Two Travellers in the Place Vendome
Reign of Louis Philippe
A great tall column spearing at the sky
With a little man on top. Goodness! Tell me why?
He looks a silly thing enough to stand up there so high.
What a strange fellow, like a soldier in a play,
Tight-fitting coat with the tails cut away,
High-crowned hat which the brims overlay.
Two-horned hat makes an outline like a bow.
Must have a sword, I can see the light glow
Between a dark line and his leg. Vertigo
I get gazing up at him, a pygmy flashed with sun.
A weathercock or scarecrow or both things in one?
As bright as a jewelled crown hung above a throne.
Say, what is the use of him if he doesn't turn?
Just put up to glitter there, like a torch to burn,
A sort of sacrificial show in a lofty urn?
But why a little soldier in an obsolete dress?
I'd rather see a Goddess with a spear, I confess.
Something allegorical and fine. Why, yes —
I cannot take my eyes from him. I don't know why at all.
I've looked so long the whole thing swims. I feel he ought to fall.
Foreshortened there among the clouds he's pitifully small.
What do you say? There used to be an Emperor standing there,
With flowing robes and laurel crown. Really? Yet I declare
Those spiral battles round the shaft don't seem just his affair.
A togaed, laurelled man's I mean. Now this chap seems to feel
As though he owned those soldiers. Whew! How he makes one reel,
Swinging round above his circling armies in a wheel.
Sweeping round the sky in an orbit like the sun's,
Flashing sparks like cannon-balls from his own long guns.
Perhaps my sight is tired, but that figure simply stuns.
How low the houses seem, and all the people are mere flies.
That fellow pokes his hat up till it scratches on the skies.
Impudent! Audacious! But, by Jove, he blinds the eyes!