Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hugo's poem in honor of Louis XVII, the Lost King of France

Here is a poem by the great Victor Hugo in honor of the little son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the dauphin Louis-Charles, called Louis XVII. After being dragged from his mother's arms at the age of eight, he was tormented in the Temple prison, his morals corrupted in order to force him to testify against the queen and his aunt Madame Elisabeth. He died at the age of ten in 1795, covered with sores, tormented by disease, mute and alone.

The golden gates were opened wide that day,

All through the unveiled heaven there seemed to play

Out of the Holiest of Holy, light;

And the elect beheld, crowd immortal,

A young soul, led up by young angels bright,

Stand in the starry portal.

A fair child fleeing from the world's fierce hate,

In his blue eye the shade of sorrow sate,

His golden hair hung all dishevelled down

On wasted cheeks that told a mournful story,

And angels twined him with the innocent's crown,

The martyr's palm of glory.
The virgin souls that to the Lamb are near,

Called through the clouds with voices heavenly clear,

"God hath prepared a glory for thy brow;

Rest in his arms, and all ye hosts that sing

His praised ever on untired string,

Chant, for a mortal comes among ye now;

Do homage,--'tis a king!"

And the pale shadow saith to God in heaven:

"I am an orphan and no king at all;

I was a weary prisoner yestereven.

My father's murderers fed my soul with gall.

Not me, O Lord! the regal name beseems.

Last night I fell asleep in dungeon drear,

But then I saw my mother in my dreams.

Say, shall I find her here?"

The angels said: "Thy Saviour bids thee come;

Out of an impure world he calls thee home,

From the mad earth, where horrid murder waves

Over the broken cross her impure wings,

And regicides go down among the graves,

Scenting the blood of kings."

He cries: "Then have I finished my long life?

Are all its evils over, all its strife,

And will no cruel jailer evermore

Wake me to pain, this blissful vision o'er?

Is it no dream that nothing else remains

Of all my torments but this answered cry,

And have I had, O God! amid my chains,

The happiness to die?

"For none can tell what cause I had to pine,

What pangs, what miseries, each day were mine;

And when I wept there was no mother near

To soothe my cries, and smile away my tear.

Poor victim of a punishment unending,

Torn like a sapling from its mother-earth,

So young, I could not tell what crime impending

had stained me from my birth.

"Yet far off in dim memory, it seems,

With all its horror mingled happy dreams;

Strange cries of glory rocked my sleeping head,

And a glad people watched beside my bed.

One day into mysterious darkness thrown,

I saw the promise of my future close;

I was a little child, left all alone,

Alas! and I had foes.

"They cast me living in a dreary tomb;

Never mine eyes saw sunlight pierce the gloom.

Only ye, brother angels, used to sweep

Down from your heaven, and visit me in sleep.

'Neath blood-red hands my young life withered there.

Dear Lord, the bad are miserable all;

Be not thou deaf, like them, unto my prayer,

-- It is for them I call."

The angels sang: "See heaven's high arch unfold!

Come, we will crown thee with the stars above,

Will give thee cherub-wings of blue and gold,

And thou shalt learn our ministry of love,

Shalt rock the cradle where some mother's tears

Are dropping o'er her restless little one,

Or, with thy luminous breath, in distant spheres,

Shalt kindle some cold sun."

Ceased the full choir, all heaven was hushed to hear;

Bowed the fair face, still wet with many a tear;

In depths of space the rolling worlds were stayed

Whilst the Eternal in the infinite said, --
"O king, I kept thee far from human state,

Who hadst a dungeon only for thy throne,
O son! rejoice and bless they bitter fate,

-- The slavery of kings thou hast not known.

What if thy wasted arms are bleeding yet,

And wounded with the fetter's cruel trace.

No earthly diadem has ever set

A stain upon thy face.
"Child, life and hope were with thee at thy birth;

But life soon bowed thy tender form to earth,

And hope forsook thee in thy hour of need.

Come, for thy Saviour had his pains divine;

Come, for his brow was crowned with thorns like thine;

His sceptre was a reed."


elena maria vidal said...

The French title of the poem, "Capet,eveille-toi" or "Capet, wake up!" recalls how the little king was repeatedly awaken in the course of the night and prevented from a decent sleep, as an additional method of torture.

Anonymous said...

Another martyr of the Bourbon line. This brings to mind two things... First, upon the death of his father, the first action of his mother, sister and madame Elizabeth was to pay him obiesiance.

Second. Once again his death cannot be justified under any circumstances. Placed in the care of his captors without ever having committed a sin let alone a crime he was either carelessly killed or worse tortured to death; this is a blot on the republican government of France, which France has yet to rectify by denunciation or by a proper historical account.

God alone has the last word. I think it is yet to be written.

de Brantigny

Anonymous said...

Hello! After a search of years, this is the only poem (ode) I could ever find in honor of this young martyr only a decade ago. It had to be Victor Hugo.- But even when it is the only one it is most beautiful and speaks for all of us around the world who are sympathetic with the boy King Louis XVII.- THE WASTED SUN. All of the past, present and future sad personal stories of children, men and women will move me to tears but I, personally, believe there is no other as sad as this one.- I also believe that the French Republic has to come to terms with this terrible crime, which I find unforgivable. Let alone politics or fanaticism, he was a defenseless, parentless, 10-year old little boy. I am watching this week on TV one of the versions of Napoleon story, starring the French actor Christian Clavier and in it Fouche (one of the regicides) is played by Gerard Depardieu. (What a terrible fight there is on the right to the throne currently!) I still cannot understand how the French people, setting aside the royalty and religious issues, do not make justice to this little boy and get some peace of mind, as I do not think they (nor us) will ever achieve full peace of mind.- Also, indoubtedly, he deserves a place in the Catholic martirology.- By the way, Elena, I wish you could publish some time his picture (by Alexander Kurcharsky) at the age of 4. ( face and look are so sweet and innocent that you can see and feel he is talking to your soul from his very own heart! I only wish that his jailers secretly trated him not as bad as most reports show. They were parents too and most of them were former royal guards. But, alas, who can tell? Science is advancing so fast and gives us surprises every minute. Let's hope that someday that pure heart laying now at St. Denis Basilique can tell us a little more of his sad story. The only thing I regret that Monsieur Beauchesne did not tell us in his book what were the real feelings and opinions of Louis Charles' last guardians: Gomin and Lasne.- I will have a mass said in my local parish in honor of Louis XVI next January 21st.- We must push for Louis Charles place in Catholic altars.-Thanks.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, M. de Brantigny, the jailers tried to force the little boy to say "The revolution is eternal" but he replied,"Only God is eternal." For this he was beaten and kicked in the chest.

Thank you, Maru, for the link. I plan to do an article on Louis XVII soon that is more thorough. Nesta Webster says that with his mother's charm, wit, and beauty and with his father's kindness and intellect, he would have been one of the greatest kings of France.

elena maria vidal said...

I forgot to mention that I used the portrait from 1793 because it captures the little boy's confusion and fear at what was happening to his family.

Unknown said...

Please go through the below link:

I had been reading up on Louis XVI and his family and found the above about the last days of the Dauphin.

Moved me to tears and would like to pray for the tortured soul of the poor child

the last keepers of the boy were Jean Jacques Christophe Laurent (1770-1807), who had from the 8 November 1794 onwards assistance for his charge from a man named Gomin, These 2 treated him well, looked after him , took him out on short walks, played the violin for him

Amen....Let the regicides suffer in the dungeons of history

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the link!