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A Poem by Victor Marie Hugo: The Old And The Young Bridegroom

 

The Old And The Young Bridegroom

[HERNANI, Act I.]

 

Listen. The man for whom your youth is destined,
Your uncle, Ruy de Silva, is the Duke
Of Pastrana, Count of Castile and Aragon.
For lack of youth, he brings you, dearest girl,
Treasures of gold, jewels, and precious gems,
With which your brow might outshine royalty;
And for rank, pride, splendor, and opulence,
Might many a queen be envious of his duchess!
Here is one picture. I am poor; my youth
I passed i’ the woods, a barefoot fugitive.
My shield, perchance, may bear some noble blazons
Spotted with blood, defaced though not dishonored.
Perchance I, too, have rights, now veiled in darkness,–
Rights, which the heavy drapery of the scaffold
Now hides beneath its black and ample folds;
Rights which, if my intent deceive me not,
My sword shall one day rescue. To be brief:–
I have received from churlish Fortune nothing
But air, light, water,–Nature’s general boon.
Choose, then, between us two, for you must choose;–
Say, will you wed the duke, or follow me?

DONNA SOL. I’ll follow you.

HERN. What, ‘mongst my rude companions,
Whose names are registered in the hangman’s book?
Whose hearts are ever eager as their swords,
Edged by a personal impulse of revenge?
Will you become the queen, dear, of my band?
Will you become a hunted outlaw’s bride?
When all Spain else pursued and banished me,–
In her proud forests and air-piercing mountains,
And rocks the lordly eagle only knew,
Old Catalonia took me to her bosom.
Among her mountaineers, free, poor, and brave,
I ripened into manhood, and, to-morrow,
One blast upon my horn, among her hills,
Would draw three thousand of her sons around me.
You shudder,–think upon it. Will you tread
The shores, woods, mountains, with me, among men
Like the dark spirits of your haunted dreams,–
Suspect all eyes, all voices, every footstep,–
Sleep on the grass, drink of the torrent, hear
By night the sharp hiss of the musket-ball
Whistling too near your ear,–a fugitive
Proscribed, and doomed mayhap to follow me
In the path leading to my father’s scaffold?

DONNA SOL. I’ll follow you.

HERN. This duke is rich, great, prosperous,
No blot attaches to his ancient name.
He is all-powerful. He offers you
His treasures, titles, honors, with his hand.

DONNA SOL. We will depart to-morrow. Do not blame
What may appear a most unwomanly boldness.

 

Victor Marie Hugo

 

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