19th Century

Napoleon (1838) | Victor Hugo

The following poem, celebrating the life and deeds of Napoleon, was first written by Victor Hugo in the 1830s. It was later translated for the Monthly Magazine (probably by G.W.M. Reynolds, who had previously translated several of Hugo’s works and who was also the editor of the magazine), and published in its September 1838 issue. It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

Illustration of Napoleon (Stephen Basdeo Personal Collection)

O saint of our land, but our ruler no more,

We will yet bear thy bones from that desolate shore:

Our eyelids are moist with the tears we have shed,

But the tri-coloured banner waves over our head,

And with that for a symbol, as erst with thine own,

We will fight till thy foemen be slaughtered and strown,

And then may the rites of thy fun’ral be crowned

By the garlands that we in our wars shall have found:

With them we will circle thy coffin, and call

The people of earth to lament for thy fall;

And the hymn of the Muse shall flow softly and free,

To welcome the presence of young Liberty!—

Reposing in glory, with us shalt thou rest;

Beneath thine own column thy bones shall be blest;

The sky, as thy curtain of blue, shall be spread,

And the foot of our armies pass over thine head:—

And the crowds shall collect like the waves of the sea,

And, as they roll onwards, do homage to thee!—

If they keep for their tyrants a dungeon and chain,

Still their voices shall echo thy praises again;

And the sound of their wail shall resemble the din

Of the sea-beaten rock when the tide rushes in;

And thy spirit shall hover in Joy evermore

Round thy relics brought back from a desolate shore!