My Napoleon

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

Above all others, everywhere I see
His image cold or burning;
My brain it thrills, and many time sets free
The thoughts within me yearning.
My quivering lips pour forth the words
That cluster in his name of glory,—
The star gigantic with its ray of swords
Whose gleams irradiate all modern story.

I see his finger pointing where the shell
Should fall to slay most rabble
And save foul regicides, or strike the knell
Of weaklings 'mid the tribunes' babble.
A consul then, o'er young but proud,
With midnight poring thinned and sallow;
But dreams of empire pierce the transient cloud,
And round pale face and lank locks form the halo.

And soon the Caesar, with an eye a-flame,
Whole nations' contact urging
To gain his soldiers gold and flame!
O Sun on high emerging,
Whose dazzling lustre fired the hells
Embosomed in grim bronze, which, free, rose
To change five hundred thousand base-born Tells
Into his host of half-million heroes!

What! next a captive? Yea, and caged apart.
No weight of arms enfolded
Can crush the turmoil in that seething heart
Which Nature—not her journeymen—self moulded.
Let sordid jailers vex their prize;
But only bends that blow to lightning,
As gazing from the seaward rock, his sighs
Cleave through the storm and haste where France lay bright'ning.

Alone, but greater! True, the sceptre's broke,
Yet lingers still some power.
In tears of woe man's metal may revoke
In temper of high hour;
For, baiting breath, e'er list the kings,—
The pinion clipped may grow! the eagle
May burst in frantic thirst for home the rings,
And rend the Bulldog, Fox and Bear, and Beagle!

And, lastly, grandest! 'tween dark sea and here
Eternal brightness coming!
The eye so weary's freshened with a tear
As rises distant drumming
And wailing cheer—they pass the pale:
His army mourns, though still's the end hid;
And from his war-stained cloak, he answers, 'Hail!
And spurns the bed of gloom for throne aye splendid!

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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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