Excerpt from the poem The Scaffold by Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
The star dropped its tear of light.
Its ray, like a dart which strikes and rebounds,
Struck the iron with a luminous shock; one would have said
As if the star of the axe was shining again.
Like a falling coal which from a fire detaches itself;
It was reflected in this mirror of fear;
On human justice and on human law
Of eternity calm August splash.
‘Has this iron made a wound in heaven?
I thought. On whom then does the haggard man strike?
What is thy mystery, O sword? ‘And my eyes
wandered, seeing nothing but through a veil,
from the drop of blood to the drop of a star.
This poem, which you can find in its entirety, evokes ‘human justice’ and speaks, of course, of the death penalty. Is it up to man to render such justice?
On October 9, 1981, the law abolishing the death penalty was promulgated. France is one of the last countries in Western Europe to abolish it, along with Switzerland, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
However, the death penalty still remains a debatable issue.
Victor Hugo as a young man