The Son In Old Age – Victor Marie Hugo

Thy noble face, Regina, calls to mind

My poor lost little one, my latest born.

He was a gift from God–a sign of pardon–

That child vouchsafed me in my eightieth year!

I to his little cradle went, and went,

And even while ’twas sleeping, talked to it.

For when one’s very old, one is a child!

Then took it up and placed it on my knees,

And with both hands stroked down its soft, light hair–

Thou wert not born then–and he would stammer

Those pretty little sounds that make one smile!

And though not twelve months old, he had a mind.

He recognized me–nay, knew me right well,

And in my face would laugh–and that child-laugh,

Oh, poor old man! ’twas sunlight to my heart.

I meant him for a soldier, ay, a conqueror,

And named him George. One day–oh, bitter thought!

The child played in the fields. When thou art mother,

Ne’er let thy children out of sight to play!

The gypsies took him from me–oh, for what?

Perhaps to kill him at a witch’s rite.

I weep!–now, after twenty years–I weep

As if ’twere yesterday. I loved him so!

I used to call him ‘my own little king!’

I was intoxicated with my joy

When o’er my white beard ran his rosy hands,

Thrilling me all through. 

The Old & The Young Bridgegroom – Victor Marie Hugo


Listen. The man for whom your youth is destined,

Your uncle, Ruy de Silva, is the Duke

Of Pastrana, Count of Castile and Aragon.

For lack of youth, he brings you, dearest girl,

Treasures of gold, jewels, and precious gems,

With which your brow might outshine royalty;

And for rank, pride, splendor, and opulence,

Might many a queen be envious of his duchess!

Here is one picture. I am poor; my youth

I passed i’ the woods, a barefoot fugitive.

My shield, perchance, may bear some noble blazons

Spotted with blood, defaced though not dishonored.

Perchance I, too, have rights, now veiled in darkness,–

Rights, which the heavy drapery of the scaffold

Now hides beneath its black and ample folds;

Rights which, if my intent deceive me not,

My sword shall one day rescue. To be brief:–

I have received from churlish Fortune nothing

But air, light, water,–Nature’s general boon.

Choose, then, between us two, for you must choose;–

Say, will you wed the duke, or follow me?
DONNA SOL. I’ll follow you.
HERN. What, ‘mongst my rude companions,

Whose names are registered in the hangman’s book?

Whose hearts are ever eager as their swords,

Edged by a personal impulse of revenge?

Will you become the queen, dear, of my band?

Will you become a hunted outlaw’s bride?

When all Spain else pursued and banished me,–

In her proud forests and air-piercing mountains,

And rocks the lordly eagle only knew,

Old Catalonia took me to her bosom.

Among her mountaineers, free, poor, and brave,

I ripened into manhood, and, to-morrow,

One blast upon my horn, among her hills,

Would draw three thousand of her sons around me.

You shudder,–think upon it. Will you tread

The shores, woods, mountains, with me, among men

Like the dark spirits of your haunted dreams,–

Suspect all eyes, all voices, every footstep,–

Sleep on the grass, drink of the torrent, hear

By night the sharp hiss of the musket-ball

Whistling too near your ear,–a fugitive

Proscribed, and doomed mayhap to follow me

In the path leading to my father’s scaffold?
DONNA SOL. I’ll follow you.
HERN. This duke is rich, great, prosperous,

No blot attaches to his ancient name.

He is all-powerful. He offers you

His treasures, titles, honors, with his hand.
DONNA SOL. We will depart to-morrow. Do not blame

What may appear a most unwomanly boldness.