The Political notions of the poet must not be judged by this Song. In condemning the conduct of an individual, who betrayed a woman to her enemies, he does not vituperate the subsequent measures which were necessarily adopted with regard to that noble personage: he simply anathematizes the name of a wretch, whose heart, devoid of all kind feelings of gratitude—of respect—and of pity, was corrupted by gold, and rendered subservient to the designs of his employers.
Victor Hugo’s poem ‘Poland’ was originally written in 1833 and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules. It was later translated into English by George W.M. Reynolds in Songs of Twilight (1836), which has recently been published as a single volume, transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.
In this book, therefore—small though it be when compared with the vast magnitude of its subject—there are a thousand discrepancies—lustre and obscurity, which pervade all we see, and all we conceive in this age of twilight, which envelope our political theories, our religious opinions, our domestic life, and which are even discovered in the histories we write of others, as well as in those of ourselves.
The following poem appeared in Victor Hugo’s Chants des Crepuscules (1835) and was translated by G.W.M. Reynolds. It celebrates Napoleon’s son, Napoleon, who died too young and had no contact with father after the emperor was exiled to St Helena.
‘Bridal Festivity’ was written by Victor Hugo in August 1832 and published in his Chants des Crepuscules. The poem itself takes a somewhat dark turn towards the end, as readers will see. Perhaps this was an allegory on the dangers that awaited the French ruling classes
In the present age, everything, whether ideal or fact, whether connected with society in general, or with a single individual—everything is in a state of twilight. But of what species is that twilight? Oh! who shall solve so profound a mystery—the most sublime of all those that are agitated during times of doubt and uncertainty?
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: Say, Lord! for Thou alone canst tell / Where lurks the good invisible / Amid the depths of discord’s sea— / That seem, alas! so dark to me!
Written by Victor Hugo and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules in 1835 and Translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight in 1836: 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!”
A poem written by Victor Hugo in 1833 and translated by G.W.M. Reynolds: Behold the ball-room flashing on the sight, / From step to cornice one grand glare of light; / The noise of mirth and revelry resounds, / Like fairy melody on haunted grounds.
Written by Victor Hugo in 1835 and translated by G.W.M. Reynolds: How shall I note thee, line of troubled years, / Which mark existence in our little span? / One constant twilight in the heaven appears— / One constant twilight in the mind of man!
A poem written by Victor Hugo in 1835: The hall is gay with limpid lustre bright/The feast to pampered palate gives delight/The sated guests pick at the spicy food,/And at that table—where the wise are few/Both sexes and all ages meet the view;/The sturdy warrior with a thoughtful face—/The am’rous youth, the maid replete with grace,/The prattling infant, and the hoary hair.