Clair de lune (Moonlight on the Bosphorus)

Victor Marie Hugo 1802 (Besançon) – 1885 (Paris)

La lune était sereine et jouait sur les flots. -
La fenêtre enfin libre est ouverte à la brise,
La sultane regarde, et la mer qui se brise,
Là-bas, d'un flot d'argent brode les noirs îlots.

De ses doigts en vibrant s'échappe la guitare.
Elle écoute... Un bruit sourd frappe les sourds échos.
Est-ce un lourd vaisseau turc qui vient des eaux de Cos,
Battant l'archipel grec de sa rame tartare ?

Sont-ce des cormorans qui plongent tour à tour,
Et coupent l'eau, qui roule en perles sur leur aile ?
Est-ce un djinn qui là-haut siffle d'une voix grêle,
Et jette dans la mer les créneaux de la tour ?

Qui trouble ainsi les flots près du sérail des femmes ? -
Ni le noir cormoran, sur la vague bercé,
Ni les pierres du mur, ni le bruit cadencé
Du lourd vaisseau, rampant sur l'onde avec des rames.

Ce sont des sacs pesants, d'où partent des sanglots.
On verrait, en sondant la mer qui les promène,
Se mouvoir dans leurs flancs comme une forme humaine... -
La lune était sereine et jouait sur les flots.

Moonlight on the Bosphorus

Bright shone the merry moonbeams dancing o'er the wave;
At the cool casement, to the evening breeze flung wide,
Leans the Sultana, and delights to watch the tide,
With surge of silvery sheen, yon sleeping islets lave.

From her hand, as it falls, vibrates the light guitar.
She listens—hark! that sound that echoes dull and low.
Is it the beat upon the Archipelago
Of some long galley's oar, from Scio bound afar?

Is it the cormorants, whose black wings, one by one,
Cut the blue wave that o'er them breaks in liquid pearls?
Is it some hovering sprite with whistling scream that hurls
Down to the deep from yon old tower a loosened stone?

Who thus disturbs the tide near the seraglio?
'Tis no dark cormorants that on the ripple float,
'Tis no dull plume of stone—no oars of Turkish boat,
With measured beat along the water creeping slow.

'Tis heavy sacks, borne each by voiceless dusky slaves;
And could you dare to sound the depths of yon dark tide,
Something like human form would stir within its side.
Bright shone the merry moonbeams dancing o'er the wave.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Victor Marie Hugo

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry but also rests upon his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831. Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed; he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, and his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time. He was buried in the Panthéon. more…

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"Clair de lune (Moonlight on the Bosphorus)" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 12 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/37670/clair-de-lune-(moonlight-on-the-bosphorus)>.

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