The Veil.

A poem by Victor Marie Hugo

("Qu'avez-vous, mes frères?")

[XI., September, 18288.]

"Have you prayed tonight, Desdemona?"


What has happened, my brothers? Your spirit to-day
Some secret sorrow damps
There's a cloud on your brow. What has happened? Oh, say,
For your eyeballs glare out with a sinister ray
Like the light of funeral lamps.
And the blades of your poniards are half unsheathed
In your belt - and ye frown on me!
There's a woe untold, there's a pang unbreathed
In your bosom, my brothers three!


Gulnara, make answer! Hast thou, since the dawn,
To the eye of a stranger thy veil withdrawn?


As I came, oh, my brother! at noon - from the bath -
As I came - it was noon, my lords -
And your sister had then, as she constantly hath,
Drawn her veil close around her, aware that the path
Is beset by these foreign hordes.
But the weight of the noonday's sultry hour
Near the mosque was so oppressive
That - forgetting a moment the eye of the Giaour -
I yielded to th' heat excessive.


Gulnara, make answer! Whom, then, hast thou seen,
In a turban of white and a caftan of green?


Nay, he might have been there; but I muflled me so,
He could scarcely have seen my figure. -
But why to your sister thus dark do you grow?
What words to yourselves do you mutter thus low,
Of "blood" and "an intriguer"?
Oh! ye cannot of murder bring down the red guilt
On your souls, my brothers, surely!
Though I fear - from the hands that are chafing the hilt,
And the hints you give obscurely.


Gulnara, this evening when sank the red sun,
Didst thou mark how like blood in descending it shone?


Mercy! Allah! have pity! oh, spare!
See! I cling to your knees repenting!
Kind brothers, forgive me! for mercy, forbear!
Be appeased at the cry of a sister's despair,
For our mother's sake relenting.
O God! must I die? They are deaf to my cries!
Their sister's life-blood shedding;
They have stabbed me each one - I faint - o'er my eyes
A veil of Death is spreading!


Gulnara, farewell! take that veil; 'tis the gift
Of thy brothers - a veil thou wilt never lift!


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