Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  To M. Louis Blanc, in Blois

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


To M. Louis Blanc, in Blois

By Victor Hugo (1802–1885)

Translated by Cora Kennedy Aitken

LEAVE the château behind you, black and strong,

With blood upon its front and all along

The tower eight-sided, where are Gorgon heads

Agape. Pass on, leave tower and town,

Climb the steep hill luxuriantly green,

On whose fresh summit one tall tree alone

Leans, as on shining helmet-top doth lean

A stately plume; a chestnut-tree that spreads

Its arms so far you see it as you come

Dreaming towards it from the antique city’s gloom.

The plain below in a blue mist doth lie;

The town like a vast amphitheatre piled

Climbs to the church; the river many-isled

Moves with the sails whose noiseless white wings fly

On the soft wind, and far beyond, Chambord

Shines with its hundred towers. Before

Your thoughts like birds light on the distant spires

And your keen glance admires,

Close at your feet look down upon

An old stone mansion roofed with slate, that white

And square stands at the green hill’s base alone,

Holding itself aloof from stranger sight,

But mid the orchard’s bloom expanding bright

With joyous freedom. ’T is my father’s roof;

Hither he came after the wars to rest,

And many a time my verse has given proof

To you, dear friend, of how I loved him best,

As you, if you had known him, would have loved!

Think there in precious, thankful ecstasy,

Of all who love you,—mother, sister, proved

And kind; and there for love’s sake say of me:

“For the dear friend I weep,

Who sees no more his father, fallen asleep;

Who has lost the sacred strength that did defend

With sure protection all his days,

The truest friend,

Best loved always!

“No more august old age with glory crowned,

Nor beautiful white hair by sons caressed,

By little children loved. No trumpet sound

Of warlike stories! He doth calmly rest,

And the son mourns, of life’s great pride bereft!”

To the true hearts that loved him naught remains

Of the stern veteran saved from bloody plains,

When war was weary, but an empty tomb

And this the orphaned home,

That white below the hill

Stands emptied of his love, although

It wears a kindly air of welcome still,

As a vase keepeth fast and sweet

The odor of the perfumes gone from it.