To The Napoleon Column. by Victor Hugo

[Oct. 9, 1830.]

When with gigantic hand he placed,
For throne, on vassal Europe based,
That column’s lofty height–
Pillar, in whose dread majesty,
In double immortality,
Glory and bronze unite!
Aye, when he built it that, some day,
Discord or war their course might stay,
Or here might break their car;
And in our streets to put to shame
Pigmies that bear the hero’s name
Of Greek and Roman war.
It was a glorious sight; the world
His hosts had trod, with flags unfurled,
In veteran array;
Kings fled before him, forced to yield,
He, conqueror on each battlefield,
Their cannon bore away.
Then, with his victors back he came;
All France with booty teemed, her name
Was writ on sculptured stone;
And Paris cried with joy, as when
The parent bird comes home again
To th’ eaglets left alone.
Into the furnace flame, so fast,
Were heaps of war-won metal cast,
The future monument!
His thought had formed the giant mould,
And piles of brass in the fire he rolled,
From hostile cannon rent.
When to the battlefield he came,
He grasped the guns spite tongues of flame,
And bore the spoil away.
This bronze to France’s Rome he brought,
And to the founder said, “Is aught
Wanting for our array?”
And when, beneath a radiant sun,
That man, his noble purpose done,
With calm and tranquil mien,
Disclosed to view this glorious fane,
And did with peaceful hand contain
The warlike eagle’s sheen.
Round thee, when hundred thousands placed,
As some great Roman’s triumph graced,
The little Romans all;
We boys hung on the procession’s flanks,
Seeking some father in thy ranks,
And loud thy praise did call.
Who that surveyed thee, when that day
Thou deemed that future glory ray
Would here be ever bright;
Feared that, ere long, all France thy grave
From pettifoggers vain would crave
Beneath that column’s height?

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Translated by Author of “Critical Essays.”

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