Imperial Revels (Poem by Victor Hugo)

Old Poem



Imperial Revels
By Victor Hugo


Cheer, courtiers! round the banquet spread — 
        The board that groans with shame and plate,
Still fawning to the sham-crowned head
        That hopes front brazen turneth fate!
Drink till the comer last is full,
And never hear in revels' lull,
Grim Vengeance forging arrows fleet,
    Whilst I gnaw at the crust
    Of Exile in the dust — 
But Honor makes it sweet!

Ye cheaters in the tricksters' fane,
        Who dupe yourself and trickster-chief,
In blazing cafés spend the gain,
        But draw the blind, lest at his thief
Some fresh-made beggar gives a glance
And interrupts with steel the dance!
But let him toilsomely tramp by,
    As I myself afar
    Follow no gilded car
In ways of Honesty.

Ye troopers who shot mothers down,
        And marshals whose brave cannonade
Broke infant arms and split the stone
        Where slumbered age and guileless maid — 
Though blood is in the cup you fill,
Pretend it "rosy" wine, and still
Hail Cannon "King!" and Steel the "Queen!"
    But I prefer to sup
    From Philip Sidney's cup — 
True soldier's draught serene.

Oh, workmen, seen by me sublime,
        When from the tyrant wrenched ye peace,
Can you be dazed by tinselled crime,
        And spy no wolf beneath the fleece?
Build palaces where Fortunes feast,
And bear your loads like well-trained beast,
Though once such masters you made flee!
    But then, like me, you ate
    Food of a blessed fête — 
The bread of Liberty!

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