19th Century

The Sacking of the City (1825) | Victor Hugo

The following poem was written by Victor Hugo in 1825 and translated by John Sullivan. It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

(“La flamme par ton ordre, O roi!”)

{XXIII., November, 1825.}

Thy will, O King, is done! Lighting but to consume,

       The roar of the fierce flames drowned even the shouts and shrieks;

Reddening each roof, like some day-dawn of bloody doom,

       Seemed they in joyous flight to dance about their wrecks.

Slaughter his thousand giant arms hath tossed on high,

       Fell fathers, husbands, wives, beneath his streaming steel;

Prostrate, the palaces, huge tombs of fire, lie,

       While gathering overhead the vultures scream and wheel!

Died the pale mothers, and the virgins, from their arms,

       O Caliph, fiercely torn, bewailed their young years’ blight;

With stabs and kisses fouled, all their yet quivering charms,

       At our fleet coursers’ heels were dragged in mocking flight.

Lo! where the city lies mantled in pall of death;

       Lo! where thy mighty hand hath passed, all things must bend!

Priests prayed, the sword estopped blaspheming breath,

       Vainly their cheating book for shield did they extend.

Some infants yet survived, and the unsated steel

       Still drinks the life-blood of each whelp of Christian-kind,

To kiss thy sandall’d foot, O King, thy people kneel,

       And golden circlets to thy victor-ankle bind.