The Djinns by Victor Hugo

Town, tower,
Shore, deep,
Where lower
Cliff’s steep;
Waves gray,
Where play
Winds gay,
All sleep.

Hark! a sound,
Far and slight,
Breathes around
On the night
High and higher,
Nigh and nigher,
Like a fire,
Roaring, bright.

Now, on ’tis sweeping
With rattling beat,
Like dwarf imp leaping
In gallop fleet
He flies, he prances,
In frolic fancies,
On wave-crest dances
With pattering feet.

Hark, the rising swell,
With each new burst!
Like the tolling bell
Of a convent curst;
Like the billowy roar
On a storm-lashed shore,—
Now hushed, but once more
Maddening to its worst.

O God! the deadly sound
Of the Djinn’s fearful cry!
Quick, ‘neath the spiral round
Of the deep staircase fly!
See, see our lamplight fade!
And of the balustrade
Mounts, mounts the circling shade
Up to the ceiling high!

‘Tis the Djinns’ wild streaming swarm
Whistling in their tempest flight;
Snap the tall yews ‘neath the storm,
Like a pine flame crackling bright.
Swift though heavy, lo! their crowd
Through the heavens rushing loud
Like a livid thunder-cloud
With its bolt of fiery might!

Ho! they are on us, close without!
Shut tight the shelter where we lie!
With hideous din the monster rout,
Dragon and vampire, fill the sky!
The loosened rafter overhead
Trembles and bends like quivering reed;
Shakes the old door with shuddering dread,
As from its rusty hinge ‘twould fly!
Wild cries of hell! voices that howl and shriek!
The horrid troop before the tempest tossed—
O Heaven!—descends my lowly roof to seek:

Bends the strong wall beneath the furious host.
Totters the house as though, like dry leaf shorn
From autumn bough and on the mad blast borne,
Up from its deep foundations it were torn
To join the stormy whirl. Ah! all is lost!

O Prophet! if thy hand but now
Save from these hellish things,
A pilgrim at thy shrine I’ll bow,
Laden with pious offerings.
Bid their hot breath its fiery rain
Stream on the faithful’s door in vain;
Vainly upon my blackened pane
Grate the fierce claws of their dark wings!

They have passed!—and their wild legion
Cease to thunder at my door;
Fleeting through night’s rayless region,
Hither they return no more.
Clanking chains and sounds of woe
Fill the forests as they go;
And the tall oaks cower low,
Bent their flaming light before.

On! on! the storm of wings
Bears far the fiery fear,
Till scarce the breeze now brings
Dim murmurings to the ear;
Like locusts’ humming hail,
Or thrash of tiny flail
Plied by the fitful gale
On some old roof-tree sere.

Fainter now are borne
Feeble mutterings still;
As when Arab horn
Swells its magic peal,
Shoreward o’er the deep
Fairy voices sweep,
And the infant’s sleep
Golden visions fill.

Each deadly Djinn,
Dark child of fright,
Of death and sin,
Speeds in wild flight.
Hark, the dull moan,
Like the deep tone
Of Ocean’s groan,
Afar, by night!

More and more
Fades it slow,
As on shore
Ripples flow,—
As the plaint
Far and faint
Of a saint
Murmured low.

Hark! hist!
Around,
I list!
The bounds
Of space
All trace
Efface
Of sound.

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