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II by Victor Hugo

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II by Victor Hugo
« on: August 04, 2020, 07:38:43 AM »
II by Victor Hugo
     But he saw nothing; space was black—no sound.
     "Forward," said Canute, raising his proud head.
     There fell a second stain beside the first,
     Then it grew larger, and the Cimbrian chief
     Stared at the thick vague darkness, and saw naught.
     Still as a bloodhound follows on his track,
     Sad he went on. 'There fell a third red stain
     On the white winding-sheet. He had never fled;
     Howbeit Canute forward went no more,
     But turned on that side where the sword arm hangs.
     A drop of blood, as if athwart a dream,
     Fell on the shroud, and reddened his right hand.
     Then, as in reading one turns back a page,
     A second time he changed his course, and turned
     To the dim left. There fell a drop of blood.
     Canute drew back, trembling to be alone,
     And wished he had not left his burial couch.
     But, when a blood-drop fell again, he stopped,
     Stooped his pale head, and tried to make a prayer.
     Then fell a drop, and the prayer died away
     In savage terror. Darkly he moved on,
     A hideous spectre hesitating, white,
     And ever as he went, a drop of blood
     Implacably from the darkness broke away
     And stained that awful whiteness. He beheld
     Shaking, as doth a poplar in the wind,
     Those stains grow darker and more numerous:
     Another, and another, and another.
     They seem to light up that funereal gloom,
     And mingling in the folds of that white sheet,
     Made it a cloud of blood. He went, and went,
     And still from that unfathomable vault
     The red blood dropped upon him drop by drop,
     Always, for ever—without noise, as though
     From the black feet of some night-gibbeted corpse.
     Alas! Who wept those formidable tears?
     The Infinite!—Toward Heaven, of the good
     Attainable, through the wild sea of night,
     That hath not ebb nor flow, Canute went on,
     And ever walking, came to a closed door,
     That from beneath showed a mysterious light.
     Then he looked down upon his winding-sheet,
     For that was the great place, the sacred place,
     That was a portion of the light of God,
     And from behind that door Hosannas rang.
     The winding-sheet was red, and Canute stopped.
     This is why Canute from the light of day
     Draws ever back, and hath not dared appear
     Before the Judge whose face is as the sun.
     This is why still remaineth the dark king
     Out in the night, and never having power
     To bring his robe back to its first pure state,
     But feeling at each step a blood-drop fall,
     Wanders eternally 'neath the vast black heaven.

     Dublin University Magazine

     {Footnote 1: King Canute slew his old father, Sweno, to obtain the crown.}

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