19th Century

The Patience of the People | Stephen Basdeo

Victor Hugo

(“Il s’est dit tant de fois.”)[1]

How often have the people said: “What’s power?”

Who reigns soon is dethroned? each fleeting hour

Has onward borne, as in a fevered dream,

Such quick reverses, like a judge supreme—

Austere but just, they contemplate the end

To which the current of events must tend.

Self-confidence has taught them to forbear,

And in the vastness of their strength, they spare.

Armed with impunity, for one in vain

Resists a nation, they let others reign.

[1] Original citation: G.W.M. Reynolds, ‘The Patience of the People’, in The Works of Victor Hugo, ed. by Isabel F. Hapgood, Huntington Smith and Helen B. Dole, 8 vols (New York: The Kelmscott Society, 1888), II, p. 96.

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