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Selected Poetry of Victor Hugo

Moonlight on the Bosphorus

from: Les Orientales

Translated by: JOHN L. O'SULLIVAN

_("La lune etait sereine.")_

[X., September, 1828.]

Bright shone the merry moonbeams dancing o'er the wave;
At the cool casement, to the evening breeze flung wide,
Leans the Sultana, and delights to watch the tide,
With surge of silvery sheen, yon sleeping islets lave.

From her hand, as it falls, vibrates the light guitar.
She listens--hark! that sound that echoes dull and low.
Is it the beat upon the Archipelago
Of some long galley's oar, from Scio bound afar?

Is it the cormorants, whose black wings, one by one,
Cut the blue wave that o'er them breaks in liquid pearls?
Is it some hovering sprite with whistling scream that hurls
Down to the deep from yon old tower a loosened stone?

Who thus disturbs the tide near the seraglio?
'Tis no dark cormorants that on the ripple float,
'Tis no dull plume of stone--no oars of Turkish boat,
With measured beat along the water creeping slow.

'Tis heavy sacks, borne each by voiceless dusky slaves;
And could you dare to sound the depths of yon dark tide,
Something like human form would stir within its side.
Bright shone the merry moonbeams dancing o'er the wave.