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La Grand-Mère (The Grandmother)

To die - to sleep.
Shakespeare

« Dors-tu ?... réveille-toi, mère de notre mère !
Car ton sommeil souvent ressemble à ta prière.
Mais, ce soir, on dirait la madone de pierre ;
Ta lèvre est immobile et ton souffle est muet.
« Pourquoi courber ton front plus bas que de coutume ?
Quel mal avons-nous fait, pour ne plus nous chérir ?
Vois, la lampe pâlit, l'âtre scintille et fume ;
Si tu ne parles pas, le feu qui se consume,
Et la lampe, et nous deux, nous allons tous mourir !
« Tu nous trouveras morts près de la lampe éteinte.
Alors que diras-tu quand tu t'éveilleras ?
Tes enfants à leur tour seront sourds à ta plainte.
Pour nous rendre la vie, en invoquant ta sainte,
Il faudrait bien longtemps nous serrer dans tes bras.
« Donne-nous donc tes mains dans nos mains réchauffées,
Chante-nous quelque chant de pauvre troubadour.
Dis-nous ces chevaliers qui, servis par les fées,
Pour bouquets à leur dame apportaient des trophées,
Et dont le cri de guerre était un nom d'amour.
« Dis-nous quel divin signe est funeste aux fantômes ;
Quel ermite dans l'air vit Lucifer volant ;
Quel rubis étincelle au front du roi des gnomes ;
Et si le noir démon craint plus, dans ses royaumes,
Les psaumes de Turpin que le fer de Roland.
« Ou montre-nous ta bible, et les belles images,
Le ciel d'or, les saints bleus, les saintes à genoux,
L'enfant Jésus, la crèche, et le bœuf et les mages ;
Fais-nous lire du doigt, dans le milieu des pages,
Un peu de ce latin, qui parle à Dieu de nous.
« Mère !... Hélas ! par degrés s'affaisse la lumière,
L'ombre joyeuse danse autour du noir foyer,
Les esprits vont peut-être entrer dans la chaumière...
Oh ! sors de ton sommeil, interromps ta prière ;
Toi qui nous rassurais, veux-tu nous effrayer ?
« Dieu ! que tes bras sont froids ! rouvre les yeux... Naguère
Tu nous parlais d'un monde où nous mènent nos pas,
Et de ciel, et de tombe, et de vie éphémère,
Tu parlais de la mort ;... dis-nous, ô notre mère,
Qu'est-ce donc que la mort ?... - Tu ne nous réponds pas ! »
Leur gémissante voix longtemps se plaignit seule.
La jeune aube parut sans réveiller l'aïeule.
La cloche frappa l'air de ses funèbres coups ;
Et, le soir, un passant, par la porte entrouverte,
Vit, devant le saint livre et la couche déserte,
Les deux petits enfants qui priaient à genoux.

The Grandmother

To die ... to sleep.
-- Shakespeare

Still asleep! We have been since the noon thus alone.
Oh, the hours we have ceased to number!
Wake, grandmother! speechless say why thou art grown.
Then, thy lips are so cold! The Madonna of stone
Is like thee in thy holy slumber.
We have watched thee in sleep, we have watched thee at prayer,
But what can now betide thee?
Like thy hours of repose all thy orisons were,
And thy lips would still murmur a blessing whene'er
Thy children stood beside thee.

Now thine eye is unclosed, and thy forehead is bent
O'er the hearth, where ashes smoulder;
And behold, the watch-lamp will be speedily spent.
Art thou vexed? have we done aught amiss? Oh, relent!
But, parent, thy hands grow colder!
Say, with ours wilt thou let us rekindle in thine
The glow that has departed?
Wilt thou sing us some song of the days of lang syne?
Wilt thou tell us some tale, from those volumes divine,
Of the brave and noble-hearted?

Of the dragon who, crouching in forest green glen,
Lies in wait for the unwary?
Of the maid who was freed by her knight from the den
Of the Ogre, whose club was uplifted, but then
Turned aside by the wand of a fairy?
Wilt thou teach us spell-words that protect from all harm,
And thoughts of evil banish?
What goblins the sign of the cross may disarm,
What saint it is good to invoke, and what charm
Can make the demon vanish?

Or unfold to our gaze thy most wonderful book,
So feared by hell and Satan;
At its hermits and martyrs in gold let us look,
At the virgins, and bishops with pastoral crook,
And the hymns and the prayers in Latin.
Oft with legends of angels, who watch o'er the young,
Thy voice was wont to gladden;
Have thy lips yet no language, no wisdom thy tongue?
Oh, see! the light wavers, and sinking, hath flung
On the wall forms that sadden.

Wake! awake! evil spirits perhaps may presume
To haunt thy holy dwelling;
Pale ghosts are, perhaps, stealing into the room.
Oh, would that the lamp were relit, with the gloom
These fearful thoughts dispelling!
Thou hast told us our parents lie sleeping beneath
The grass, in a churchyard lonely;
Now th
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Victor Marie Hugo

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry but also rests upon his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831. Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed; he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, and his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time. He was buried in the Panthéon. more…

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