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A Poem by Victor Marie Hugo: The Old Man’s Love

 

 

The Old Man’s Love

O mockery! that this halting love
That fills the heart so full of flame and transport,
Forgets the body while it fires the soul!
If but a youthful shepherd cross my path,
He singing on the way–I sadly musing,
He in his fields, I in my darksome alleys–
Then my heart murmurs: ‘O, ye mouldering towers!
Thou olden ducal dungeon! O how gladly
Would I exchange ye, and my fields and forests,
Mine ancient name, mine ancient rank, my ruins–
My ancestors, with whom I soon shall lie,
For _his_ thatched cottage and his youthful brow!’
His hair is black–his eyes shine forth like _thine_.
Him thou might’st look upon, and say, fair youth,
Then turn to me, and think that I am old.
And yet the light and giddy souls of cavaliers
Harbor no love so fervent as their words bespeak.
Let some poor maiden love them and believe them,
Then die for them–they smile. Aye! these young birds,
With gay and glittering wing and amorous song,
Can shed their love as lightly as their plumage.
The old, whose voice and colors age has dimmed,
Flatter no more, and, though less fair, are faithful.
When _we_ love, we love true. Are our steps frail?
Our eyes dried up and withered? Are our brows
Wrinkled? There are no wrinkles in the heart.
Ah! when the graybeard loves, he should be spared;
The heart is young–_that_ bleeds unto the last.
I love thee as a spouse,–and in a thousand
Other fashions,–as sire,–as we love
The morn, the flowers, the overhanging heavens.
Ah me! when day by day I gaze upon thee,
Thy graceful step, thy purely-polished brow,
Thine eyes’ calm fire,–I feel my heart leap up,
And an eternal sunshine bathe my soul.
And think, too! Even the world admires,
When age, expiring, for a moment totters
Upon the marble margin of a tomb,
To see a wife–a pure and dove-like angel–
Watch over him, soothe him, and endure awhile
The useless old man, only fit to die;
A sacred task, and worthy of all honor,
This latest effort of a faithful heart;
Which, in his parting hour, consoles the dying,
And, without loving, wears the look of love.
Ah! thou wilt be to me this sheltering angel,
To cheer the old man’s heart–to share with him
The burden of his evil years;–a daughter
In thy respect, a sister in thy pity.

DONNA SOL. My fate may be more to precede than follow.
My lord, it is no reason for long life
That we are young! Alas! I have seen too oft
The old clamped firm to life, the young torn thence;
And the lids close as sudden o’er their eyes
As gravestones sealing up the sepulchre.

Victor Marie Hugo

 

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