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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Victor Hugo (1802–1885)

“Tu domines notre âge; ange ou démon, qu’importe!”

Translation in Fraser’s Magazine

ANGEL or demon! thou—whether of light

The minister, or darkness—still dost sway

This age of ours; thine eagle’s soaring flight

Bears us, all breathless, after it away.

The eye that from thy presence fain would stray,

Shuns thee in vain; thy mighty shadow thrown

Rests on all pictures of the living day,

And on the threshold of our time alone,

Dazzling, yet sombre, stands thy form, Napoleon!

Thus, when the admiring stranger’s steps explore

The subject-lands that ’neath Vesuvius be,

Whether he wind along the enchanting shore

To Portici from fair Parthenope,

Or, lingering long in dreamy revery,

O’er loveliest Ischia’s od’rous isle he stray,

Wooed by whose breath the soft and am’rous sea

Seems like some languishing sultana’s lay,

A voice for very sweets that scarce can win its way:

Him, whether Pæstum’s solemn fane detain,

Shrouding his soul with meditation’s power;

Or at Pozzuoli, to the sprightly strain

Of tarantella danced ’neath Tuscan tower,

Listening, he while away the evening hour;

Or wake the echoes, mournful, lone, and deep,

Of that sad city, in its dreaming bower

By the volcano seized, where mansions keep

The likeness which they wore at that last fatal sleep;

Or be his bark at Posilippo laid,

While as the swarthy boatman at his side

Chants Tasso’s lays to Virgil’s pleasèd shade,—

Ever he sees throughout that circuit wide,

From shaded nook or sunny lawn espied,

From rocky headland viewed, or flow’ry shore,

From sea and spreading mead alike descried,

The Giant Mount, tow’ring all objects o’er,

And black’ning with its breath th’ horizon evermore!