The Hugo Pages Blog

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

 

The Hugo Pages

thehugopages.com or gbarto.com/hugo

Melancholia 207-254:

Les MisÚrables in miniature
Victor Hugo
translation by Geoffrey Barto
IV. 207-254: The Lowly Old Man

You crush the pebbles beneath your feet, old man;
Your humble, holey, old hat opens to the moistening air;
Beneath the rain and elements your bare skull rusts;
Heat is your tyrant; cold, your tormentor;
Your shaky, old body trembles beneath your blouse;
Your shack, even with the ditch,
Offers its mossy roof to the grazing goat;
You earn in a day just enough in black bread
To eat in the morning and fast at night;
And, a suspicious phantom who causes people to draw back,
Looked at askance with the coming of sunset,
Poor to the point of alarming those who pass,
Somber, pensive brother of these shivering trees,
You let your years fall away like their leaves;
In the past, a man at your prime,
When you saw implacable Europe coming,
And threatening Paris and our aborning dawn,
And a sea of men was rolling toward a frightened France,
And Russia and the Hun toward sacred ground
To attack and the North let loose Attilla,
You rose, you took up your pitchfork; in those days
You were, before the kings who held the countryside,
One of the great peasants of mighty Champagne.
Fine. But look, over there, along the green furrow,
A carriage arrives like a whirlwind
You wipe your forehead and the evening dust
Mixes with the crack of a whip and the thunder of the wheels.
A man sleeps there. Old chap, lower your hat. This man
Made his fortune while you were spilling your blood;
He bet against us and rose to the degree
That our fall grew steeper and more certain;
A vulture was needed for our dead; he was it;
Hard worker, always on watch, he made
Of our misfortunes chateaux and rents;
Moscow filled his fields with odiferous mills;
For him, Leipzig payed for dogs and valets,
And Berezina brought a palace in its wake;
For him, so this man would have flowers, greens,
Parks in Paris opening their great gates,
Gardens where you see a swan in the pond,
A million joyous leave Waterloo;
He did so well as to make his victory of the disaster,
And in order to eat it, twist it, drink it,
This Shylock with Blucher's sword
Cut from France a pound of flesh.
Now, of you two, it's you they hate, him they worship;
Old man, you're just a beggar; he's a millionaire,
He's the upright man. So up, up, and off with that hat!

Return to lines 181-206: The Lawyer


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

Melancholia 181-206:

Les MisÚrables in miniature
Victor Hugo
translation by Geoffrey Barto
III. 181-206 (The Lawyer)

This lawyer will take on any case.
He laughs at the generous sort who want to know
If white is not right before pronouncing for black;
Calm, he puts in his conscience whichever he finds
Be it the sack For, or be it the sack Against;
The sack, for him, weighs what the cause is worth to him.
Ambushed in a devout journal by a writer who,
Pen in had, defames as a bandit would kill,
The man is hated by the crowd, the woman proscribed.
They are cursed. What is their crime? They loved.
Mounting opinion weighs on them, oppresses, and
This kitten for the strong is as a tigress to the weak.
The parasite is fattened by the dying inventor.
The world talks, assures, affimrs, swears, lies,
Cheats, and laughs at having swindled the dupe, Devotion.
The powerful person shines and plays with destiny;
Behind him, as he walks, putting on his show,
The birdshit he is spreading fertilizes his flowery talk.
The dwarves are disdainful to their full height.
O hideous street corners where the gloomy ragpicker
Goes, with his Chinese lantern in hand,
Your piles of trash a less black than those of the living!
Which, of hearts or wind, is surer? The wind.
This man believes nothing, but gives the appearance of belief;
He has a clean eye, a gracious foe, a black soul;
He bows to you today; tomorrow he will be your master.

Return to lines 147-180: Death of a horse

Continue to lines 207-254: The Lowly Old Man


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






dmoz.org