The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

That night it rained, the tide was high...:

VIII ("Cette nuit, il pleuvait...")
Victor Hugo

Translation by Geoffrey Barto

C ette nuit, il pleuvait, la marée était haute, / That night it rained, the tide was high,
Un brouillard lourd et gris couvrent toute la côte, / A heavy, grey fog covered all the coast,
Les brisants aboyaient comme des chiens, le flot / The breakers barked like dogs, the waves
Aux pleurs du ciel profond joignait son noir sanglot, / Joined their black sobs to the weeping of the sky,
L'infini secouait et mêlait dans son urne / Infinity shook and in its urn mixed up
Les sombres tournoîments de l'abîme nocturne; / The dark whirlings of the nocturnal abyss.
Les bouches de la nuit semblaient rugir dans l'air. / The night's mouths seemed to roar in the air
J'entendais le canon d'alarme sur la mer. / I heard the warning cannon by the sea.
Des marins en détresse appelaient à leur aide. / Sailors in danger calling for help.
Dans l'ombre où la rafale aux rafales succède, / In the shade where blast followed blast,
Sans pilote, sans mât, sans ancre, sans abri, / Without pilot, without mast, without anchor or shelter,
Quelque vaisseau perdu jetait son dernier cri. / Some lost vessel let out its last cry.
Je sortis. Une vieille, en passant effarée, / I left. An old woman, passing by troubled,
Me dit : - il a péri. C'est un chasse-marée. / Told me: "It perished. It's a little fishing boat.
Je courus à la grève et ne vis qu'un linceul / I ran to the sea side and only saw a shroud
De brouillard et de nuit, et l'horreur, et moi seul; / Of fog, and of night, and of horror, and me alone;
Et la vague, dressant sa tête sur l'abîme, / And the wave, turning its face to the abyss,
Comme pour e'loigner un témoin de son crime, / As if to send away a witness to its crime,
Furieuse, se mit à hurler après moi. / Furious, begin to howl after me.

Qu'es-tu donc, Dieu jaloux, Dieu d'épreuve et d'effroi, / What are you then, jealous God, God of testing and terror,
Dieu des écroulement, des gouffres, des orages, / God of collapses, of gulfs, of storms,
Que tu n'es pas content de tant de grands naufrages, / That you are not happy with so many shipwrecks,
Qu'après tant de puissants et de forts engloutis, / That after swallowing so many strong and mighty,
Il te reste du temps encor pour les petits, / You still have time left for the ordinary man,
Que sure les moindres fronts tons bras laisse sa marque, / That upon the least forehead your arm leaves its mark,
Et qu'après cette France, il te faut cette barque! / And that even after France, you still needed that boat!

Translation copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003.


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

To the angels that see us:

XII. To the angels that see us
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

-Passerby, what are you? I know you.
But, being spectre, shade and cloud,
You have neither sex nor age.
-I am your mother, and I was coming!

-And you, whose wing hesitates and shines,
Whose eyes are drowning in sweetness,
What are you, passerby? - I am your sister.
-And you, what are you? - I am your daughter.

-And you, what are you, passerby? - I am
She to whom you said: "I love you."
-And you? - I am your very soul.-
Oh! hide me, depths of night!

Drawn from Contemplations: Au bord de l'infini
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

One day the gloomy spirit...:

VII. "One day the gloomy spirit, the prophet sublime,"
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

One day the gloomy spirit
Who dreamed at Patmos
And reading, trembling, on the wall of the abyss
With these lugubrious words,
Said to his eagle: "O Monster! you must carry me,
I want to see Jehovah."

The eagle obeyed. He crossed through the doors of the sky;
At last, John arrived;
He saw the nameless place of which no archangel dares
To cross the middle,
And this redoubtable place was full of shadows
Because of the greatness of God.

Drawn from Contemplations, Au bord de l'infini
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

The Bridge:

I. Le Pont
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

I had shadows before my eyes. The abyss
Which has neither shores nor summit
Was there, glum, immense, and nothing stirred.
I felt myself lost in mute infinity.
At the bottom, across the shade, impenetrable veil,
You could see God like a somber star.
I cried out: My soul! O my soul! One must
To cross this gulf where no edge appears,
To walk across this night to your God, one must
Build a giant bridge with millions of arches.
Who could ever do it? No one! Mourning! Terror!
Weep! - A white phantom came toward me
While I cast a frightened eye o'er the shadows.
It was the face of a virgin with a child's hands;
He was like a lily whose whiteness gives protection,
His hands, in joining, gave off light.
He showed me the abyss where all dust must fall,
So deep that an echo would never respond,
And said to me - "If you wish, I will build the bridge."
I raised my eyes to this pale unknown.
"What is your name?" I asked and he answered, "prayer."

Drawn from Contemplations, Au bord de l'infini
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Terms of Service/Use:

At the bottom of the post, you'll see there's a link to our Terms of Service/Use. Basically, it says:

1) We own this stuff. You can use it for free, but if you're going to try to get money redistributing our work, we want a cut to help pay for the servers.

2) We're doing this on the side. If you're making any big decisions based on what we've done here, you're on your own. This doesn't seem likely to be a problem, but if you think you have a lawsuit against us because you took our word for something without doublechecking it, you haven't read the TOS.

3) We're really glad to see you and hope you'll take this for what it is, the work of a few Hugo scholars and afficianadoes trying to share a side of the master the English-speaking world doesn't often see.

Have a good visit. And visit the main page (also linked at the bottom of this post) to see what we have to offer here.


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Veni, vidi, vixi (I came, I saw, I was conquered):

XIII. Veni, vidi, vixi
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

The title means, "I came, I saw, I was conquered." The first strophes are translated in verse to give a sense of the poem. Succeeding strophes will be put into verse at a later date but are here offered in literal translation so that the whole of the poem can be seen sooner rather than later.

I have lived long enough since walking in my gloom,
I cannot find the comfort in another's arm,
Since I can barely laugh at the children's charm,
Nor rejoice in the beauty of a flower's bloom;

Since in the spring when God makes nature dance with gladness,
I'm there, spirit unmoved, by this love so gay,
Since I'm at the point where man must flee the day
Alas, to feel completely enveloped in his secret sadness.

Since hope serene within my heart has come to die,
Since in this, the season of perfumes and the rose,
O, my daughter! I seek the shadow where you repose,
Since my heart is dead, long enough have lived I.

I've not refused the earthly tasks that were set for me,
My furrow? There it is. My sheaf? Look, there it lays.
With a smile I lived, and softened was I always,
Standing but inclined to the side of mystery.

I did what I could. I served. I kept watch.
And well I saw how often some laughed at my pains.
I'm astonished to be an object of hate,
Having so much suffered, having so much labored.

In this earthly prison, where ne'er a wing unfolds,
Without complaint, and bleeding, and falling on my hands,
Glum, spent, mocked in human shackles,
I have carried my link in the eternal chain.

Now only half way does my regard unfold,
I no longer turn when I hear my name,
I am full of stupor, of boredom, like a man
Who rises before dawn never having slept.

In my somber lassitude, I no longer even deign
To respond to the envious whose mouths me condemn.
O Lord! open up for me these doors of night
So that I may go off, that I might disappear.

Drawn from Contemplations, Pauca Meae
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

While the sailor, who calculates and doubts...:

X. "While the sailor, who calculates and doubts..."
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

While the sailor, who calculates and doubts,
Seeks his path in constellations,
While the shepherd, eye full of visions,
Seeks his star and his route in the middle of the wood;
While the astronomer, inundated by rays,

Weighs a globe across millions of leagues,
Me, I seek another thing in this vast, pure sky,
But how this dark sapphire is a dark abyss!
At night one cannot distinguist the blue robes
Of the angels quivering in the azure.

Drawn from Contemplations, Pauca Meae
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

To whom do we belong?:

VIII. (To whom do we belong?)
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

To whom do we belong? Who has us? Who leads?
Vulture of fatality, do you hold the human race?
Oh! Speak, rosy skies.
Does the bottomless soul hold numberless stars?
Each ray from on high, is it a thread from the shadows
Linking man to the sky?

In our souls, that the shade has for a lair,
Will we see the musings of our fathers return?
Destiny, gloomy assault!
O living, would we be the object of a dispute?
One wanting our glory? And the other our fall?
How many are there above?

In the past, at the bottom of the sky, in the yes of the somber mage,
The frightful players would appear in the shadows.
Who to fear? Who to pray to?
The quivering Manicheans, the pale Zorastrians,
Saw two great hands that moved the stars
On a black chessboard.

Horrible thought! good, evil, in this vault,
Hang upon our foreheads? God, take me from doubt!
O sphinx, tell me the word!
This horrid dream weighs on our watering eyes,
Those living in darkness! Happy are those who suddenly awaken
And die in a heartbeat!

Drawn from Contemplations - Pauca meae - VIII
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

When we all lived together...:

VI. ("When we all lived together...")
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

When we all lived together
On our hills of the past,
Where water flows and bushes tremble,
In the house at the edge of the wood,

She was 10, I was 30;
For her I was the universe.
Oh how the grass smells
Beneath the great green trees!

She made my fortunes better,
My work easy, my sky blue.
When she said, "my father,"
All my heart cried, "my God!"

Through my innumerable daydreams,
I would listen to her talk, joyous,
And my forehead brightened in the shadows,
In the light of her eyes.

She had the air of a princess
When I took her hand;
She looked endlessly for flowers
And poor folk in our path.

She gave the way one steals:
Hiding, out of sight.
Oh, the lovely little dress
That she had - remember?

At night by my candle,
She chattered quietly,
While at the reddened glass,
Moths bumped against the window.

The angels were reflected in her.
How her "hello" charmed!
Heaven put in her pupil,
That look that never lies.

Oh! I had seen her, so young yet,
Appear in my destiny!
She was the child of my dawn,
And my morning star!

When the moon, serene and bright,
Shined in the sky those wonderful months,
As we would go about to the plain!
As we would run through the woods!

The toward the light alone,
Shining, showing the darkened home,
We would return by the valley,
Turning round the corner of the old wall;

We'd return, hearts full of fire,
In speaking of the splendors of the sky.
I built up this young soul
Like a bee makes its honey.

Sweet angel of bright thoughts,
She was gay in coming... -
All these things are past
Like the shade and the wind!

Drawn from Contemplations, Pauca meae : VI
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Magnitudo parvi:

Magnitudo parvi
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

I
The day was dying; I stood by the sea on the strand.
My daughter, dreamy child, I had by the hand,
The young soul was still and silent!
Rolling like a sinking ship caught up in a swell,
The earth pitched on through space as the darkness fell;
And the pale night began its ascent.

In the clouds appeared the brow of the pale night;
As pallid and diminished, the world fell from sight,
Of color and form deprived;
As the darkness rises, so the ash does fall;
So the moment one felt the sadness cast its pall
At once the sorrow arrived.

Those whose pensive eyes watched nature from the ground
Saw the urn above, vague and dark and round,
As it tilted in the sky,
And poured out over mountains and also fields of gold,
And also muddled waves, murmuring stories best untold,
The silent night from on high.

The clouds slid along the length of the promontory;
My soul, where feelings mixed of both darkness and glory,
Sensed with some confusion
Out of this ocean, out of this earth before me,
Slip out beneath God's eye a thing of majesty, austerity,
And charm all in fusion.

I had my dearest daughter right there at my side.
The night was a cloud of smoke slowly spreading wide.
Jehovah, as I grieve
I look within myself and see within my eyelids low
What comes into our thoughts - for there comes a shadow -
When our sun does leave.

Suddenly the blessed child, angel with a woman's look,
Angel whose hand I was holding, who once my heart took,
Sweet voice, spoke to me,
And showed me the dark water, and the bank both brown and
Grim and then two shining points trembling on the sand:
- Father, look, - said she,

"Look over there: the shadows of the hillside make a line
"And like a double lamp, two twin fires shine
"Flickering, by the wind riled!
"Which are these hearths by fog veiled, still seen from afar?"
"The one is a shepherd's hearth and the other is a star;
"Two worlds they are, my child!"

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Epitaph:

XV. Epitaphe
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

He lived, he played, a laughing creature.
How did it serve you to take this child, nature?
Did you not have the birds painted a thousand colors,
The stars, the great woods, the blue sky, the bitter wave?
How did it serve you to take this child from its mother
And to hide it under bunches of flowers?

For want of this one child you no longer are anything,
You are no longer joyous, starry nature!
And the mother's heart in prey to so many cares,
This heart where all joy engenders torture,
This abyss as great as yourself, nature,
Is empty and desolate for this one child less!

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Lass, at seventeen you're filled with grace:

IX ("Lass, at seventeen you're filled with grace")
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

Lass, at seventeen you're filled with grace.
Your look proclaims the Morning, Spring is on your face.
It seems that in your hand is a lily we can't see.
Don Juan sees you pass by and murmurs: "Could she be?"
Be lovely; be blessed, child, in your beauty bright.
Nature thrills to see you, basking in your light.
You glow as beneath the trees you go; the sleek
Paper-thin wing of a wasp brushes your rosy cheek;
The moth - as to the flame - to your bright eyes must fly.
Your breath is like fine incense rising into the sky.
Lesbos and the Hydra's sailors, if they saw you there
Unveiled would take you for the Dawn with your star-filled hair.
The creatures of the azure knit their pure brow when
Dare to approach, those dark spectres of evil and exile, men
Near to your soul, betrothed to the sun's rays. So -
Be beautiful. You sense yourself caressed by a shadow,
An angel comes to kiss your foot when it is bare,
And that is what gives you your smile without care.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Written at the bottom of a crucifix:

IV. Written at the bottom of a crucifix
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

You who cry, come to this God, for He cries.
You who suffer, come to Him, for He cures.
You who tremble, come to Him, for He smiles.
You who pass, come to Him, for He remains.

source: Les Contemplations - III (Les luttes et les rêves): IV

Copyright 2002, Geoffrey I. Barto


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Reading Hugo Together: Written on a copy of the Divine Comedy:

Let's read Victor Hugo together:

For notes on how this works, read through "Sweet and frail my lines would fly..." Here is the basic content.

I. Written on a copy of the Divine Comedy
translation and presentation by Geoffrey Barto
The text is drawn from Les Contemplations - Les luttes et les rêves.

As far as I know, Dante was doing something new - or at least unusual - when he had Virgil take him for a spin through the beyond. By now it's a trope but Hugo's not above such things. The poem is in rhyming Alexandrin couplets; the translation preserves the twelve-syllable line but is not in rhyme. It should nonetheless give some sense of the original's flow. Let's hear from Hugo about meeting Dante.

un/une - one
soir - evening
dans - in
le/la/les - the
chemin - path
je - I
voir - to see
vis - saw
passer - to pass
homme - man
vêtu - dressed
de - of
vêtu de - dressed in
grand - great
manteau - mantle, coat
comme - like
et - and
qui - who
me - me, to me
sembler - to seem
semblait - seemed
noir - black
sur - on
clarté - brightness
des - of the
cieux - heavens
ce - this
passant - passerby
s'arrêta - stopped
fixant - fixing
moi - me
son/sa/ses - his
yeux - eyes
brillant - shining
si - so
profond - deep
que - that
qu'ils - that they
en - of it, from it
être - to be
étaient - were
sauvage - savage, wild
dire - to say
dit - said
ai...été - have been
d'abord - first
vieux - old
âges - ages
haute - high, tall
montagne - mountain
emplissant - filling
puis - then
âme - spirit
encore - yet
aveugle - blind
brisant - breaking
mon/ma/mes - my
montai - climbed
d'un degré - by one degree
échelle - ladder
êtres - beings
fus - was
chêne - oak
eus - had
autels - altars
prêtres - priests
jetai - cast, throw
bruits - noises, sounds
étrange - strange
rêvant - dreaming
dans - in
déserts - deserts
parlant - talking
nuit - night
sombre - somber, dark
avec - with
voix - voice
grondant - growling
maintenant - now
suis - am
m'appelle - am called, am named

Un soir dans le chemin je vis passer un homme
un swahr dawn luh cheman zhuh vee pass-ay un um
One eve in the path I saw to pass a man

Vêtu d'un grand manteau comme un consul de Rome,
veh-tu dun grawn mahntoe come un consool duh rum,
Dressed in a great mantle like a Roman consul,

Et qui me semblait noir sur la clarté des cieux.
ay kee muh samblay nwahr sur la clahrtay day syeu.
And who seemed to me black against the brightness of the sky.

Ce passant s'arrêta, fixant sur moi ses yeux
suh passawn sahret-ah, feeksawn sur mwah say z-yeu
This passerby stopped, fixing upon me his eyes

Brillants, et si profonds qu'ils en étaient sauvages,
breeyawn, ay see pro-fown keel z-awn ay-tay soh-vazh,
Sparkling, and so deep they from it were wild,

Et me dit: "J'ai d'abord été, dans les vieux ages,
ay muh dee: zhay dahbor ay-tay dawn lay vyeu z-ahzh,
And to me said: "I first was, in the olden ages,

"Une haute montagne emplissant l'horizon;
oonuh ohtuh moantahn awmpleessawn loreezohn;
"A high mountain filling the horizon;

"Puis, âme encore aveugle et brisant ma prison,
pwee z-ahm awnkor aveug l-ay breezawn ma preezohn,
"Then, soul still blind and breaking my prison,

"Je montai d'un degré dans l'échelle des êtres,
zhuh moantay dun duhgray dawn l-ayshelluh day z-etr,
"I went up by one degree on the ladder of beings,

"Je fus un chêne, et j'eus des autels et des prêtres,
zhuh foo un shen, et zheu day z-otel z-ay day pretr,
"I was an oak, and I had altars and priests,

"Et je jetai des bruits étranges dans les airs;
ay zhuh jet-ay day brooee aytrawnzhuh dawn lay z-air;
"And I cast off strange noises in the air,

"Puis je fus un lion rêvant dans les déserts,
pwee zhuh foo un leeohn revawn dawn lay dayzair,
"Then I was a lion dreaming in the desert,

"Parlant à la nuit sombre avec sa voix grondante;
parlawn ah la nwee sohm-br ahvek sa vwah grohndawnt;
"Speaking to the somber night with his growling voice;

"Maintenant, je suis homme, et je m'appelle Dante."
mantuhnawn zhuh swee z-um, ay zhuh mahpelluh dawnt.
"Now, I am a man, and I am called Dante."

French text and verse translation, stanza by stanza:

I. Written on a copy of the Divine Comedy
Un soir dans le chemin je vis passer un homme
Vêtu d'un grand manteau comme un consul de Rome,
Et qui me semblait noir sur la clarté des cieux.
Ce passant s'arrêta, fixant sur moi ses yeux
Brillants, et si profonds qu'ils en étaient sauvages,
Et me dit: "J'ai d'abord été, dans les vieux ages,
"Une haute montagne emplissant l'horizon;
"Puis, âme encore aveugle et brisant ma prison,
"Je montai d'un degré dans l'échelle des êtres,
"Je fus un chêne, et j'eus des autels et des prêtres,
"Et je jetai des bruits étranges dans les airs;
"Puis je fus un lion rêvant dans les déserts,
"Parlant à la nuit sombre avec sa voix grondante;
"Maintenant, je suis homme, et je m'appelle Dante."

One night in the path I saw a man pass by
Dressed in a great mantle like a Roman consul,
And who seemed to me black against the sky's clearness.
This passerby stopped and fixed upon me his eyes -
Glowing, and so deep that there was wildness in them -
And he said to me: "First I was, in olden times,
"A high mountain that filled up all the horizon;
"Then, soul as yet blind and bursting through my prison,
"I rose one degree in the ladder of beings,
"I was an oak and I had both altars and priests,
"And strange sounds made I that traveled all through the air;
"Then I was a lion dreaming in the desert,
"Speaking to the somber night with its growling voice;
"Now, I am a man and I am now called Dante."

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002.


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Reading Hugo Together: Sweet and frail my lines would fly...:

Reading Victor Hugo Together:
An introduction for those who know little to no French

II. "Mes vers fuiraient, doux et frêles" / "My lines would fly, sweet and frail"
translation and presentation by Geoffrey Barto
The text is drawn from Les Contemplations - Ame en fleur.

The following little poem, drawn from "Contemplations," is noteworthy for being written in heptasyllabe - seven syllable lines. Most French poems have 8 or 12 syllable lines (the latter form is the Alexandrin). The final translation given holds to the seven syllable line as far as possible in order to keep the flow of the poem but eschews rhyming as the lines are too short for the rephrasing necessary to make rhymes that follow both the text's form and its meaning.

Here is the vocabulary. You should look it over but do not need to memorize it.
mes - my
vers - line(s)
fuir - to flee
fuiraient - would flee
doux - sweet
frêle - fragile
vers - toward
votre - your
jardin - garden
si - so
beau - beautiful
si - if
avoir - to have
avaient - had
des - (some)
aile - wing
comme - like
le - the
oiseau - bird
l'oiseau - the bird/birds

Here is the poem. The first line is the French, the second a very rough pronunciation guide, the third a fairly literal translation. The XML version provides a nicer presentation so you should go to it if you're using Internet Explorer or Netscape 6.0 or higher.

Mes vers fuiraient, doux et frêles,
may vair fwee-ray, doo ay frell,
My lines would flee, sweet and fragile,

Vers votre jardin si beau,
vair vutruh zhahrdan see boh,
To your garden so beautiful,

Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
see may vair z-ahvay day z-ell,
If my lines had (some) wings,

Des ailes comme l'oiseau.
day z-elluh cummuh lwahzoh
(Some) wings like (the) bird(s).

Vocabulary for the second stanza
ils - they
voler - to fly
voleraient - would fly
étincelles - sparkles/glitter
vers - toward
votre - your
foyer - (entrance to a) home
qui - who/which
rire - to laugh
rit - laughs
si - if
avaient - had
des - (some)
aile - wing
comme - like
esprit - mind, spirit

Second stanza
Ils voleraient, étincelles,
eel vull-uh-ray, ay-tan-sell,
They would fly, sparkles,

Vers votre foyer qui rit,
vair vutruh foy-ay kee ree,
Toward your home which laughs,

Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
see may vair z-ahvay day z-ell,
If my lines had (some) wings,

Des ailes comme l'esprit.
day z-elluh cummuh lesspree
(Some) wings like (the) spirit.

Vocabulary for the third stanza
près - near
de - of
près de - near to
vous - you
pur - pure
fidèle - loyal, faithful
accourrir - run to
accourraient - would run
nuit - night
et - and
jour - day
amour - love

Près de vous, purs et fidèles,
pray duh voo, pur ay fee-dell,
Near to you, pure and faithful,

Ils accourraient nuit et jour,
eel z-ahkooray nwee ay zhoor,
They would run night and day,

Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
see may vair z-ahvay day z-ell,
If my lines had (some) wings,

Des ailes comme l'amour.
day z-elluh cummuh lahmoor
(Some) wings like (the) love.

French text and verse translation, stanza by stanza:

II. "Mes vers fuiraient, doux et frêles"
Mes vers fuiraient, doux et frêles,
Vers votre jardin si beau,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Des ailes comme l'oiseau.

Sweet and frail, my lines would fly,
Toward your garden so dear,
If only my lines had wings,
Only had wings like a bird.

Ils voleraient, étincelles,
Vers votre foyer qui rit,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Des ailes comme l'esprit.

They would fly, little sparkles,
Fly toward your laughing home,
If only my lines had wings,
Only had wings like spirit.

Près de vous, pur et fidèles,
Ils accourraient nuit et jour,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Des ailes comme l'amour.

Near to you, pure and constant,
Both night and day they would run,
If only my lines had wings,
Only had wings like love.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002.


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Happy the man...:

XXIV. ("Happy the man...")
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

Happy the man, busy with eternal destiny,
Who, like a traveler who leaves late in the morning,
Awakens, spirit filled with reverie,
And from the dawn of the day begins to read and pray!
In the measure that he reads, the day comes slowly
And builds itself in his soul as well as in the firmament.
He sees distinctly in the pale light
Things in his room and others in himself;
All sleep in the house; he is alone, he believes,
And yet, closing their mouths with a finger to their lips,
Behind him, as ecstasy fills him,
Smiling angels lean over his book.

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurora): XXIV - Heureux l'homme...
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

The Ladybug:

XV. La Coccinelle (The Ladybug)
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

She told me, "Something is
Bothering me." And I saw
Her snow-white neck and upon it
A little red insect.

I should have - but wise or foolish,
At sixteen one is awkward -
Seen the kiss on her lips
More than the insect on her neck.

One would have said a seashell;
Red back spotted in black.
In order to see us, the warblers
Leaned forward in the leafy branches.

Her cool mouth was there:
I bent around the lovely girl
And I took the ladybug;
But the kiss took off.

"Son, learn from how I'm called,"
Said the insect from the blue sky,
"The beasts belong to God;
But beastly stupidity belongs to man."

Drawn from Contemplations, I (Aurora): XV - La Coccinelle)
Copyright Geoffrey I. Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Lise:

XI. Lise
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

I was twelve; she was fully sixteen.
She was tall, and me, I was short.
To speak to her in the evenings more at my ease,
Me, I waited for her mother to leave,
Then I came and sat near her chair
To speak to her in the evenings more at my ease.

What springtimes passed with their flowers!
What dead fires and what closed tombs!
Is it remembered that in the past thus were hearts?
Is it remembered that in the past there were roses?
She loved me. I loved her. We were
Two pure children, two perfumes, two rays of light.

God had made her an angel, fairy and princess.
As she was much bigger than I,
I asked her questions without end
For the pleasure of saying to her: Why?
And at times she avoided, fearful,
My dreaming eye that made her grow pensive.

Then I rolled out my child's knowledge,
My games, my ball and spinning top;
I was quite proud to learn Latin;
I showed her my Phaedrus and Virgil;
I braved all; nothing touched me;
I told her: My father is a general.

Though one be a woman, one must sometimes read
In Latin, one must spell in dreaming;
To translate a line for here, in church,
I often leaned over her book.
An angel opened his white wings over us,
When we were at Vespers on Sunday.

She said of me: He's a child!
I called here Miss Lise.
To translate a psalm for her, very often,
I leaned over he book in church,
So well that, had you seen it, my God!
Her rosy cheek brushed my lips all afire.

Young loves, so quickly in bloom,
You are the dawn and the morning of the heart.
Charm the child, unheard of ecstasies!
And, when the evening comes with sorrow,
Charm again our hearts blown away,
Young loves, so quickly in bloom!

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurore): XI - Lise
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Life in the Fields:

VI. Life in the fields
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

This is a long poem, too long for one of my humble skills to put into verse. It is, nonetheless, interesting - interesting for the way digression leads to digression in a poem that slowly moves from a homey idyll to the contemplation of a strange, unknowable world. The translation is not perfect, but here it is all the same. Enjoy.

In the country at night, one goes out for a walk,
The poor man in his field, the rich man in his domain;
Me, I go forward; the poet in every place
Feels himself at home, sensing he is everywhere with God.
Willingly I go alone. I meditate or listen.
However, if someone wishes to come along,
I accept. Every person has something to share,
Every man is a book in which God, Himself, writes.
Each time one of these books falls into my hands,
A volume where lives a soul and that is sealed in the tomb,
I read it.

Each night I therefore leave, have a break,
I go out. Along the way I visit friends I have.
We take some air at the end of the garden, as family.
The dew dampens the benches a little beneath the trees;
Little matter! I sit, and I do not know why
All the little children gather around me.
Once I am seated, there they all come.
It's just they know I have their tastes; they remember
That I like them love the air, the flowers, butterflies,
And the animals one sees running in the fields.
They know that I'm a man who loves them,
A being around whom they can play, and even
Shout, make noise, talk out loud;
That I laughed like them and still more in the past,
And that today, though I only watch their frolicking,
I still smile at them, though I am most sad;
They say, sweet friends, that I never know
How to get angry; they have fun with me; I do
Things on paper, drawings with my pen;
That I tell - even as the lamps are lit -
Oh! charming stories that make you fear the night,
And finally, that I'm sweet, not proud or too instructive.
So when they have seen me: "There he is!" All run.
They leave behind their games and surround me
With their lovely, large child-eyes, without fear or rancor,
Which seem forever as blue as the blue of the sky.

The children - when one is small, one is brave -
Climb on my knees; the bigger ones have a serious air;
They bring me blackbird nests they have found,
Albums, pencils that come from Paris;
They consult me, have a hundred things to tell,
They speak, we chat, above all one laughs; - I love laughter,
Not the ironic laugh of sarcastic jeerers,
But the sweet honest laugh of the open mouth and heart,
Which at the same time reveals pearls and souls.

I admire the pencils, the albums, the blackbird nests;
And sometimes they say, when I have finished admiring:
"That's the same opinon as Monsieur the Cure's."
Then, when they have chatted together at their leisure,
They move, suddenly, the bigger ones leaning on my chair,
The smaller ones always grouped at my knees, and then
Silence, and that means, "Talk to us."

I talk to them of everything. My speeches sew in them
Both ideas and facts. As they like me, they like
What I tell them. I point out to them
The sky, God who's hiding there, and the stars one sees.
All, to look at them, listen. I tell how
We must think, dream, seek. God blesses man,
Not for having found, but for having sought.
I say, "Give alms to the poor, humble and stooped,
Sweetly receive lessons or blame,
Give and receive, it's to give life the soul!"
I tell them about life, and that, in our suffering,
Goodness must be at the bottom of our tears,
And that in our happiness, and in our delight,
Goodness must be at the bottom of our laughter.
That to be good is to live well; and that adversity
Can always stalk a soul, save for the good;
And that the mean, in their profound hatred,
Are wrong to accuse God. Great God! No man in the world
Has the right, in choosing his path, and following it,
To say that it's you who made him mean;

For the mean, Lord, are not necessary to you.
I also tell them history; the misery
Of the Jewish people, cursed that one must finally bless;
Greece, shining up to the future;
Rome; ancient Egypt and its shadeless plains,
And all that one sees there, sinister and somber,
Terrifying places! all die; the human noise ends.
All those demons carved in blocks of granit,
Monstrous Olympia of dark epoques,
Sphinxes, Anubises, Ammons, Mercuries,
Sitting in the desert 4000 years.
Around them the wind blows, and the burning sand
Rises, like a sea out of which poke their enormous heads;
The mutilated stone has kept some form
Of statue or of specter, and first recalls
The folds of a sheet draped over the face of a corpse;
One first perceives the forehead, the nose, the mouth,
The eyes, I do not know what fierce and horrible thing,
Which looks and sees, vague and hideous mask.
The night traveller, who passes by them,
Fearful, and thinking to see, in the light of the stars,
Giants, chained and mute beneath their veils.

Drawn from Contemplations, Aurore
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

To André Chenier:

V. To Andre Chenier
Victor Hugo
translated by gib, bss

Yes, my lines believe it possible, without stooping too low,
To take from prose a little of its familiar air.
Andre, it's true, I laugh sometimes at the lyre.
Here is why. Still rather young, trying to read
In the frightening book of forests and waters,
I lived in a somber park where the birds chattered,
Where tears smiled in the blue eyes of periwinkles;
One day I thought myself alone among the branches,
A bullfinch recounting the soap opera of the wood
Said to me: "You have to walk on the ground sometimes.
Nature is a little mocking with man;
O poet, your chants, or whatever you call them,
Would resemble her better if you let the air out of her.
The woods have sighs, but they have whistles.
The bright blue sky may shine, but sometimes gaiety breaks through;
Olympus remains great in bursting out in laughter;
Don't believe the poet's wit is lowered
When between two great lines a word passes, dancing.
It is not the wind that makes the crier insane;
The deep waves do not sing of romance;
And nature, after all these centuries and nights,
Joining Rabelais and Dante, so troubled,
And sinister Ugolino and malformed Grandgosier,
Alongside immense mourning reveals enormous laughter."

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurora): V - A Andre Chenier
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, Briant Sarris, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo


The firmament is full with brightness vast
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

rhyming Alexandrin couplets (AA BB ... )

The firmament is full with brightness vast;
All is joy, innocence, hope, happiness, goodness,.
The beautiful lake shines at the bottom of the surrounding valley;
All brims with sap and life and noise,
From green branches, shivering azure, water that glimmers,
And little birds in search of quarrels.
What's with the butterfly? What's with the grasshopper?
The grasshopper has the gras, and the butterfly the air;
And both have April laughing in the clear sky.
A joyous refrain comes from nature entire,
Song that sweetly rises and becomes a prayer.
The chick runs, the child plays and dances, the lamb
Jumps, and, letting its water drip, drop by drop,
The old lair, softened, weeps as though a face;
The wind reads to someone invisible a passage
From the unheard poem of creation;
The bird speaks to scents, the flower speaks to rays:
The pines of the marshes put forth their green needle clusters;
The nests are warm. The azure finds the lovely earth;
Wave and earth; at once all floating climates;
Here autumn, here summer, there sprint.
O hills! o furrows! gasps, sighs, breaths!
The hosanna of the forests, the rivers, the plains,
Rise up gravely toward God, father of the day;
And all the lights are stanzas of love;
The swan says: Light! And the lily says: Clemency!
The sky opens up itself to this song like an immense ear

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurora): IV - Le firmament est plein de la vaste clarte
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

My two daughters:

My two daughters
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

rhyming Alexandrin couplets (AA BB ... )

In the cool chiaroscuro of the charming night that falls,
One like a swan, the other like a dove,
Beautiful, and both joys, o sweetness!
See, the big sister and the little sister
Are seated at the foot of the garden, and on them
A bouquet of white carnations with long fragile stems,
In a marble urn, shaken by the wind,
Lean to look at them, immobile and alive,
And shake in the shadow, and seem at vase's edge,
A flight of butterflies frozen in ecstasy.

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurora): III - Mes deux filles
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

The poet goes off in the fields, he admires... :

The poet goes off in the fields, he admires
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

rhyming Alexandrin couplets (AA BB ... )

The poet goes off in the fields; he admires
He worships; he listens to a lyre within himself;
And seeing him come, the flowers, all the flowers,
Those that make the ruby's colors pale,
Those that would eclipse even a peacock's tail,
Little golden flowers, little flowers in blue,
Take, to welcome him waving their bouqets,
Slightly forward airs or great coquettish manners,
And familiarly, for this is the way of beauties:
"Look! It's our lover passing by," they say.
And full of light and shadow and confused voices,
The great, profound trees that live in the woods,
All those old men, the yews, the limes, the maples,
The stooping willows, the venerable oaks,
The elm with its black branches, weighed down by moss,
Like ulemas, when the mufti appears,
Make great shows of greeting him, bent down to the ground,
Their heads of leaves and beads of ivy,
Contemplate the serene glow on his face,
And murmur softly: "It's him! It's the dreamer!"

Drawn from Contemplations: I (Aurora): II - Le poete s'en va dans les champs; il admire
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Updates to the Hugo Pages and Hugo Pages Blog:

Welcome to the Hugo Pages Blog. This site exists as a storage location of sorts from which people with older browsers can retrieve selected content from the Hugo Pages that their browsers could not otherwise display. The "table of contents" for this site appears there, along with additional content. If you have not been to the Hugo Pages, you should pay a visit and try the main links to poetry. The presentation - if anything at all shows up - is much nicer. If, however, nothing shows up, click on the question marks after selected poems in order to get the pure text versions given here.

As of tonight, all of the current English translations from Les Châtiments and the first two from Les Contemplations have been placed on this site. In the next few days, all XML content from the Hugo Pages will be mirrored here.


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

To my daughter:

I. To my daughter
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

Oh my child, you see, I submit myself.
Do as I: see the far-off world;
Happy? no; triumphant? never;
Resigned!

Be good and sweet, and raise up a pious forehead.
Like the day in the heavens sets its flame,
You, my child, in the blue of your eyes
Put your soul!

Nothing is happy and nothing is triumphant.
The hour is for all a thing incomplete;
The hour is a shadow, and our lives, child,
Consists in it.

Yes, of their fate all men are weary.
For being happy, for all - morose destiny! -
All has been missing. All, that is to say, alas!
Very little.

That very little is that which, for its part,
In the universe all seek and desire:
A word, a name, a little treasure, a look,
A smile!

Gaiety is lacking for the great but loveless king;
A drop of water is lacking for the desert immense.
Man is a well where the void forever
Returns anew.

See these thinkers that we idolize,
See these heroes whose spirit dominates us,
Names by which our somber horizons
Are illuminated.

After having, like a torch,
Dazzled all with their countless rays,
They went on to seek in their graves
A little shade.

The sky, which knows our ills and our sadness,
Takes in pity our vain and ringing days.
Each morning, it bathes in its tears
Our dawn.

God lights the way, for each as we walk,
Upon that which is, upon that which we are;
A law comes out for these things here-below,
And for man.

This holy law, it must be followed,
And here it is, any soul can attain it:
To hate nothing, my child; to love all,
Or to pity all.

Drawn from Contemplations: Aurore
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Opening to the Contemplations:

As I stood one day by the rolling waves I saw
Victor Hugo
translated by gib

four line stanzas thus: 12A/6B/12A/6B

As I stood one day by the rolling waves I saw
Pass, in filling its sails,
A vessel moving fast, envelopped by the wind
And the waves and the stars.

And I heard, inclined against the abyss of the skies
The other abyss touches,
A voice speak in my ear of which my eyes were not
Able to see the mouth:

"O poet you do well, poet of the sad face,
You dream beside the waves,
And from the seas you draw out many things that are
Beneath the waves of the deep!

The sea is the Lord, that, misery or happiness,
Shows and names every fate;
And the wind is the Lord; and the star is the Lord;
And the vessel is man."

Drawn from Contemplations: opening poem - Un jour je vis, debout au bord des flot mouvants
Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

They say be prudent...:

They say: "Be prudent..."
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

They say: "Be prudent" - and then comes this dithyramb:
Who thinks to strike Nero
"Tiptoes in and does not first cry out an iamb
"Nor make a bugle blow

"Remember Ettenheim - abduction of great fame;
"Do not hurry your task.
"But be like Chereas who in the shadows came
Alone, silent, in mask.

"Those who follow prudence achieve their ev'ry aim
"Walk hidden in the shade..."
I'll leave to those who seek a long life to proclaim
Cowardice virtue made.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Luna:

Luna
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

O France, although you sleep
We call you, we the forbidden!
The shadows have ears,
And the depths have cries.

Bitter, glory-less despotism
Over a discouraged people
Closes a black thick grate
Of error and prejudice;

It locks up the loyal swarm
Of firm thinkers, of heroes,
But the Idea with the flap of a wing
Will part the heavy bars,

And, as in ninety-one,
Will retake sovereign flight,
For breaking apart a cage of bronze
Is easy for bronze bird.

Darkness covers the world,
But the Idea illuminates and shines;
With its white brightness it floods
The dark blues of the night.

It is the solitary lantern,
The providential ray;
It is the lamp of the earth
That cannot help but light the sky.

It calms the suffering soul,
Guides life, puts the dead to rest;
It shows the mean the gulf,
It shows the just the way.

In seeing in the dark mist
The Idea, love of sad eyes,
Rise calm, serene and pure,
On the mysterious horizon,

Fanaticism and hatred
Roar before each threshhold,
As obscene hounds howl
When appears the moon in mourning.

Oh! Think of the mighty Idea,
Nations! its superhuman brow
Has upon it, from now on, the light
That will show the way to tomorrow!

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

A Song (about God and the devil):

II. A Song
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

Sitting at His table one day,
God and the devil a game did play;
Hated humanity was at stake;
Well, the first picked Bonaparte;
The other drew, and for his part,
'Twas Mastai that he did take.

Impoverished abbey, thin as a sprite!
Petty prince, small and filled with spite,
Truly a thoughtless brat!
Oh what a worthless pot!
'Twas God that had the losing lot
So the devil won them both at that.

God the Father cried, "Take them you!
You will not know what to do
With them"; the devil laughed; "Good sir-
That's where you're wrong," the devil said,
And of the one a pope he made,
And of the other an emperor.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

What the poet was telling himself in '48:

What the poet was telling himself in 1848
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

You mustn't seek out power, mustn't grab the helm
Your work lies elsewhere, spirit of another realm,
In innocence withdraw before this moment here.
Lover of thought in mourning both sweet and severe-,
Disdained or understood by men still you must live
Shepherd for their tending, priest to blessings give.
When citizens embittered by their misery,
Sons of the same France and of the same Paris,
Slit one another's throats; when at each corner loom
Barricades just sprung up, sinister, wrapped in gloom
Rising, vomiting death at once and everywhere
Though unarmed and alone you must simply go there;
Must in this vile, awful and unholy war show
Your chest, your heart, you have to let your spirit flow,
To speak, to pray, to save both the weak and the strong,
To smile under fire and weep for the dead now gone;
Then to rise, calm, to your place in isolation
And to defend within the fervent collocation
Those that it would judge or from society eject,
To overturn the scaffold, to serve and to protect
The order and the peace that rash actors have shaken,
And our soldiers - by the little general taken,
And the man of the people sent to the asylum,
And the laws, and also our sad and proud freedom;
To offer consolation, at this fateful day,
To the divine art that shudders, weeps, and to stay
Awaiting for the rest the moment decisive.
Your role is to inform and to remain pensive.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Fable or History:

Fable or history
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

Possessed of royal appetite, and feeling rather thin,
A monkey one day dressed himself in a tiger's skin
The tiger had been nasty; the monkey was atrocious,
Wearing on his back the right to be ferocious.
He set himself to gnashing teeth and let loose with this cry:
Conqueror of the jungle, the night's dark king am I!
As a bandit of the forest, in the bushes he lurked,
And snatched away and murdered and other horrors worked.
Laid waste the forest, slit the throats of those passing through,
And with the skin that covered him did all it used to do.
He lived within a cave, knee-deep in butchery,
And all who saw the skin believed the tiger was he.
He would cry out, would bring forth a truly terrible roar:
Behold within my cave the bones of victims before.
Before me all draw back and shudder, everyone doth flee,
All tremble - I am tiger! Look! and worship me!
The animals were all awe-struck and fled with great alarm,
A lion-tamer came and grabbed him with his arm,
And ripped off the tiger's skin like a flimsy piece of tissue,
Laid bare this "conqueror" and said, "You're just a monkey, you!"

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Memory of the Night of the 4th:

Memory of the Night of the 4th
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

The child had received two bullets to the head.
The home was tidy, humble, peaceable, respectable;
There was a blessed branch above a portrait.
The grandmother was there, weeping.
We undressed him in silence. His mouth,
Pale, opened; death filled his shy eyes;
His arms hung limp, in need of support.
In his pocket he had a wooden top.
You could put a whole finger in the holes left by the bullets.
Have you seen the blackberries bleeding on the bush?
His skull was cracked open like a tree split by lightning
The grandmother watched us undress the boy,
Saying: "How pale he is! Bring the lamp closer.
God! His hair is glued to his temple."
After this, she then took him on her knees.
The night was dismal; you could still hear the shots
Fired in the streets where still more were being killed.
"We must enshroud him," one of us said.
A white sheet was taken from the linen closet.
But the old lady now approached us, coming from the hearth,
As though she might warm his already stiffened limbs.
Alas! What death's cold hand has touched
Can never again be warmed at the hearths found here below.
She leaned forward and drew off his stockings,
And took the feet of the cadavre in her small hands.
"Could things be more horrible?"
She cried, "Good sir, he wasn't yet eight!
"He went to school; his teachers were happy with him.
"When I had a letter to write
"He was the one who wrote it. So they're
"Killing children now? My God!
"So they're all brigands now. I ask you, sir -
"He was playing just outside the window this morning -
"Tell me why they killed this poor little guy of mine!
"He was walking down the street and they shot him.
"Sir, he was as good and sweet as Jesus himself.
"I'm old; I'll soon be gone anyway
"What would it have been to Bonaparte
"If they'd killed me instead of him?"
She stopped, unable to keep from sobbing,
Then said - and at this we all burst into tears -
"What's to become of me, now all alone?
"Tell me that, you who are here today.
"Alas, he was all I had left of his mother.
"Why'd they kill him, someone tell me.
"He didn't shout, 'Long live the Republic!'"
We all held silent, standing grave, hats lowered,
Trembling before inconsolable grief.

You wouldn't understand politics, ma'am.
Mr. Napoleon - that is his true name,
Is poor though a prince; he likes his palaces;
He needs his horses, his valets,
Money for his gaming, his household,
His hunts; but you see, he's saving
Family, the Church, Society;
He needs St. Cloud, so full of roses in the summer,
Where prefects and mayors can come admire him;
And that, madame, is why old grandmothers,
Their poor withered hands trembling with cold,
Must stitch shut the shrouds of seven year olds.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Art and the People:

IX. L'Art et le peuple / Art and the people
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

I
Art is glory and joy;
In the storm it flares,
It lights up the blue sky.
Art, the universal splendor,
On people's faces it sparkles
Like the star on the face of God.

Art is a magnificent field
That pleases the peaceful heart
That the city says to the wood,
That man says to woman
That all the voices of the spirit
Sing together in one great choir

Art is human thought
That goes forth breaking every chain!
Art is the sweet conqueror!
For it the Rhine, the Tiber!
People enslaved, it sets you free;
Free people, it makes you great!

II
O good, invincible France,
Sing your peaceful song!
Sing, and look to the sky!
Your joyous and profound voice
Is the hope of the world,
O great brotherly people!

Good people, sing to the dawn!
And when night falls, sing still!
Work makes for gaiety.
Laughter of the old century which passes!
Sing love with lowered voice,
And out loud liberty!

Sing the holy Italy,
Poland enshrouded,
Naples that a pure blood reddens,
Hungary agonizing...-
O tyrants! the people change
As the lion roars!

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Nox - first stanza:

Nox
Victor Hugo
translated by Geoffrey Barto

At the bottom of your thoughts, this is the night you've chosen,
Prince, you must now make an end of things - the night is frozen
Come, get up! for sensing in shadow the smell of a thief
That old dog, Liberty, is growling and baring its teeth.
Though Carlier has chained it, it still continues to bay
You can't wait any longer. It's time now for the prey.
Look, December spreads a fog that's blacker than black
Just as a robber baron from his manor slips out the back.
Surprise now cold assassin the enemy in your sights.
Up! The regiments in the barracks wait tonight.
Knapsacks ready and now crazed with wine and with a furor,
Settling for a bandit to become an Emperor.
Take your lantern and come with careful steps - and quick -
Take your knife, the time is ripe, for just now the Republic
Confident and not seeing how your dark eyes do glow
Sleep with your oath, prince, tucked beneath the pillow.

Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2002


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation





The Hugo Pages Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo


This is the launch of the Hugo Pages Blog, a companion to The Hugo Pages. On this site, you will find updates on what's new at the Hugo Pages. You will also find the raw text from those files which are published to The Hugo Pages as XML, in order to better serve users with older browsers.


Main Page
The Hugo Pages' Victor Hugo Bookstore
Terms of Service/Use for reproducing this translation






dmoz.org