Commentary on II Chanson (Un jour, Dieu sur sa table)

by Geoffrey Barto of

This amusing little poem doesn't come in for much commentary; it's largely self-explanatory. Mastaï-Feretti, it should be noted, was the given name of Pope Pious IX; said pope reinforced some of the "moral" tenets of Napoleon III's regime, among other things proscribing several of Hugo's books.

The poem's premise, that Napoleon III and Pious IX had been won by the devil in a card game, is not the most sophisticated taunt ever offered, but it underlines the intensity of Hugo's rejection of both. Given that the title of the book in which this poem appears is L'autorité est sacrée (Authority is crowned/consecrated), it is worth noting who installed the villains in power. This inversion of divine right lays bare the sarcastic nature of the book's title. I have included this poem for two reasons: first, because it is an amusing read, and second, because it spells out in simple terms the underlying assumptions of Puisque le juste... and A quatre prisonniers.


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