Selected Poems of Victor Hugo: A Bilingual Edition


Although best known as the author of Notre Dame de Paris and Les Misérables, Victor Hugo was primarily a poet—one of the most important and prolific in French history. Despite his renown, however, there are few comprehensive collections of his verse available and even fewer translated editions.

Translators E. H. and A. M. Blackmore have collected Victor Hugo's essential verse into a single, bilingual volume that showcases all the facets of Hugo's oeuvre, including intimate love...

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hardcover First Edition First Edition, First Printing. A bilingual edition, translated by E. H. and A.M. Blackmore. 631 pages. Hardcover. Condition: very good, with very good ... dust jacket (reverse stain). --Sticker on jacket: winner of ALTA National Translation Award. ISBN 0226359808. Read more Show Less

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Although best known as the author of Notre Dame de Paris and Les Misérables, Victor Hugo was primarily a poet—one of the most important and prolific in French history. Despite his renown, however, there are few comprehensive collections of his verse available and even fewer translated editions.

Translators E. H. and A. M. Blackmore have collected Victor Hugo's essential verse into a single, bilingual volume that showcases all the facets of Hugo's oeuvre, including intimate love poems, satires against the political establishment, serene meditations, religious verse, and narrative poems illustrating his mastery of the art of storytelling and his abiding concern for the social issues of his time. More than half of this volume's eight thousand lines of verse appear here for the first time in English, providing readers with a new perspective on each of the fascinating periods of Hugo's career and aspects of his style. Introductions to each section guide the reader through the stages of Hugo's writing, while notes on individual poems provide information not found in even the most detailed French-language editions.

Illustrated with Hugo's own paintings and drawings, this lucid translation—available on the eve of Hugo's bicentenary—pays homage to this towering figure of nineteenth-century literature by capturing the energy of his poetry, the drama and satirical force of his language, and the visionary beauty of his writing as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This satisfyingly fat collection has some definite virtues in tracking the poetic output of Hugo (1802-1885), France's monumental 19th-century scribe: it is organized chronologically, with prefaces that mark out his various phases, and the original French texts are included, which is a rare if necessary pleasure in understanding European poetry. Unfortunately, in terms of translation, this huge book is almost a total loss. The Blackmores (Six French Poets) are a freelance writer and a faculty member of Australia's Curtin University, respectively, and they have chosen to render Hugo's work by preserving the rhymes. What results loses almost all of Hugo's power, as his delicate combination of the plainspoken and grandiose is upset by the demands of English jingling. Perhaps Hugo's most famous lyric, "Tomorrow, at Dawn...," becomes: "I'll cross the woods, I'll cross the mountain-height./ No longer can I keep away from you.../ Alone, unknown, hands crossed, and back inclined;..." If the "mountain-height" and "inclined" seem odd, that's because they are inventions of the translators, in order to rhyme with "bright" and "mind" respectively. Hugo wrote a far simpler poem, about how he would "go by the mountain" with his "back bent" to pay his respects at his daughter's grave. It is not an isolated incident, and anyone who reads even a little French must wince at the constant unpoetic interventions in English. This is a particular pity, as the translators have clearly worked hard to set the poet's work in biographical context, even if a preface underrates his novels as "by-products of his career... in which his talents were only half involved." The rather skimpy notes and very limited bibliography are added disappointments. (Apr.) Forecast: As far as bilingual selections of Hugo's verse go, this is presently the only game in town, so university libraries and stores with larger poetry collections will be forced to act accordingly. The French versions and good intentions of the translators provide some succor. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226359809
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 664
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Hugo

E. H. Blackmore is a freelance writer and translator. A. M. Blackmore is a member of the faculty at Curtin University. Together, they are the editors and translators of Six French Poets of the Nineteenth Century.


Novelist, poet, dramatist, essayist, politician, and leader of the French Romantic movement from 1830 on, Victor-Marie Hugo was born in Besançon, France, on February 26, 1802. Hugo's early childhood was turbulent: His father, Joseph-Léopold, traveled as a general in Napoléon Bonaparte's army, forcing the family to move frequently. Weary of this upheaval, Hugo's mother, Sophie, separated from her husband and settled in Paris. Victor's brilliance declared itself early in the form of illustrations, plays, and nationally recognized verse. Against his mother's wishes, the passionate young man fell in love and secretly became engaged to Adèle Foucher in 1819. Following the death of his mother, and self-supporting thanks to a royal pension granted for his first book of odes, Hugo wed Adèle in 1822.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Victor Hugo came into his own as a writer and figurehead of the new Romanticism, a movement that sought to liberate literature from its stultifying classical influences. His 1827 preface to the play Cromwell proclaimed a new aesthetic inspired by Shakespeare, based on the shock effects of juxtaposing the grotesque with the sublime. The great success of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) confirmed Hugo's primacy among the Romantics.

By 1830 the Hugos had four children. Exhausted from her pregnancies and her husband's insatiable sexual demands, Adèle began to sleep alone, and soon fell in love with Hugo's best friend, the critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. They began an affair. The Hugos stayed together as friends, and in 1833 Hugo met the actress Juliette Drouet, who would remain his primary mistress until her death 50 years later.

Personal tragedy pursued Hugo relentlessly. His jealous brother Eugène went permanently insane following Victor's wedding to Adèle. His daughter, Léopoldine, together with her unborn child and her devoted husband, died at 19 in a boating accident on the Seine. Hugo never fully recovered from this loss.

Political ups and downs ensued as well, following the shift of Hugo's early royalist sympathies toward liberalism during the late 1820s. He first held political office in 1843, and as he became more engaged in France's social troubles, he was elected to the Constitutional Assembly following the February Revolution of 1848. After Napoléon III's coup d'état in 1851, Hugo's open opposition created hostilities that ended in his flight abroad from the new government.

Declining at least two offers of amnesty -- which would have meant curtailing his opposition to the Empire -- Hugo remained in exile in the Channel Islands for 19 years, until the fall of Napoléon III in 1870. Meanwhile, the seclusion of the islands enabled Hugo to write some of his most famous verse as well as Les Misérables (1862). When he returned to Paris, the country hailed him as a hero. Hugo then weathered, within a brief period, the siege of Paris, the institutionalization of his daughter Adèle for insanity, and the death of his two sons. Despite this personal anguish, the aging author remained committed to political change. He became an internationally revered figure who helped to preserve and shape the Third Republic and democracy in France. Hugo's death on May 22, 1885, generated intense national mourning; more than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Good To Know

Hugo was seen by his fans as a grand, larger-than-life character -- and rumors spread that he could eat half an ox in one sitting, fast for three days, and then work without stopping for a week.

Hugo owned a pet cat named Gavroche -- the name of one of the primary characters in Les Misérables.

The longest sentence ever written in literature is in Les Misérables; depending on the translation, it consists of about 800 words.

When Hugo published Les Misérables, he was on holiday. After not hearing anything about its reception for a few days, Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher, reading, simply:


The complete reply from the publisher:


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    1. Also Known As:
      Victor-Marie Hugo
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 26, 1802
    2. Place of Birth:
      Besançon, France
    1. Date of Death:
      May 22, 1885
    2. Place of Death:
      Paris, France

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Odes and ballads (1822-8) 1
Epitaph 4
Morning 6
Summer rain 8
Orientalia (1829) 15
Moonlight 18
The child 20
Anticipation 22
The captured city 24
Ecstasy 24
Bounaberdi 26
Autumn leaves (1831) 30
"This century was two years old ..." 32
The slope of reverie 36
"I love these calm clear evening hours ..." 46
"Tonight in clouds the sun has gone to bed ..." 48
"One last word ..." 50
Songs of the half-light (1835) 56
"Lord, if you shelter France beneath your wings ..." 58
"Never revile a woman for her fall ..." 60
"Since I have tasted your still-brimming bowl ..." 60
Trust in God 62
"Since flowering May is calling us outside ..." 62
Lilies in tribute 64
Inner voices (1837) 71
To Virgil 72
To Albrecht Durer 76
"In Virgil, that almost angelic God ..." 78
"Look at the children next to one another ..." 78
"Love, child, is first of all a mirror ..." 80
After reading Dante 82
Sunlight and shadows (1840) 86
"In souls, as in pools slumbering beneath trees ..." 88
Guitar song 88
Passing through the place Louis XV on a public holiday 90
"O in my dreams draw near my resting place ..." 92
The melancholy of Olympio 94
Night on the ocean 106
June nights 108
The empire in the Pillory (1853) 111
To those who died on the fourth of December 114
"Since honest men are in the slime ..." 116
Fable - or history 120
No 120
The imperial cloak 124
Song of the departing seafarers 126
The expiation 128
Star 152
"There was a storm; the tide was at its height ..." 154
Contemplations (1856) 159
My two daughters 162
Reply to a bill of indictment 162
Continuation 176
"Blessed is the man rapt in the timeless will ..." 182
Omphale's spinning wheel 184
Letter 186
Written at the foot of a crucifix 188
Insomnia 188
Joys of evening 192
"It was a quirk of hers from earliest childhood ..." 196
"At dawn tomorrow, when the plains grow bright ..." 198
Death 200
"A stream fell from the mountainside ..." 200
At the feuillantines 202
Words on the dune 204
"I picked this flower for you on the hilltop ..." 208
"Hear me : I, John, have seen dark things ..." 210
"With our vile pleasures, passions, and disgraces ..." 210
To the veiled one 212
"It's all a tomb ..." 220
Nomen, numen, lumen 222
To the one who stayed in France 222
Songs of street and wood (1865) 246
Maytime dispatches 248
Reality 250
"Beware of pretty girls ..." 250
Seed-time, evening 252
The lion at noon 254
"'Be off!' say winter's snows ..." 256
The year of horrors (1872) 260
On the ramparts of Paris, at nightfall 262
Stupidity of war 262
A night in Brussels 264
"They serenade me, since I'm so humane ..." 266
The revilers 268
The art of being a grandfather (1877) 270
"There on the grass Jeanne sat, pink, pondering ..." 272
"The Comte de Buffon, fine fellow ..." 274
"Animals, see, they talk ..." 280
What the public says 280
The immaculate conception 284
The four winds of the spirit (1881) 291
For whom the cap fits 294
Pretty girls 296
"She went past : and I think she smiled at me ..." 296
"Because I shun the public marketplace ..." 298
"Marble and night created me ..." 300
To my daughter Adele 304
Walking in the morning 304
"All, always ..." 306
Night thoughts 308
The legend of the ages (1859-83) 313
To France 318
The earth 318
The lions 326
Boaz asleep 336
God invisible to the thinker 342
Supremacy 344
Inscription 354
The dragon 356
To the lion of Androcles 356
Muhammad 362
The parricide 362
Vivar 372
The insulted bey 376
The infanta's rose 378
"I walked at random, went forward ..." 392
The devourers 394
"A deep-eyed man went by ..." 398
The mountains 400
"All, in the vaulted dark, was vision ..." 404
1851 - a choice between two passersby 406
"I thought I had stopped living ..." 408
"O God, whose work excels all we can think ..." 410
The end of Satan (1886) 415
The song of Bethphage 418
The triumphal procession 432
The agony begins 438
Christ sees what will come to pass 440
Judas 446
Rosmophim 450
The crucifix 450
Beyond the earth III 458
God (1891) 463
"May this work, in its blazing flight ..." 466
The threshold of the abyss 466
The bat 478
The raven 488
The eagle 500
The light-source 514
The whole lyre (1888-97) 538
"Dusk, calm and deep, spreads out across the plains ..." 540
Night 540
"Barbey breathes - it's the way things are ..." 542
For Theophile Gautier 544
The moon 548
Birds 550
"Some day, no longer ruling any land ..." 552
"Do you take mankind for be-all and end-all? ..." 552
The fateful years (1898) 558
"Your honor, let me put it to you plain ..." 560
Paris "embellished" 562
Imperial and empirical 564
Last gleanings (1902) 566
Chorus 568
"Eternal, absolute, boundless, immutable ..." 570
Ocean (1942) 572
"Night fills the house with its funereal breeze ..." 574
"Yes, the same infinite - blue sea, deep shade ..." 574
"Calmly God writes across the glorious vast ..." 576
Notes 579
Select bibliography 615
List of poems in order of composition 617
Index of titles and first lines 623
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2001

    In English At Last

    We read Dante, we read Cervantes. Until now Hugo's poetic voice has not been heard in English. While I don't always agree with their translations, the translators have established a voice that rings true for the Hugo that I have grown comfortable with. Bravo! I have looked long and hard for this book, not knowing that it didn't yet exist. Now it is mine. And a beautiful book (the physical entity) it is, the cover is fine cloth, the binding carefully done, the pages gently creamed, the font simple and elegant. Very few books are made with such care and craftsmanship.

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