To Virgil – Victor Hugo

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Virgil! come, O poet, O my sacred master!
Let us leave this city with its sinister vain moan,
This gigantic city that never shuts its eyelids,
Squeezing frothy streams between its flanks of stone—
Tiniest Lutetia in the epoch of your Caesars,
Nowadays a massive chariot-filled home
Shedding, with a dazzling name that all the world names,
More of light than Athens, more of noise than Rome.

You that in the forest make mysterious verses
Drop from leaf to leaf like water from the skies,
I have found for you whose wisdom fills my reveries,
In the cheerful shadows where the flowering shrubbery lies,
Halfway from Meudon to Buc, in deep oblivion
(When I say “Meudon,” imagine Tivoli),
I have found you, poet, an uncorrupted valley
Where delightful hillsides mingle carelessly,
A most suitable retreat for secret lovers,
Made of hanging branches, with sleeping streams arrayed,
Where noon vainly bathes with its light-rays beyond number
Forest-depth and grotto, cool sanctuaries of shade.

Yes, for you I found it, one morning, proud and happy,
Dawn within my eyes and love within my heart,
Yes, for you I found it, in the presence of the one who
Knows the hidden things that my soul has kept apart,
Who, were I your Gallus, would be my Lycoris,
She and I alone, within the tousled bower.

She too has the mystic love of age-old nature,
She too has within her that pure and outspread flower!
Master, just as we do, she loves these gentle voices,
Sounds of joyful nests that leave the somber trees,
And at evening, in the depths of the slim valley,
Hillsides upside down in sparkling little seas,
And, when all the red has gone from the sad sunset,
Marshes irritated by the traveler’s tread,
All the humble cottages, the caverns choked with verdure
(Looking very much like mouths that gape with dread),
Waters, meadows, mountains, the delightful refuges,
And the broad horizons radiant with light.

Master, since it is the time of year for periwinkles,
If you like, parting the branches every night,
Never rousing up the echoes with rash footsteps,
We shall steal off into this wild valley in a mood
Of hushed reverie— just the three of us, two lovers
All alone— to spy on the secret solitude.
In the somber clearing, where the tree with its gnarled torso
After dark assumes a monstrous human form,
We shall leave the spent fires under the laburnum
With no shepherd there to keep the embers warm;
And, our ears extended for their muffled singing, keenly,
In the moonlit shadows, through the bushes, as we wait,
We may see the stealthy dancing of the satyrs
Which Alphesiboeus used to imitate.


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