Victor Hugo – Demain Dès L’aube Posted by Bridgette on Oct 23, 2020 in Culture, Language
Victor Hugo. Discutablement, arguably, the most famous French writer of all time. He wrote Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and many poetry collections. Today we will be looking at one of his most famous poems from the collection Les Contemplations (Contemplations). It is called Demain Dès L’aube (Tomorrow at Dawn).
The French version and the English translation is below, as well as a video of it being read out loud. Mon conseil (my advice): try to read and listen to the French before jumping to the translation. Imagine the destination. Imagine the feeling from beginning to end. Feel the cinematic build up.
Maintenant… c’est parti!
Victor Hugo – Demain Dès L’aube
Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the time when the countryside whitens,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go through the forest, I will go through the mountain.
I cannot remain far from you any longer.
I will walk eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Seeing nothing else, hearing no noise,
Alone, unknown, back hunched over, hands crossed,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.
I will not look at the gold of the evening which falls,
Nor the sails in the distance going down toward Harfleur,
And when I arrive, I will lay on your tomb
A bouquet of green holly and of heather in bloom.
Did you first imagine a man in love walking steadfast to see his lover, with nothing to get in his way? Unfortunately it didn’t end as such, instead a man wallowed in grief emerges to lay flowers on his loved one’s grave.
This poem, as well as a large bulk of his poetry, was written about his daughter Léopoldine Hugo. Tragically she and her husband sont noyés (drowned) when their boat capsized on the Seine river. They had just been married months before. Her dress weighed her down, and her husband died trying to save her. She was just 19 years old, and enceinte (pregnant). The loss for Victor Hugo was insupportable (unbearable) and he spiraled into a deep depression, unable to write for some time afterwards. It is said that he found out about his beloved daughter’s death by reading the newspaper while he was traveling in the south of France. This poem was written about a visit to her grave exactly 4 years after her death. Through his writing the reader walks along with Hugo, feeling all that he feels, seeing all that he sees, hearing all that he hears, until he is again reunited with his dearest daughter. Then, and now.
A la prochaine!