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Magnitudo parvi:

Magnitudo parvi
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

The day was dying; I stood by the sea on the strand.
My daughter, dreamy child, I had by the hand,
The young soul was still and silent!
Rolling like a sinking ship caught up in a swell,
The earth pitched on through space as the darkness fell;
And the pale night began its ascent.

In the clouds appeared the brow of the pale night;
As pallid and diminished, the world fell from sight,
Of color and form deprived;
As the darkness rises, so the ash does fall;
So the moment one felt the sadness cast its pall
At once the sorrow arrived.

Those whose pensive eyes watched nature from the ground
Saw the urn above, vague and dark and round,
As it tilted in the sky,
And poured out over mountains and also fields of gold,
And also muddled waves, murmuring stories best untold,
The silent night from on high.

The clouds slid along the length of the promontory;
My soul, where feelings mixed of both darkness and glory,
Sensed with some confusion
Out of this ocean, out of this earth before me,
Slip out beneath God's eye a thing of majesty, austerity,
And charm all in fusion.

I had my dearest daughter right there at my side.
The night was a cloud of smoke slowly spreading wide.
Jehovah, as I grieve
I look within myself and see within my eyelids low
What comes into our thoughts - for there comes a shadow -
When our sun does leave.

Suddenly the blessed child, angel with a woman's look,
Angel whose hand I was holding, who once my heart took,
Sweet voice, spoke to me,
And showed me the dark water, and the bank both brown and
Grim and then two shining points trembling on the sand:
- Father, look, - said she,

"Look over there: the shadows of the hillside make a line
"And like a double lamp, two twin fires shine
"Flickering, by the wind riled!
"Which are these hearths by fog veiled, still seen from afar?"
"The one is a shepherd's hearth and the other is a star;
"Two worlds they are, my child!"

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002

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