poem index

Letter

Victor Hugo

II.vi.

You can see it already: chalks and ochers; 
   Country crossed with a thousand furrow-lines;
Ground-level rooftops hidden by the shrubbery; 
   Sporadic haystacks standing on the grass;
Smoky old rooftops tarnishing the landscape; 
   A river (not Cayster or Ganges, though:
A feeble Norman salt-infested watercourse); 
   On the right, to the north, bizarre terrain
All angular--you'd think a shovel did it. 
   So that's the foreground. An old chapel adds
Its antique spire, and gathers alongside it 
   A few gnarled elms with grumpy silhouettes;
Seemingly tired of all the frisky breezes, 
   They carp at every gust that stirs them up.
At one side of my house a big wheelbarrow 
   Is rusting; and before me lies the vast
Horizon, all its notches filled with ocean blue; 
   Cocks and hens spread their gildings, and converse
Beneath my window; and the rooftop attics, 
   Now and then, toss me songs in dialect.
In my lane dwells a patriarchal rope-maker; 
   The old man makes his wheel run loud, and goes
Retrograde, hemp wreathed tightly round the midriff. 
   I like these waters where the wild gale scuds;
All day the country tempts me to go strolling; 
   The little village urchins, book in hand,
Envy me, at the schoolmaster's (my lodging), 
   As a big schoolboy sneaking a day off.
The air is pure, the sky smiles; there's a constant 	
   Soft noise of children spelling things aloud.
The waters flow; a linnet flies; and I say: "Thank you! 
   Thank you, Almighty God!"--So, then, I live:
Peacefully, hour by hour, with little fuss, I shed 
   My days, and think of you, my lady fair!
I hear the children chattering; and I see, at times, 
   Sailing across the high seas in its pride,
Over the gables of the tranquil village, 
   Some winged ship which is traveling far away,
Flying across the ocean, hounded by all the winds. 
   Lately it slept in port beside the quay.
Nothing has kept it from the jealous sea-surge:
   No tears of relatives, nor fears of wives, 
Nor reefs dimly reflected in the waters,
   Nor importunity of sinister birds.

From Selected Poems of Victor Hugo translated by E. H. and A. M. Blackmore. Reprinted with permission by University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

Victor Hugo

by this poet

poem
Boaz, overcome with weariness, by torchlight 
made his pallet on the threshing floor 
where all day he had worked, and now he slept 
among the bushels of threshed wheat.

The old man owned wheatfields and barley, 
and though he was rich, he was still fair-minded. 
No filth soured the sweetness of his well. 
No