19th Century

The Land of Fable | Victor Hugo

Written by Victor Hugo and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules in 1835

Translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight in 1836.

(“L’Orient! Qu’y voyez-vous, poëtes?”)[1]

[Poets! What do you see in the East?]


Now, vot’ries of the Muses, turn your eyes,

    Unto the East, and say what there appears!

“Alas!” the voice of Poesy replies,

    “Mystic’s that light between the hemispheres!”

“Yes, dread’s the mystic light in yonder heaven—

    Dull is the gleam behind the distant hill;

Like feeble flashes in the welkin driven,

    When the far thunder seems as it were still!

“But who can tell if that uncertain glare

    Be Phoebus’ self, adorned with glowing vest;

Or, if illusions, pregnant in the air,

    Have drawn our glances to the radiant west?

“Haply the sunset has deceived the sight—

    Perchance ’tis evening, while we look for morning;

Bewildered in the mazes of twilight,

    That lucid sunset may appear a dawning!”

[1] Original citation: Reynolds, Songs of Twilight and Hapgood, Smith, and Dole, pp. 108.