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XI. Lise
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

I was twelve; she was fully sixteen.
She was tall, and me, I was short.
To speak to her in the evenings more at my ease,
Me, I waited for her mother to leave,
Then I came and sat near her chair
To speak to her in the evenings more at my ease.

What springtimes passed with their flowers!
What dead fires and what closed tombs!
Is it remembered that in the past thus were hearts?
Is it remembered that in the past there were roses?
She loved me. I loved her. We were
Two pure children, two perfumes, two rays of light.

God had made her an angel, fairy and princess.
As she was much bigger than I,
I asked her questions without end
For the pleasure of saying to her: Why?
And at times she avoided, fearful,
My dreaming eye that made her grow pensive.

Then I rolled out my child's knowledge,
My games, my ball and spinning top;
I was quite proud to learn Latin;
I showed her my Phaedrus and Virgil;
I braved all; nothing touched me;
I told her: My father is a general.

Though one be a woman, one must sometimes read
In Latin, one must spell in dreaming;
To translate a line for here, in church,
I often leaned over her book.
An angel opened his white wings over us,
When we were at Vespers on Sunday.

She said of me: He's a child!
I called here Miss Lise.
To translate a psalm for her, very often,
I leaned over he book in church,
So well that, had you seen it, my God!
Her rosy cheek brushed my lips all afire.

Young loves, so quickly in bloom,
You are the dawn and the morning of the heart.
Charm the child, unheard of ecstasies!
And, when the evening comes with sorrow,
Charm again our hearts blown away,
Young loves, so quickly in bloom!

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurore): XI - Lise
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003

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