Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Djinns - Victor Hugo

              Town, tower,
              Shore, deep,
              Where lower
              Cliffs steep;
              Waves gray,
              Where play
              Winds gay,—
              All sleep.

            Hark! a sound,
            Far and slight,
            Breathes around
            On the night:
            High and higher,
            Nigh and nigher,
            Like a fire
            Roaring bright.

          Now on ’t is sweeping
          With rattling beat,
          Like dwarf imp leaping
          In gallop fleet:
          He flies, he prances,
          In frolic fancies,
          On wave-crest dances
          With pattering feet.

        Hark, the rising swell,
        With each nearer burst
        Like the toll of bell
        Of a convent cursed;
        Like the billowy roar
        On a storm-lashed shore,—
        Now hushed, now once more
        Maddening to its worst.

      O God! the deadly sound
      Of the Djinns’ fearful cry!
      Quick, ’neath the spiral round
      Of the deep staircase fly!
      See, see our lamplight fade!
      And of the balustrade
      Mounts, mounts the circling shade
      Up to the ceiling high!

    ’T is the Djinns’ wild streaming swarm
    Whistling in their tempest-flight;
    Snap the tall yews ’neath the storm,
    Like a pine-flame crackling bright.
    Swift and heavy, lo, their crowd
    Through the heavens rushing loud,
    Like a livid thunder-cloud
    With its bolt of fiery night!

  Ha! they are on us, close without!
  Shut tight the shelter where we lie!
  With hideous din the monster rout,
  Dragon and vampire, fill the sky!
  The loosened rafter overhead
  Trembles and bends like quivering reed;
  Shakes the old door with shuddering dread,
  As from its rusty hinge ’t would fly!

Wild cries of hell! voices that howl and shriek!
The horrid swarm before the tempest tossed—
O Heaven!—descends my lowly roof to seek:
Bends the strong wall beneath the furious host.
Totters the house, as though, like dry leaf shorn
From autumn bough and on the mad blast borne,
Up from its deep foundations it were torn
To join the stormy whirl. Ah! all is lost!

  O Prophet! if thy hand but now
  Save from these foul and hellish things,
  A pilgrim at thy shrine I ’ll bow,
  Laden with pious offerings.
  Bid their hot breath its fiery rain
  Stream on my faithful door in vain,
  Vainly upon my blackened pane
  Grate the fierce claws of their dark wings!

    They have passed!—and their wild legion
    Cease to thunder at my door;
    Fleeting through night’s rayless region,
    Hither they return no more.
    Clanking chains and sounds of woe
    Fill the forests as they go;
    And the tall oaks cower low,
    Bent their flaming flight before.

      On! on! the storm of wings
      Bears far the fiery fear,
      Till scarce the breeze now brings
      Dim murmurings to the ear;
      Like locusts’ humming hail,
      Or thrash of tiny flail
      Plied by the pattering hail
      On some old roof-tree near.

        Fainter now are borne
        Fitful mutterings still;
        As, when Arab horn
        Swells its magic peal,
        Shoreward o’er the deep
        Fairy voices sweep,
        And the infant’s sleep
        Golden visions fill.

          Each deadly Djinn,
          Dark child of fright,
          Of death and sin,
          Speeds the wild flight.
          Hark, the dull moan,
          Like the deep tone
          Of ocean’s groan,
          Afar, by night!

            More and more
            Fades it now,
            As on shore
            Ripple’s flow,—
            As the plaint
            Far and faint
            Of a saint
            Murmured low.

              Hark! hist!
              I list!
              The bounds
              Of space
              All trace
              Of sound.

Victor Hugo (1802–1885) France
Translator not known
Source: The World’s Best Poetry, ed. by Bliss Carman, et al. Philadelphia: John D. Morris & Co., 1904

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