Dictated Before The Rhone Glacier.

A poem by Victor Marie Hugo

("Souvent quand mon esprit riche.")

[VII., May 18, 1828.]

When my mind, on the ocean of poesy hurled,
Floats on in repose round this wonderful world,
Oft the sacred fire from heaven -
Mysterious sun, that gives light to the soul -
Strikes mine with its ray, and above the pole
Its upward course is driven,

Like a wandering cloud, then, my eager thought
Capriciously flies, to no guidance brought,
With every quarter's wind;
It regards from those radiant vaults on high,
Earth's cities below, and again doth fly,
And leaves but its shadow behind.

In the glistening gold of the morning bright,
It shines, detaching some lance of light,
Or, as warrior's armor rings;
It forages forests that ferment around,
Or bathed in the sun-red gleams is found,
Where the west its radiance flings.

Or, on mountain peak, that rears its head
Where snow-clad Alps around are spread,
By furious gale 'tis thrown.
From the yawning abyss see the cloud scud away,
And the glacier appears, with its multiform ray,
The giant mountain's crown!

Like Parnassian pinnacle yet to be scaled,
In its form from afar, by the aspirant hailed;
On its side the rainbow plays,
And at eve, when the shadow sinks sleeping below,
The last slanting ray on its crest of snow
Makes its cap like a crater to blaze.

In the darkness, its front seems some pale orb of light,
The chamois with fear flashes on in its flight,
The eagle afar is driven;
The deluge but roars in despair to its feet,
And scarce dare the eye its aspect to meet,
So near doth it rise to heaven.

Alone on these altitudes, feeling no fear,
Forgetful of earth, my spirit draws near;
On the starry vault to gaze,
And nearer, to gaze on those glories of night,
On th' horizon high heaving, like arches of light,
Till again the sun shall blaze.

For then will the glacier with glory be graced,
On its prisms will light streaked with darkness be placed,
The morn its echoes greet;
Like a torrent it falls on the ocean of life,
Like Chaos unformed, with the sea-stormy strife,
When waters on waters meet.

As the spirit of poesy touches my thought,
It is thus my ideas in a circle are brought,
From earth, with the waters of pain.
As under a sunbeam a cloud ascends,
These fly to the heavens - their course never ends,
But descend to the ocean again.

Author of "Critical Essays."

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