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Selected Poetry of Victor Hugo

The Turkish Captive

from: Les Orientales

Translated by: W.D., _Tait's Edin. Magazine_

_("Si je n'etait captive.")_

[IX., July, 1828.]

Oh! were I not a captive,
I should love this fair countree;
Those fields with maize abounding,
This ever-plaintive sea:
I'd love those stars unnumbered,
If, passing in the shade,
Beneath our walls I saw not
The spahi's sparkling blade.

I am no Tartar maiden
That a blackamoor of price
Should tune my lute and hold to me
My glass of sherbet-ice.
Far from these haunts of vices,
In my dear countree, we
With sweethearts in the even
May chat and wander free.

But still I love this climate,
Where never wintry breeze
Invades, with chilly murmur,
These open lattices;
Where rain is warm in summer,
And the insect glossy green,
Most like a living emerald,
Shines 'mid the leafy screen.

With her chapelles fair Smyrna--
A gay princess is she!
Still, at her summons, round her
Unfading spring ye see.
And, as in beauteous vases,
Bright groups of flowers repose,
So, in her gulfs are lying
Her archipelagoes.

I love these tall red turrets;
These standards brave unrolled;
And, like an infant's playthings,
These houses decked with gold.
I love forsooth these reveries,
Though sandstorms make me pant,
Voluptuously swaying
Upon an elephant.

Here in this fairy palace,
Full of such melodies,
Methinks I hear deep murmurs
That in the deserts rise;
Soft mingling with the music
The Genii's voices pour,
Amid the air, unceasing,
Around us evermore.

I love the burning odors
This glowing region gives;
And, round each gilded lattice,
The trembling, wreathing leaves;
And, 'neath the bending palm-tree,
The gayly gushing spring;
And on the snow-white minaret,
The stork with snowier wing.

I love on mossy couch to sing
A Spanish roundelay,
And see my sweet companions
Around commingling gay,--
A roving band, light-hearted,
In frolicsome array,--
Who 'neath the screening parasols
Dance down the merry day.
But more than all enchanting
At night, it is to me,
To sit, where winds are sighing,
Lone, musing by the sea;
And, on its surface gazing,
To mark the moon so fair,
Her silver fan outspreading,
In trembling radiance there.