As if to say goodnight, with a richer hue,
The dying day paints on the holy cathedral,
Sketching out in broad strokes, the fiery horizon;
And the twin towers, those hymns of stone,
Are like two great arms that the city, in prayer,
Before falling asleep, raises towards God.
Just as its patron, with its gothic head,
The ancient church puts on a mystical glory
Made from the splendors of the night;
The roses of the stained-glass window, sparkling red,
Flake off suddenly, and like pupils,
Open, rounded so as to see.
And yet, beautiful as she is, O, Our Lady,
Paris dressed so in her robe of flame,
It is only so from the top of your towers.
When we descend, all is transformed,
Everything fades and goes out, grandiose no more,
Nothing, except you, who we always admire.
For the angels in Heaven, with the reflection of their wings,
Gild your black walls with solemn shadows,
And the Lord dwells in you.
A world of poetry, in this world of prose,
At the sight of you, we sense something beating in our hearts;
We are pious and full of faith!
To the caresses of the night, encrust you with gold,
When you shine from the depth of your petty place,
Like an immense monstrance under a purple canopy;
To view from below this sublime spectacle,
We believe that between your towers, by a sudden miracle,
In the triangle, Holy God will show Himself.
Extract from Notre-Dame by Théophile Gautier, in La comédie de la mort (1838).