The Degenerate Gallants.

A poem by Victor Marie Hugo

("Mes jeunes cavaliers.")

[HERNANI, Act I., March, 1830.]

What business brings you here, young cavaliers?
Men like the Cid, the knights of bygone years,
Rode out the battle of the weak to wage,
Protecting beauty and revering age.
Their armor sat on them, strong men as true,
Much lighter than your velvet rests on you.
Not in a lady's room by stealth they knelt;
In church, by day, they spoke the love they felt.
They kept their houses' honor bright from rust,
They told no secret, and betrayed no trust;
And if a wife they wanted, bold and gay,
With lance, or axe, or falchion, and by day,
Bravely they won and wore her. As for those
Who slip through streets when honest men repose,
With eyes turned to the ground, and in night's shade
The rights of trusting husbands to invade;
I say the Cid would force such knaves as these
To beg the city's pardon on their knees;
And with the flat of his all-conquering blade
Their rank usurped and 'scutcheon would degrade.
Thus would the men of former times, I say,
Treat the degenerate minions of to-day.


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