The following poem was written by Victor Hugo in 1832 and related the misfortunes of the Duchess of Berri. It was published in Hugo’s Songs of Twilight (1836) collection, translated by G.W.M. Reynolds. Of the poem Reynolds said
The Political notions of the poet must not be judged by this Song. In condemning the conduct of an individual, who betrayed a woman to her enemies, he does not vituperate the subsequent measures which were necessarily adopted with regard to that noble personage: he simply anathematizes the name of a wretch, whose heart, devoid of all kind feelings of gratitude—of respect—and of pity, was corrupted by gold, and rendered subservient to the designs of his employers.
It likely relates to the fact that the well-liked Duchess, after the 1830 Revolution, was forced into ‘voluntary’ exile in Britain once Louis Phillippe ascended the throne.
The ruthless traitor! When for glitt’ring gold
A high-born lady to her foes he sold,
The deed involv’d not her disgrace alone,
But in its sad results proclaim’d his own,
While the untainted mem’ry of his sire
Was blacken’d by the nation in its ire,
And while a justly incens’d people’s tongues
Curs’d him who caus’d a noble lady’s wrongs.
Long may the hirelings of the wealthy great,
Well brib’d for crime,—long may the wretches wait,
Ere, in the course of unborn years, they see,
Thou ruthless traitor! one more vile than thee!
And who was he, that thus the weak betray’d?
Refuse of earth, a grov’lling renegade,
That call’d not France his parent-land, but bore
A stranger’s name to stigmatize her shore.
And had not soft’ning pity some controul,
Apostate Jew! upon thy selfish soul?
And could’st thou not respect the woes of her
That erst had many a courtly worshipper?
And didst thou not reflect, that, if heav’n’s will
A crown refus’d her, ‘twas a woman still!
Return to that obscurity, whence thou
Wast rashly suffer’d to emerge ere now:
Return to those vile dens—and haste to share
Th’eternal shame of those who gather there,
And who, for half a century, have fed
Upon the ruins that their vices spread:—
Like a plague-bearing mist, may’st thou pass hence
That men may shun thee as a pestilence!
And, oh! attempt not to excuse thy crime—
For thou, accursëd till the end of time,
Hast bought disgrace, and infamy, and scorn,
To make thee mourn the hour when thou wast born.
No friend will ope his cottage-door to thee
But like the fabled Wand’rer shalt thou be;
And tho’ thy wealth, so basely earn’d, command,
Where’er thou art, the lux’ries of the land,
Still shalt thou hear the voice of thousands rise,
To call on thee the vengeance of the skies.
Pursue thy path! And if thou hast no shame,
Thy gold rewards thee for thy traiťrous name!
Pursue thy path! And, as a constant guest,
Will deep remorse thine ev’ry hour molest!
Pursue thy path! And as the years roll by,
May public hatred mark thy memory—
That deathless hate, which like the firtree grows
Un – check’d by angry storms, or winter’s snows.
And, oh! when Death, with all his chilling gloom,
Shall snatch thee trembling to the dreary tomb
That tomb, whose very stillness to the sense
Of man conveys all Death’s omnipotence
When, from this life the last short step past o’er,
Thy spirit flies unto another shore;
When, from the glitt’ring heap that Death shall bear
Thy quiv’ring form, so idly clinging there
And when, with giant force, his hand shall throw
From thine the gold that purchas’d future woe—
Then, in those depths of horror and of pain
Where sinners mourn their turpitude in vain
Those depths, whose secrets Danté whilome saw
In dreams which struck his inward soul with awe
There, in those depths, shalt thou for evermore
The cowardly deed, that stamp’d thy fate, deplore;
And ‘midst the angels fallen from above,
The most afflicted, shall thy spirit rove,
Shunn’d by the shades of them that, erst on earth,
Were branded from the moment of their birth,
And whose cupidity, like thine, was won
To wrong the widow, persecute the son,
And crush the fatherless!
All these will throw
Insult upon thee in the realms below:—
Judas, betrayer of his God for gold,
Leclerc, by whom the leaguer’d town was sold,
And Louvel, stain’d with blood, from thee shall turn,
While in their pride, thine outstretch’d hand they spurn.