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A Year of Poetry – Day 13

 Above all others, everywhere I see
       His image cold or burning!
     My brain it thrills, and oftentime sets free
       The thoughts within me yearning.
     My quivering lips pour forth the words
       That cluster in his name of glory—
     The star gigantic with its rays of swords
       Whose gleams irradiate all modern story.

     I see his finger pointing where the shell
       Should fall to slay most rabble,
     And save foul regicides; or strike the knell
       Of weaklings 'mid the tribunes' babble.
     A Consul then, o'er young but proud,
       With midnight poring thinned, and sallow,
     But dreams of Empire pierce the transient cloud,
       And round pale face and lank locks form the halo.

     And soon the Caesar, with an eye a-flame
       Whole nations' contact urging
     To gain his soldiers gold and fame
       Oh, Sun on high emerging,
     Whose dazzling lustre fired the hells
       Embosomed in grim bronze, which, free, arose
     To change five hundred thousand base-born Tells,
       Into his host of half-a-million heroes!

     What! next a captive? Yea, and caged apart.
       No weight of arms enfolded
     Can crush the turmoil in that seething heart
       Which Nature—not her journeymen—self-moulded.
     Let sordid jailers vex their prize;
       But only bends that brow to lightning,
     As gazing from the seaward rock, his sighs
       Cleave through the storm and haste where France looms bright'ning.

     Alone, but greater! Broke the sceptre, true!
       Yet lingers still some power—
     In tears of woe man's metal may renew
       The temper of high hour;
     For, bating breath, e'er list the kings
       The pinions clipped may grow! the Eagle
     May burst, in frantic thirst for home, the rings
       And rend the Bulldog, Fox, and Bear, and Beagle!

     And, lastly, grandest! 'tween dark sea and here
       Eternal brightness coming!
     The eye so weary's freshened with a tear
       As rises distant drumming,
     And wailing cheer—they pass the pale
       His army mourns though still's the end hid;
     And from his war-stained cloak, he answers "Hail!"
       And spurns the bed of gloom for throne aye-splendid!

-- Victor Hugo, My Napoleon
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