A Queen Five Summers Old.

("Elle est toute petite.")
[Bk. XXVI.]
She is so little - in her hands a rose:
A stern duenna watches where she goes,
What sees Old Spain's Infanta - the clear shine
Of waters shadowed by the birch and pine.
What lies before? A swan with silver wing,
The wave that murmurs to the branch's swing,
Or the deep garden flowering below?
Fair as an angel frozen into snow,
The royal child looks on, and hardly seems to know.
As in a depth of glory far away,
Down in the green park, a lofty palace lay,
There, drank the deer from many a crystal pond,
And the starred peacock gemmed the shade beyond.
Around that child all nature shone more bright;
Her innocence was as an added light.
Rubies and diamonds strewed the grass she trode,
And jets of sapphire from the dolphins flowed.
Still at the water's side she holds her place,
Her bodice bright is set with Genoa lace;
O'er her rich robe, through every satin fold,
Wanders an arabesque in threads of gold.
From its green urn the rose unfolding grand,
Weighs down the exquisite smallness of her hand.
And when the child bends to the red leafs tip,
Her laughing nostril, and her carmine lip,
The royal flower purpureal, kissing there,
Hides more than half that young face bright and fair,
So that the eye deceived can scarcely speak
Where shows the rose, or where the rose-red cheek.
Her eyes look bluer from their dark brown frame:
Sweet eyes, sweet form, and Mary's sweeter name.
All joy, enchantment, perfume, waits she there,
Heaven in her glance, her very name a prayer.
Yet 'neath the sky, and before life and fate,
Poor child, she feels herself so vaguely great.
With stately grace she gives her presence high
To dawn, to spring, to shadows flitting by,
To the dark sunset glories of the heaven,
And all the wild magnificence of even;
On nature waits, eternal and serene,
With all the graveness of a little queen.
She never sees a man but on his knee,
She Duchess of Brabant one day will be,
Or rule Sardinia, or the Flemish crowd
She is the Infanta, five years old, and proud.
Thus is it with kings' children, for they wear
A shadowy circlet on their forehead fair;
Their tottering steps are towards a kingly chair.
Calmly she waits, and breathes her gathered flower
Till one shall cull for her imperial power.
Already her eye saith, "It is my right;"
Even love flows from her, mingled with affright.
If some one seeing her so fragile stand,
Were it to save her, should put forth his hand,
Ere he had made a step, or breathed a vow,
The scaffold's shadow were upon his brow.
While the child laughs, beyond the bastion thick
Of that vast palace, Roman Catholic,
Whose every turret like a mitre shows,
Behind the lattice something dreadful goes.
Men shake to see a shadow from beneath
Passing from pane to pane, like vapory wreath,
Pale, black, and still it glides from room to room;
In the same spot, like ghost upon a tomb;
Or glues its dark brown to the casement wan,
Dim shade that lengthens as the night draws on.
Its step funereal lingers like the swing
Of passing bell - 'tis death, or else the king.
'Tis he, the man by whom men live and die;
But could one look beyond that phantom eye,
As by the wall he leans a little space,
And see what shadows fill his soul's dark place,
Not the fair child, the waters clear, the flowers
Golden with sunset - not the birds, the bowers -
No; 'neath that eye, those fatal brows that keep
The fathomless brain, like ocean, dark and deep,
There, as in moving mirage, should one find
A fleet of ships that go before the wind:
On the foamed wave, and 'neath the starlight pale,
The strain and rattle of a fleet in sail,
And through the fog an isle on her white rock
Hearkening from far the thunder's coming shock.
Still by the water's edge doth silent stand
The Infanta with the rose-flower in her hand,
Caresses it with eyes as blue as heaven;
Sudden a breeze, such breeze as panting even
From her full heart flings out to field and brake,
Ruffles the waters, bids the rushes shake,
And makes through all their green recesses swell
The massive myrtle and the asphodel.
To the fair child it comes, and tears away
On its strong wing the rose-flower from the spray.
On the wild waters casts it bruised and torn,
And the Infanta only holds a thorn.
Frightened, perplexed, she follows with her eyes
Into the basin where her ruin lies,
Looks up to heaven, and questions of the breeze
That had not feared her highness to displease;
But all the pond is changed; anon so clear,
Now back it swells, as though with rage and fear;
A mimic sea its small waves rise and fall,
And the poor rose is broken by them all.
Its hundred leaves tossed wildly round and round
Beneath a thousand waves are whelmed and drowned;
It was a foundering fleet you might have said;
And the duenna with her face of shade, -
"Madam," for she had marked her ruffled mind,
"All things belong to princes - but God's wind."
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

Modified on March 05, 2023

4:36 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,804
Words 914
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 1, 9, 8, 16, 12, 37, 26

Victor-Marie Hugo

Victor Marie Hugo (French: [viktɔʁ maʁi yɡo] (listen); 7 Ventôse year X (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. During a literary career that spanned more than sixty years, he wrote abundantly in an exceptional variety of genres: lyrics, satires, epics, philosophical poems, epigrams, novels, history, critical essays, political speeches, funeral orations, diaries, letters public and private, and dramas in verse and prose. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris), 1831. In France, Hugo is renowned for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages). Hugo was at the forefront of the Romantic literary movement with his play Cromwell and drama Hernani. Many of his works have inspired music, both during his lifetime and after his death, including the musicals Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris. He produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime, and campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment. Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touched upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. His opposition to absolutism and his colossal literary achievement established him as a national hero. He was honoured by interment in the Panthéon.  more…

All Victor-Marie Hugo poems | Victor-Marie Hugo Books

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