In the frost, in the gale, a poor man was going past.
I rapped on the window pane; he paused in front of
My door, which I opened politely.
Donkeys were coming back saddled from the marketplace
With country folk perched on them.
He lives, this old man, in some humble dog's retreat
At the foot of the hill, quite alone, hoping
For a cold sunbeam from heaven, or half a farthing from earth,
With hands spread out to man or clasped to God.
'Come and warm up', I bellowed; 'what is your name?'
He said, 'I am the
Poor.' I took his hand. 'Come in, sir', I told him.
I got him a bowl of milk.
He was shivering with cold, the old fellow; he talked and
I answered without hearing, my thoughts elsewhere.
'Your clothes are all wet', I said; 'you should hang them in front of
The fireplace.' He moved closer to the fire.
His cloak, moth-eaten, and formerly blue,
Slung right across the warm blaze,
Riddled with thousands of holes by the light of the flames,
Shrouded the hearth, and looked like a black starry sky.
Then, while he dried those wretched tatters
Dripping with rain and ditch water,
I thought how this man was utterly steeped in prayer;
Deaf to what we were saying, I
Gazed at the cloth, in which I could see constellations.
(trans E.H. and A.M. Blackmore)
Source: The Essential Victor Hugo