Notre-Dame is very old: we may see her
Bury, however, Paris that she saw born;
But, in a few thousand years, Time will cause a stir
Like a wolf makes an ox, this heavy carcass,
Will twist his iron nerves, and then with a dull tooth
Sadly gnaw at its old rock bones!
Many men, from every country on earth
Will come, to contemplate this austere ruin,
Dreamers, and re-reading the book of Victor:
– Then they will think they see the old basilica,
Everything as it was, powerful and magnificent,
Get up before them like the shadow of a dead man!
Gérard de Nerval, Odelettes (1834)
Listen to this poem (reading Stéphane Bataillon):
It didn’t have to wait a thousand years for Gérard de Nerval’s prophecy to come true. This poem written following the novel by Victor Hugo, which Nerval affectionately mentions, rings true. Resonates loudly. Less by its account of the destruction of the building than for the evocation of the forces of imagination that Notre-Dame, even if reduced to a few stones, is able to awaken. A calm and luminous impulse that accompanies our gaze towards this greater than us. Like reading a poem that touches us, the cathedral inspires a new space, an interior space in which to feel the sacred. A happy transcendence that cannot end.
Stéphane Bataillon @sbataillon
Find this poem in the special Notre-Dame issue, on sale Friday April 10 in newsstands and exceptionally offered in digital format: la-croix.com/hebdonotredame