Zara, The Bather

A poem by Victor Marie Hugo

("Sara, belle d'indolence.")

[XIX., August, 1828.]


In a swinging hammock lying,
Lightly flying,
Zara, lovely indolent,
O'er a fountain's crystal wave
There to lave
Her young beauty - see her bent.

As she leans, so sweet and soft,
Flitting oft,
O'er the mirror to and fro,
Seems that airy floating bat,
Like a feather
From some sea-gull's wing of snow.

Every time the frail boat laden
With the maiden
Skims the water in its flight,
Starting from its trembling sheen,
Swift are seen
A white foot and neck so white.

As that lithe foot's timid tips
Quick she dips,
Passing, in the rippling pool,
(Blush, oh! snowiest ivory!)
Frolic, she
Laughs to feel the pleasant cool.

Here displayed, but half concealed -
Half revealed,
Each bright charm shall you behold,
In her innocence emerging,
As a-verging
On the wave her hands grow cold.

For no star howe'er divine
Has the shine
Of a maid's pure loveliness,
Frightened if a leaf but quivers
As she shivers,
Veiled with naught but dripping trees.

By the happy breezes fanned
See her stand, -
Blushing like a living rose,
On her bosom swelling high
If a fly
Dare to seek a sweet repose.

In those eyes which maiden pride
Fain would hide,
Mark how passion's lightnings sleep!
And their glance is brighter far
Than the star
Brightest in heaven's bluest deep.

O'er her limbs the glittering current
In soft torrent
Rains adown the gentle girl,
As if, drop by drop, should fall,
One and all
From her necklace every pearl.

Lengthening still the reckless pleasure
At her leisure,
Care-free Zara ever slow
As the hammock floats and swings
Smiles and sings,
To herself, so sweet and low.

"Oh, were I a capitana,
Or sultana,
Amber should be always mixt
In my bath of jewelled stone,
Near my throne,
Griffins twain of gold betwixt.

"Then my hammock should be silk,
White as milk;
And, more soft than down of dove,
Velvet cushions where I sit
Should emit
Perfumes that inspire love.

"Then should I, no danger near,
Free from fear,
Revel in my garden's stream;
Nor amid the shadows deep
Dread the peep,
Of two dark eyes' kindling gleam.

"He who thus would play the spy,
On the die
For such sight his head must throw;
In his blood the sabre naked
Would be slak├Ęd,
Of my slaves of ebon brow.

"Then my rich robes trailing show
As I go,
None to chide should be so bold;
And upon my sandals fine
How should shine
Rubies worked in cloth-of-gold!"

Fancying herself a queen,
All unseen,
Thus vibrating in delight;
In her indolent coquetting
Quite forgetting
How the hours wing their flight.

As she lists the showery tinkling
Of the sprinkling
By her wanton curvets made;
Never pauses she to think
Of the brink
Where her wrapper white is laid.

To the harvest-fields the while,
In long file,
Speed her sisters' lively band,
Like a flock of birds in flight
Streaming light,
Dancing onward hand in hand.

And they're singing, every one,
As they run
This the burden of their lay:
"Fie upon such idleness!
Not to dress
Earlier on harvest-day!"

JOHN L. O'SULLIVAN.

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