Written in 1827
by Victor Hugo
I am sad when I see the man.
The real thing is decreasing in people’s minds.
The shadow that once drowned Rome
Begins to overwhelm Paris.
The sly kings, for fear of crises,
Give the people a sedative.
They make surprise boxes that
they call charter and oath.
Alas! our angels are vampires;
Our alabaster is worth coal;
And our best would be the worst
Of a time that wouldn’t be good.
Right lies, the wise intrigue;
Our sweetness, sad semblance,
Is only the fear of fatigue
That we would have to be violent.
Our adulterated austerity
Admits neither Hampden nor Brutus;
The atheist’s syllogism
Is at ease in our virtues.
Shame floats on the dead honor.
We see, quick to take the fold,
Recompose into a helot
The demolished Spartan.
The sky turns pale; the fronts vegetate;
The worker’s bread is black;
And insulting priests throw
mud with the censer.
It is hardly, O dark years!
If the eyes of man darkened,
Dawn and reason condemned,
Obtain from the shadow a reprieve.
The past reigns; he threatens us;
The throne is his first subject;
Afterwards, he puts his tenacious tooth back
On the human spirit he was gnawing.
The prince is a good man; the street
Yet is bloody. – Well done !
Said Dracon. – The crane royalty Climb
on the joist king.
sewers, Consciences are sewers;
One would sell France to the Cossacks,
The other would sell the soul to owls.
Dark religion employs
For blood, war and iron,
The texts from heaven that it bends
In the monstrous sense of hell.
Fame to the winds repeats
Impure names evening and morning,
And one can see with his trumpet
Fortune, intoxicated queen,
Of this old Paris, our ancestor,
puts on Him such a livery
That we would prefer the shroud.
Victory is funny;
This vivandière with the bare flank
laughs at being led on a leash
By the first goujat.
Point de Condés, from La Feuillades;
Mars and Venus in their hutch;
I do not admire the glances
From this girl to this trooper.
Everywhere gold on decay,
The ideal in the grip of mockers,
A lowering of stature
Agreeing with the night of hearts.