.
The sun at bay with splendid thrusts still keeps the sullen fold; And momently at distance sets, as a cupola of gold, The thatched roof of a cot a-glance; Or on the blurred horizon joins his battle with the haze; Or pools the blooming fields about with inter-isolate blaze, Great moveless meres of radiance.
Then mark you how there hangs athwart the firmament's swept track, Yonder a mighty crocodile with vast irradiant back, A triple row of pointed teeth? Under its burnished belly slips a ray of eventide, The flickerings of a hundred glowing clouds in tenebrous side With scales of golden mail ensheathe.
Then mounts a palace, then the air vibrates--the vision flees.
Confounded to its base, the fearful cloudy edifice Ruins immense in mounded wrack; Afar the fragments strew the sky, and each envermeiled cone Hangeth, peak downward, overhead, like mountains overthrown When the earthquake heaves its hugy back.
These vapors, with their leaden, golden, iron, bronzèd glows, Where the hurricane, the waterspout, thunder, and hell repose, Muttering hoarse dreams of destined harms,-- 'Tis God who hangs their multitude amid the skiey deep, As a warrior that suspendeth from the roof-tree of his keep His dreadful and resounding arms! All vanishes! The Sun, from topmost heaven precipitated, Like a globe of iron which is tossed back fiery red Into the furnace stirred to fume, Shocking the cloudy surges, plashed from its impetuous ire, Even to the zenith spattereth in a flecking scud of fire The vaporous and inflamèd spaume.
O contemplate the heavens! Whenas the vein-drawn day dies pale, In every season, every place, gaze through their every veil? With love that has not speech for need! Beneath their solemn beauty is a mystery infinite: If winter hue them like a pall, or if the summer night Fantasy them starre brede.
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Letter

 You can see it already: chalks and ochers; 
Country crossed with a thousand furrow-lines;
Ground-level rooftops hidden by the shrubbery; 
Sporadic haystacks standing on the grass;
Smoky old rooftops tarnishing the landscape; 
A river (not Cayster or Ganges, though:
A feeble Norman salt-infested watercourse); 
On the right, to the north, bizarre terrain
All angular--you'd think a shovel did it.
So that's the foreground.
An old chapel adds Its antique spire, and gathers alongside it A few gnarled elms with grumpy silhouettes; Seemingly tired of all the frisky breezes, They carp at every gust that stirs them up.
At one side of my house a big wheelbarrow Is rusting; and before me lies the vast Horizon, all its notches filled with ocean blue; Cocks and hens spread their gildings, and converse Beneath my window; and the rooftop attics, Now and then, toss me songs in dialect.
In my lane dwells a patriarchal rope-maker; The old man makes his wheel run loud, and goes Retrograde, hemp wreathed tightly round the midriff.
I like these waters where the wild gale scuds; All day the country tempts me to go strolling; The little village urchins, book in hand, Envy me, at the schoolmaster's (my lodging), As a big schoolboy sneaking a day off.
The air is pure, the sky smiles; there's a constant Soft noise of children spelling things aloud.
The waters flow; a linnet flies; and I say: "Thank you! Thank you, Almighty God!"--So, then, I live: Peacefully, hour by hour, with little fuss, I shed My days, and think of you, my lady fair! I hear the children chattering; and I see, at times, Sailing across the high seas in its pride, Over the gables of the tranquil village, Some winged ship which is traveling far away, Flying across the ocean, hounded by all the winds.
Lately it slept in port beside the quay.
Nothing has kept it from the jealous sea-surge: No tears of relatives, nor fears of wives, Nor reefs dimly reflected in the waters, Nor importunity of sinister birds.
Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

The Poor Children

 Take heed of this small child of earth; 
He is great; he hath in him God most high.
Children before their fleshly birth Are lights alive in the blue sky.
In our light bitter world of wrong They come; God gives us them awhile.
His speech is in their stammering tongue, And his forgiveness in their smile.
Their sweet light rests upon our eyes.
Alas! their right to joy is plain.
If they are hungry Paradise Weeps, and, if cold, Heaven thrills with pain.
The want that saps their sinless flower Speaks judgment on sin's ministers.
Man holds an angel in his power.
Ah! deep in Heaven what thunder stirs, When God seeks out these tender things Whom in the shadow where we sleep He sends us clothed about with wings, And finds them ragged babes that weep!
Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

COME WHEN I SLEEP

 ("Oh, quand je dors.") 
 
 {XXVII.} 


 Oh! when I sleep, come near my resting-place, 
 As Laura came to bless her poet's heart, 
 And let thy breath in passing touch my face— 
 At once a space 
 My lips will part. 
 
 And on my brow where too long weighed supreme 
 A vision—haply spent now—black as night, 
 Let thy look as a star arise and beam— 
 At once my dream 
 Will seem of light. 
 
 Then press my lips, where plays a flame of bliss— 
 A pure and holy love-light—and forsake 
 The angel for the woman in a kiss— 
 At once, I wis, 
 My soul will wake! 
 
 WM. W. TOMLINSON. 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

TO SOME BIRDS FLOWN AWAY

 ("Enfants! Oh! revenez!") 
 
 {XXII, April, 1837} 


 Children, come back—come back, I say— 
 You whom my folly chased away 
 A moment since, from this my room, 
 With bristling wrath and words of doom! 
 What had you done, you bandits small, 
 With lips as red as roses all? 
 What crime?—what wild and hapless deed? 
 What porcelain vase by you was split 
 To thousand pieces? Did you need 
 For pastime, as you handled it, 
 Some Gothic missal to enrich 
 With your designs fantastical? 
 Or did your tearing fingers fall 
 On some old picture? Which, oh, which 
 Your dreadful fault? Not one of these; 
 Only when left yourselves to please 
 This morning but a moment here 
 'Mid papers tinted by my mind 
 You took some embryo verses near— 
 Half formed, but fully well designed 
 To open out. Your hearts desire 
 Was but to throw them on the fire, 
 Then watch the tinder, for the sight 
 Of shining sparks that twinkle bright 
 As little boats that sail at night, 
 Or like the window lights that spring 
 From out the dark at evening. 
 
 'Twas all, and you were well content. 
 Fine loss was this for anger's vent— 
 A strophe ill made midst your play, 
 Sweet sound that chased the words away 
 In stormy flight. An ode quite new, 
 With rhymes inflated—stanzas, too, 
 That panted, moving lazily, 
 And heavy Alexandrine lines 
 That seemed to jostle bodily, 
 Like children full of play designs 
 That spring at once from schoolroom's form. 
 Instead of all this angry storm, 
 Another might have thanked you well 
 For saving prey from that grim cell, 
 That hollowed den 'neath journals great, 
 Where editors who poets flout 
 With their demoniac laughter shout. 
 And I have scolded you! What fate 
 For charming dwarfs who never meant 
 To anger Hercules! And I 
 Have frightened you!—My chair I sent 
 Back to the wall, and then let fly 
 A shower of words the envious use— 
 "Get out," I said, with hard abuse, 
 "Leave me alone—alone I say." 
 Poor man alone! Ah, well-a-day, 
 What fine result—what triumph rare! 
 As one turns from the coffin'd dead 
 So left you me:—I could but stare 
 Upon the door through which you fled— 
 I proud and grave—but punished quite. 
 And what care you for this my plight!— 
 You have recovered liberty, 
 Fresh air and lovely scenery, 
 The spacious park and wished-for grass; 
lights 
 And gratefully to sing. 
 
 E'e 
 A blade to watch what comes to pass; 
 Blue sky, and all the spring can show; 
 Nature, serenely fair to see; 
 The book of birds and spirits free, 
 God's poem, worth much more than mine, 
 Where flowers for perfect stanzas shine— 
 Flowers that a child may pluck in play, 
 No harsh voice frightening it away. 
 And I'm alone—all pleasure o'er— 
 Alone with pedant called "Ennui," 
 For since the morning at my door 
 Ennui has waited patiently. 
 That docto-r-London born, you mark, 
 One Sunday in December dark, 
 Poor little ones—he loved you not, 
 And waited till the chance he got 
 To enter as you passed away, 
 And in the very corner where 
 You played with frolic laughter gay, 
 He sighs and yawns with weary air. 
 
 What can I do? Shall I read books, 
 Or write more verse—or turn fond looks 
 Upon enamels blue, sea-green, 
 And white—on insects rare as seen 
 Upon my Dresden china ware? 
 Or shall I touch the globe, and care 
 To make the heavens turn upon 
 Its axis? No, not one—not one 
 Of all these things care I to do; 
 All wearies me—I think of you. 
 In truth with you my sunshine fled, 
 And gayety with your light tread— 
 Glad noise that set me dreaming still. 
 'Twas my delight to watch your will, 
 And mark you point with finger-tips 
 To help your spelling out a word; 
 To see the pearls between your lips 
 When I your joyous laughter heard; 
 Your honest brows that looked so true, 
 And said "Oh, yes!" to each intent; 
 Your great bright eyes, that loved to view 
 With admiration innocent 
 My fine old Sèvres; the eager thought 
 That every kind of knowledge sought; 
 The elbow push with "Come and see!" 
 
 Oh, certes! spirits, sylphs, there be, 
 And fays the wind blows often here; 
 The gnomes that squat the ceiling near, 
 In corners made by old books dim; 
 The long-backed dwarfs, those goblins grim 
 That seem at home 'mong vases rare, 
 And chat to them with friendly air— 
 Oh, how the joyous demon throng 
 Must all have laughed with laughter long 
 To see you on my rough drafts fall, 
 My bald hexameters, and all 
 The mournful, miserable band, 
 And drag them with relentless hand 
 From out their box, with true delight 
 To set them each and all a-light, 
 And then with clapping hands to lean 
 Above the stove and watch the scene, 
 How to the mass deformed there came 
 A soul that showed itself in flame! 
 
 Bright tricksy children—oh, I pray 
 Come back and sing and dance away, 
 And chatter too—sometimes you may, 
 A giddy group, a big book seize— 
 Or sometimes, if it so you please, 
 With nimble step you'll run to me 
 And push the arm that holds the pen, 
 Till on my finished verse will be 
 A stroke that's like a steeple when 
 Seen suddenly upon a plain. 
 My soul longs for your breath again 
 To warm it. Oh, return—come here 
 With laugh and babble—and no fear 
 When with your shadow you obscure 
 The book I read, for I am sure, 
 Oh, madcaps terrible and dear, 
 That you were right and I was wrong. 
 But who has ne'er with scolding tongue 
 Blamed out of season. Pardon me! 
 You must forgive—for sad are we. 
 
 The young should not be hard and cold 
 And unforgiving to the old. 
 Children each morn your souls ope out 
 Like windows to the shining day, 
 Oh, miracle that comes about, 
 The miracle that children gay 
 Have happiness and goodness too, 
 Caressed by destiny are you, 
 Charming you are, if you but play. 
 But we with living overwrought, 
 And full of grave and sombre thought, 
 Are snappish oft: dear little men, 
 We have ill-tempered days, and then, 
 Are quite unjust and full of care; 
 It rained this morning and the air 
 Was chill; but clouds that dimm'd the sky 
 Have passed. Things spited me, and why? 
 But now my heart repents. Behold 
 What 'twas that made me cross, and scold! 
 All by-and-by you'll understand, 
 When brows are mark'd by Time's stern hand; 
 Then you will comprehend, be sure, 
 When older—that's to say, less pure. 
 
 The fault I freely own was mine. 
 But oh, for pardon now I pine! 
 Enough my punishment to meet, 
 You must forgive, I do entreat 
 With clasped hands praying—oh, come back, 
 Make peace, and you shall nothing lack. 
 See now my pencils—paper—here, 
 And pointless compasses, and dear 
 Old lacquer-work; and stoneware clear 
 Through glass protecting; all man's toys 
 So coveted by girls and boys. 
 Great China monsters—bodies much 
 Like cucumbers—you all shall touch. 
 I yield up all! my picture rare 
 Found beneath antique rubbish heap, 
 My great and tapestried oak chair 
 I will from you no longer keep. 
 You shall about my table climb, 
 And dance, or drag, without a cry 
 From me as if it were a crime. 
 Even I'll look on patiently 
 If you your jagged toys all throw 
 Upon my carved bench, till it show 
 The wood is torn; and freely too, 
 I'll leave in your own hands to view, 
 My pictured Bible—oft desired— 
 But which to touch your fear inspired— 
 With God in emperor's robes attired. 
 
 Then if to see my verses burn, 
 Should seem to you a pleasant turn, 
 Take them to freely tear away 
 Or burn. But, oh! not so I'd say, 
 If this were Méry's room to-day. 
 That noble poet! Happy town, 
 Marseilles the Greek, that him doth own! 
 Daughter of Homer, fair to see, 
 Of Virgil's son the mother she. 
 To you I'd say, Hold, children all, 
 Let but your eyes on his work fall; 
 These papers are the sacred nest 
 In which his crooning fancies rest; 
 To-morrow winged to Heaven they'll soar, 
 For new-born verse imprisoned still 
 In manuscript may suffer sore 
 At your small hands and childish will, 
 Without a thought of bad intent, 
 Of cruelty quite innocent. 
 You wound their feet, and bruise their wings, 
 And make them suffer those ill things 
 That children's play to young birds brings. 
 
 But mine! no matter what you do, 
 My poetry is all in you; 
 You are my inspiration bright 
 That gives my verse its purest light. 
 Children whose life is made of hope, 
 Whose joy, within its mystic scope, 
 Owes all to ignorance of ill, 
 You have not suffered, and you still 
 Know not what gloomy thoughts weigh down 
 The poet-writer weary grown. 
 What warmth is shed by your sweet smile! 
 How much he needs to gaze awhile 
 Upon your shining placid brow, 
 When his own brow its ache doth know; 
 With what delight he loves to hear 
 Your frolic play 'neath tree that's near, 
 Your joyous voices mixing well 
 With his own song's all-mournful swell! 
 Come back then, children! come to me, 
 If you wish not that I should be 
 As lonely now that you're afar 
 As fisherman of Etrétat, 
 Who listless on his elbow leans 
 Through all the weary winter scenes, 
 As tired of thought—as on Time flies— 
 And watching only rainy skies! 
 
 MRS. NEWTON CROSLAND. 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

ENVY AND AVARICE

 ("L'Avarice et l'Envie.") 
 
 {LE CONSERVATEUR LITÉRAIRE, 1820.} 


 Envy and Avarice, one summer day, 
 Sauntering abroad 
 In quest of the abode 
 Of some poor wretch or fool who lived that way— 
 You—or myself, perhaps—I cannot say— 
 Along the road, scarce heeding where it tended, 
 Their way in sullen, sulky silence wended; 
 
 For, though twin sisters, these two charming creatures, 
 Rivals in hideousness of form and features, 
 Wasted no love between them as they went. 
 Pale Avarice, 
 With gloating eyes, 
 And back and shoulders almost double bent, 
 Was hugging close that fatal box 
 For which she's ever on the watch 
 Some glance to catch 
 Suspiciously directed to its locks; 
 And Envy, too, no doubt with silent winking 
 At her green, greedy orbs, no single minute 
 Withdrawn from it, was hard a-thinking 
 Of all the shining dollars in it. 
 
 The only words that Avarice could utter, 
 Her constant doom, in a low, frightened mutter, 
 "There's not enough, enough, yet in my store!" 
 While Envy, as she scanned the glittering sight, 
 Groaned as she gnashed her yellow teeth with spite, 
 "She's more than me, more, still forever more!" 
 
 Thus, each in her own fashion, as they wandered, 
 Upon the coffer's precious contents pondered, 
 When suddenly, to their surprise, 
 The God Desire stood before their eyes. 
 Desire, that courteous deity who grants 
 All wishes, prayers, and wants; 
 Said he to the two sisters: "Beauteous ladies, 
 As I'm a gentleman, my task and trade is 
 To be the slave of your behest— 
 Choose therefore at your own sweet will and pleasure, 
 Honors or treasure! 
 Or in one word, whatever you'd like best. 
 But, let us understand each other—she 
 Who speaks the first, her prayer shall certainly 
 Receive—the other, the same boon redoubled!" 
 
 Imagine how our amiable pair, 
 At this proposal, all so frank and fair, 
 Were mutually troubled! 
 Misers and enviers, of our human race, 
 Say, what would you have done in such a case? 
 Each of the sisters murmured, sad and low 
 "What boots it, oh, Desire, to me to have 
 Crowns, treasures, all the goods that heart can crave, 
 Or power divine bestow, 
 Since still another must have always more?" 
 
 So each, lest she should speak before 
 The other, hesitating slow and long 
 Till the god lost all patience, held her tongue. 
 He was enraged, in such a way, 
 To be kept waiting there all day, 
 With two such beauties in the public road; 
 Scarce able to be civil even, 
 He wished them both—well, not in heaven. 
 
 Envy at last the silence broke, 
 And smiling, with malignant sneer, 
 Upon her sister dear, 
 Who stood in expectation by, 
 Ever implacable and cruel, spoke 
 "I would be blinded of one eye!" 
 
 American Keepsake 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

ROSES AND BUTTERFLIES

 ("Roses et Papillons.") 
 
 {XXVII., Dec. 7, 1834.} 


 The grave receives us all: 
 Ye butterflies and roses gay and sweet 
 Why do ye linger, say? 
 Will ye not dwell together as is meet? 
 Somewhere high in the air 
 Would thy wing seek a home 'mid sunny skies, 
 In mead or mossy dell— 
 If there thy odors longest, sweetest rise. 
 
 Have where ye will your dwelling, 
 Or breath or tint whose praise we sing; 
 Butterfly shining bright, 
 Full-blown or bursting rosebud, flow'r or wing. 
 Dwell together ye fair, 
 'Tis a boon to the loveliest given; 
 Perchance ye then may choose your home 
 On the earth or in heaven. 
 
 W.C. WESTBROOK 


 A SIMILE. 
 
 ("Soyez comme l'oiseau.") 
 
 {XXXIII. vi.} 


 Thou art like the bird 
 That alights and sings 
 Though the frail spray bends— 
 For he knows he has wings. 
 
 FANNY KEMBLE (BUTLER) 


 




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PIRATES' SONG

 ("Nous emmenions en esclavage.") 
 
 {VIII., March, 1828.} 


 We're bearing fivescore Christian dogs 
 To serve the cruel drivers: 
 Some are fair beauties gently born, 
 And some rough coral-divers. 
 We hardy skimmers of the sea 
 Are lucky in each sally, 
 And, eighty strong, we send along 
 The dreaded Pirate Galley. 
 
 A nunnery was spied ashore, 
 We lowered away the cutter, 
 And, landing, seized the youngest nun 
 Ere she a cry could utter; 
 Beside the creek, deaf to our oars, 
 She slumbered in green alley, 
 As, eighty strong, we sent along 
 The dreaded Pirate Galley. 
 
 "Be silent, darling, you must come— 
 The wind is off shore blowing; 
 You only change your prison dull 
 For one that's splendid, glowing! 
 His Highness doats on milky cheeks, 
 So do not make us dally"— 
 We, eighty strong, who send along 
 The dreaded Pirate Galley. 
 
 She sought to flee back to her cell, 
 And called us each a devil! 
 We dare do aught becomes Old Scratch, 
 But like a treatment civil, 
 So, spite of buffet, prayers, and calls— 
 Too late her friends to rally— 
 We, eighty strong, bore her along 
 Unto the Pirate Galley. 
 
 The fairer for her tears profuse, 
 As dews refresh the flower, 
 She is well worth three purses full, 
 And will adorn the bower— 
 For vain her vow to pine and die 
 Thus torn from her dear valley: 
 She reigns, and we still row along 
 The dreaded Pirate Galley. 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

FIRST LOVE

 ("Vous êtes singulier.") 
 
 {MARION DELORME, Act I., June, 1829, played 1831.} 
 
 MARION (smiling.) You're strange, and yet I love you thus. 
 
 DIDIER. You love me? 
 Beware, nor with light lips utter that word. 
 You love me!—know you what it is to love 
 With love that is the life-blood in one's veins, 
 The vital air we breathe, a love long-smothered, 
 Smouldering in silence, kindling, burning, blazing, 
 And purifying in its growth the soul. 
 A love that from the heart eats every passion 
 But its sole self; love without hope or limit, 
 Deep love that will outlast all happiness; 
 Speak, speak; is such the love you bear me? 
 
 MARION. Truly. 
 
 DIDIER. Ha! but you do not know how I love you! 
 The day that first I saw you, the dark world 
 Grew shining, for your eyes lighted my gloom. 
 Since then, all things have changed; to me you are 
 Some brightest, unknown creature from the skies. 
 This irksome life, 'gainst which my heart rebelled, 
 Seems almost fair and pleasant; for, alas! 
 Till I knew you wandering, alone, oppressed, 
 I wept and struggled, I had never loved. 
 
 FANNY KEMBLE-BUTLER. 


 




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THE EPIC OF THE LION

 ("Un lion avait pris un enfant.") 
 
 {XIII.} 


 A Lion in his jaws caught up a child— 
 Not harming it—and to the woodland, wild 
 With secret streams and lairs, bore off his prey— 
 The beast, as one might cull a bud in May. 
 It was a rosy boy, a king's own pride, 
 A ten-year lad, with bright eyes shining wide, 
 And save this son his majesty beside 
 Had but one girl, two years of age, and so 
 The monarch suffered, being old, much woe; 
 His heir the monster's prey, while the whole land 
 In dread both of the beast and king did stand; 
 Sore terrified were all. 
 
 By came a knight 
 That road, who halted, asking, "What's the fright?" 
 They told him, and he spurred straight for the site! 
 The beast was seen to smile ere joined they fight, 
 The man and monster, in most desperate duel, 
 Like warring giants, angry, huge, and cruel. Beneath his shield, all blood and mud and mess: 
 Whereat the lion feasted: then it went 
 Back to its rocky couch and slept content. 
 Sudden, loud cries and clamors! striking out 
 Qualm to the heart of the quiet, horn and shout 
 Causing the solemn wood to reel with rout. 
 Terrific was this noise that rolled before; 
 It seemed a squadron; nay, 'twas something more— 
 A whole battalion, sent by that sad king 
 With force of arms his little prince to bring, 
 Together with the lion's bleeding hide. 
 
 Which here was right or wrong? Who can decide? 
 Have beasts or men most claim to live? God wots! 
 He is the unit, we the cipher-dots. 
 Ranged in the order a great hunt should have, 
 They soon between the trunks espy the cave. 
 "Yes, that is it! the very mouth of the den!" 
 The trees all round it muttered, warning men; 
 Still they kept step and neared it. Look you now, 
 Company's pleasant, and there were a thou— 
 Good Lord! all in a moment, there's its face! 
 Frightful! they saw the lion! Not one pace 
 Further stirred any man; but bolt and dart 
 Made target of the beast. He, on his part, 
 As calm as Pelion in the rain or hail, 
 Bristled majestic from the teeth to tail, 
 And shook full fifty missiles from his hide, 
 But no heed took he; steadfastly he eyed, 
 And roared a roar, hoarse, vibrant, vengeful, dread, 
 A rolling, raging peal of wrath, which spread, 
 Making the half-awakened thunder cry, 
 "Who thunders there?" from its black bed of sky. 
 This ended all! Sheer horror cleared the coast; 
 As fogs are driven by the wind, that valorous host 
 Melted, dispersed to all the quarters four, 
 Clean panic-stricken by that monstrous roar. 
 Then quoth the lion, "Woods and mountains, see, 
 A thousand men, enslaved, fear one beast free!" 
 He followed towards the hill, climbed high above, 
 Lifted his voice, and, as the sowers sow 
 The seed down wind, thus did that lion throw 
 His message far enough the town to reach: 
 "King! your behavior really passes speech! 
 Thus far no harm I've wrought to him your son; 
 But now I give you notice—when night's done, 
 I will make entry at your city-gate, 
 Bringing the prince alive; and those who wait 
 To see him in my jaws—your lackey-crew— 
 Shall see me eat him in your palace, too!" 
 Next morning, this is what was viewed in town: 
 Dawn coming—people going—some adown 
 Praying, some crying; pallid cheeks, swift feet, 
 And a huge lion stalking through the street. 
 It seemed scarce short of rash impiety 
 To cross its path as the fierce beast went by. 
 So to the palace and its gilded dome 
 With stately steps unchallenged did he roam; 
 He enters it—within those walls he leapt! 
 No man! 
 
 For certes, though he raged and wept, 
 His majesty, like all, close shelter kept, 
 Solicitous to live, holding his breath 
 Specially precious to the realm. Now death 
 Is not thus viewed by honest beasts of prey; 
 And when the lion found him fled away, 
 Ashamed to be so grand, man being so base, 
 He muttered to himself, "A wretched king! 
 'Tis well; I'll eat his boy!" Then, wandering, 
 Lordly he traversed courts and corridors, 
 Paced beneath vaults of gold on shining floors, 
 Glanced at the throne deserted, stalked from hall 
 To hall—green, yellow, crimson—empty all! 
 Rich couches void, soft seats unoccupied! 
 And as he walked he looked from side to side 
 To find some pleasant nook for his repast, 
 Since appetite was come to munch at last 
 The princely morsel!—Ah! what sight astounds 
 That grisly lounger? 
 
 In the palace grounds 
 An alcove on a garden gives, and there 
 A tiny thing—forgot in the general fear, 
 Lulled in the flower-sweet dreams of infancy, 
 Bathed with soft sunlight falling brokenly 
 Through leaf and lattice—was at that moment waking; 
 A little lovely maid, most dear and taking, 
 The prince's sister—all alone, undressed— 
 She sat up singing: children sing so best. 
 Charming this beauteous baby-maid; and so 
 The beast caught sight of her and stopped— 
 
 And then 
 Entered—the floor creaked as he stalked straight in. 
 Above the playthings by the little bed 
 The lion put his shaggy, massive head, 
 Dreadful with savage might and lordly scorn, 
 More dreadful with that princely prey so borne; 
 Which she, quick spying, "Brother, brother!" cried, 
 "Oh, my own brother!" and, unterrified, 
 She gazed upon that monster of the wood, 
 Whose yellow balls not Typhon had withstood, 
 And—well! who knows what thoughts these small heads hold? 
 She rose up in her cot—full height, and bold, 
 And shook her pink fist angrily at him. 
 Whereon—close to the little bed's white rim, 
 All dainty silk and laces—this huge brute 
 Set down her brother gently at her foot, 
 Just as a mother might, and said to her, 
 "Don't be put out, now! There he is, dear, there!" 
 
 EDWIN ARNOLD, C.S.I. 


 




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SATIRE ON THE EARTH

 ("Une terre au flanc maigre.") 
 
 {Bk. III. xi., October, 1840.} 


 A clod with rugged, meagre, rust-stained, weather-worried face, 
 Where care-filled creatures tug and delve to keep a worthless race; 
 And glean, begrudgedly, by all their unremitting toil, 
 Sour, scanty bread and fevered water from the ungrateful soil; 
 Made harder by their gloom than flints that gash their harried hands, 
 And harder in the things they call their hearts than wolfish bands, 
 Perpetuating faults, inventing crimes for paltry ends, 
 And yet, perversest beings! hating Death, their best of friends! 
 Pride in the powerful no more, no less than in the poor; 
 Hatred in both their bosoms; love in one, or, wondrous! two! 
 Fog in the valleys; on the mountains snowfields, ever new, 
 That only melt to send down waters for the liquid hell, 
 In which, their strongest sons and fairest daughters vilely fell! 
 No marvel, Justice, Modesty dwell far apart and high, 
 Where they can feebly hear, and, rarer, answer victims' cry. 
 At both extremes, unflinching frost, the centre scorching hot; 
 Land storms that strip the orchards nude, leave beaten grain to rot; 
 Oceans that rise with sudden force to wash the bloody land, 
 Where War, amid sob-drowning cheers, claps weapons in each hand. 
 And this to those who, luckily, abide afar— 
 This is, ha! ha! a star! 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

AN AUTUMNAL SIMILE

 ("Les feuilles qui gisaient.") 


 The leaves that in the lonely walks were spread, 
 Starting from off the ground beneath the tread, 
 Coursed o'er the garden-plain; 
 Thus, sometimes, 'mid the soul's deep sorrowings, 
 Our soul a moment mounts on wounded wings, 
 Then, swiftly, falls again. 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

STILL BE A CHILD

 ("O vous que votre âge défende") 
 
 {IX., February, 1840.} 


 In youthful spirits wild, 
 Smile, for all beams on thee; 
 Sport, sing, be still the child, 
 The flower, the honey-bee. 
 
 Bring not the future near, 
 For Joy too soon declines— 
 What is man's mission here? 
 Toil, where no sunlight shines! 
 
 Our lot is hard, we know; 
 From eyes so gayly beaming, 
 Whence rays of beauty flow, 
 Salt tears most oft are streaming. 
 
 Free from emotions past, 
 All joy and hope possessing, 
 With mind in pureness cast, 
 Sweet ignorance confessing. 
 
 Plant, safe from winds and showers, 
 Heart with soft visions glowing, 
 In childhood's happy hours 
 A mother's rapture showing. 
 
 Loved by each anxious friend, 
 No carking care within— 
 When summer gambols end, 
 My winter sports begin. 
 
 Sweet poesy from heaven 
 Around thy form is placed, 
 A mother's beauty given, 
 By father's thought is graced! 
 
 Seize, then, each blissful second, 
 Live, for joy sinks in night, 
 And those whose tale is reckoned, 
 Have had their days of light. 
 
 Then, oh! before we part, 
 The poet's blessing take, 
 Ere bleeds that aged heart, 
 Or child the woman make. 
 
 Dublin University Magazine. 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

DEATH, IN LIFE

 ("Ceux-ci partent.") 
 
 {Bk. III. v., February, 1843.} 


 We pass—these sleep 
 Beneath the shade where deep-leaved boughs 
 Bend o'er the furrows the Great Reaper ploughs, 
 And gentle summer winds in many sweep 
 Whirl in eddying waves 
 The dead leaves o'er the graves. 
 
 And the living sigh: 
 Forgotten ones, so soon your memories die. 
 Ye never more may list the wild bird's song, 
 Or mingle in the crowded city-throng. 
 Ye must ever dwell in gloom, 
 'Mid the silence of the tomb. 
 
 And the dead reply: 
 God giveth us His life. Ye die, 
 Your barren lives are tilled with tears, 
 For glory, ye are clad with fears. 
 Oh, living ones! oh, earthly shades! 
 We live; your beauty clouds and fades. 


 




Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

THE DANUBE IN WRATH

 ("Quoi! ne pouvez-vous vivre ensemble?") 
 
 {XXXV., June, 1828.} 


 The River Deity upbraids his Daughters, the contributary Streams:— 
 
 Ye daughters mine! will naught abate 
 Your fierce interminable hate? 
 Still am I doomed to rue the fate 
 That such unfriendly neighbors made? 
 The while ye might, in peaceful cheer, 
 Mirror upon your waters clear, 
 Semlin! thy Gothic steeples dear, 
 And thy bright minarets, Belgrade! 
 
 Fraser's Magazine