[credit: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie]
Capet, éveille-toi! by Victor Hugo
[Translation from Louis XVII: A Bibliography.]
Heaven's golden gates were opened wide one day,
And through them shot one glittering, dazzling ray
From the veiled Glory, through the shining bars,
Whilst the glad armies of the ransomed dead
Welcomed a spirit by child-angels led
Beneath the dome of stars.
From griefs untold that boy-soul took its flight,
Sorrow had dimmed his eyes and quenched their light;
Round his pale features floats his golden hair;
Whilst virgin souls with songs of welcome stand
With martyr palms to fill his childish hand,
And crown him with that crown the Innocents should wear.
Hark! Hear th' angelic hosts their song begin;
New angel! Heaven is open — enter in,
Come to thy rest; thine earthly griefs are o'er.
God orders all who chant in praise of Him,
Prophets, archangels, seraphim,
To hail thee as a King and Martyr evermore!
When did I reign? the gentle spirit cries.
I am a captive, not a crowned king.
Last night in a sad tower I closed my eyes.
When did I reign? O Lord, explain this thing.
My father's death still fills my heart with fear.
A cup of gall to me, his son, was given. I am an orphan. Is my mother here?
I always see her in my dreams of heaven.
The angels answered: God the Wise and Good,
Dear boy, hath called thee from the evil world, A world that tramples on the Blessed Rood,
Where regicides with ruthless hands have hurled Kings from their thrones,
And from their very graves have tossed their mouldering bones. What! is my long, sad, weary waiting o'er?
The child exclaimed. Has all been suffered, then? Is it quite true that from this dream no more
I shall be rudely waked by cruel men? Ah! in my prison every day I prayed,
How long, O God, before some help will come? Oh, can this be a dream? I feel afraid —
Can I have died, and be at last at home?
You know not half my griefs that long sad while;
Each day life seemed more terrible to bear;
I wept, but had no mother's pitying smile,
No dear caress to soften my despair.
It seemed as if some punishment were sent
Through me some unknown sin to expiate.
I was so young — ere knowing what sin meant
Could I have earned my fate?
Vaguely, far off, my memory half recalls
Bright, happy days before these days of fear; Asleep a glorious murmur sometimes falls
Of cheers and plaudits on my childish ear. Then I remember all this passed away;
Mysteriously its brightness ceased to be; A lonely, friendless boy I helpless lay,
And all men hated me.
My young life in a living tomb they threw;
My eyes no more beheld the sun's bright beams; But now I see you angels, brothers, who
So often came to watch me in my dreams. Men crushed my life in those hard hands of theirs.
But they had wrongs. O Lord, do not condemn! Be not as deaf as they were to my prayers!
I want to pray for them.
The angels chanted: Heaven's holiest place
Welcomes thee in. We'll crown thee with a star; Blue wings of cherubim thy form shall grace,
On which to float afar.
Come with us. Thou shalt comfort babes who weep
In unwatched cradles in the world below,
Or bear fresh light on wings of glorious sweep
To suns that burn too low.
The angels paused. The child's eyes filled with tears.
On heaven an awful silence seemed to fall.
The Father spake, and echoing through the spheres
His voice was heard by all.
My love, dear king, preserved thee from the fate
Of earth-crowned kings whose griefs thou hast not known.
Rejoice, and join the angels' happy hymns.
Thou hast not known the slavery of the great;
Thy brow was never bruised beneath a crown,
Though chains were on thy limbs.
What though life's burden crushed thy tender frame,
Child of bright hopes, heir of a royal name!
Better to be
Child of that blessed One who suffered scorn,
Heir of that King who wore a crown of thorn,
Hated and mocked — like thee.