Two Poems by Hugo

Translated by E. Merrill Brouder

Tomorrow, At Dawn
(Demain dès l’aube, Les Contemplations, 1856)

Tomorrow, at dawn, the hour in which the country whitens,
I will leave. You see, I know that you wait for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
No longer can I live away from thee.

I will walk with eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Not seeing anything outside, hearing nothing at all,
Alone, unknown, spine stooped, hands crossed,
Sad, and the spring for me shall be like the fall.

I will see neither the gold evening turning to gloom,
Nor the sailboats descending on Harfleur,
And when I arrive, I shall set on your tomb
A bouquet of holly green and of purple heather.


The Child
(L’enfant, Les Orientales, 1829)

The Turks have been here. All is in ruin and grief.
Chios, the island of wines, is now but a ravaged reef.
Chios, which was shaded by the hornbeam trees,
Chios, whose seas reflected her woods sublime
And coasts, and castles, and at times
A choir of girls who would dance in the breeze.

All is deserted. But no; alone by the blackened wall
There is a blue eyed child, a greek child, who’s yet to fall.
Stopping his humiliated head
He has for his strength but one source of power
Something no bigger than he, a white Hawthorn flower,
Two things which the rage forgot to lay dead.

Oh! Poor child, barefooted on the broken rocks!
Alas! If only I could dry the tears from your fair locks
So that your blue eyes could rise,
Without the stormy shades of tears
And with the joy of a boy of so few years,
Beyond the azure of the seas and skies.

What do you want? Dear child, what can one give you
To bind you to gaiety, and to bring gaiety back to
The curls of hair which fall across your face,
This hair, which steel did not subject to indignities
But which has been scattered like leaves of the willow trees,
And which, on your shoulders, look so out of place?

What is it who could ease your nebulous sorrows?
Perhaps a lily could do it, with it’s eye-blue flowers,
And which grows on the edge of Iran’s dark sources?
Or the fruit of the tuba, so great a tree,
That from ones shadow to be free
One must ride for a hundred years on fast running horses.

Would you smile for me if I caught you the beautiful bird of the forest,
Who makes a song more sweet than the song of a flautist,
And more bright than any tamborine?
What do you want? A flower; a fruit; a bird with a song sweet and wild?
My friend, says the the azure eyed greek child,
What I want are bullets and a powder canteen.

Brouder Merrill Author PhotoE. Merrill Brouder is an English literature and French major at Skidmore College, currently based in Paris France. His poetry, essays, and translations explore the themes of history, folklore, self-expression and communication, and stoicism. Having been raised in the US state of Maine, it’s no surprise that nature imagery dominates much of his work. More pieces by Merrill can be found at The Write Launch. @BrouderMerrill on Twitter.