Blog Poetry

Letter By Victor Hugo

You can see it already: chalks and ochers;

   Country crossed with a thousand furrow-lines;

Ground-level rooftops hidden by the shrubbery;

   Sporadic haystacks standing on the grass;

Smoky old rooftops tarnishing the landscape;

   A river (not Cayster or Ganges, though:

A feeble Norman salt-infested watercourse);

   On the right, to the north, bizarre terrain

All angular—you’d think a shovel did it.

   So that’s the foreground. An old chapel adds

Its antique spire, and gathers alongside it

   A few gnarled elms with grumpy silhouettes;

Seemingly tired of all the frisky breezes,

   They carp at every gust that stirs them up.

At one side of my house a big wheelbarrow

   Is rusting; and before me lies the vast

Horizon, all its notches filled with ocean blue;

   Cocks and hens spread their gildings, and converse

Beneath my window; and the rooftop attics,

   Now and then, toss me songs in dialect.

In my lane dwells a patriarchal rope-maker;

   The old man makes his wheel run loud, and goes

Retrograde, hemp wreathed tightly round the midriff.

   I like these waters where the wild gale scuds;

All day the country tempts me to go strolling;

   The little village urchins, book in hand,

Envy me, at the schoolmaster’s (my lodging),

   As a big schoolboy sneaking a day off.

The air is pure, the sky smiles; there’s a constant             

   Soft noise of children spelling things aloud.

The waters flow; a linnet flies; and I say: “Thank you!

   Thank you, Almighty God!”—So, then, I live:

Peacefully, hour by hour, with little fuss, I shed

   My days, and think of you, my lady fair!

I hear the children chattering; and I see, at times,

   Sailing across the high seas in its pride,

Over the gables of the tranquil village,

   Some winged ship which is traveling far away,

Flying across the ocean, hounded by all the winds.

   Lately it slept in port beside the quay.

Nothing has kept it from the jealous sea-surge:

   No tears of relatives, nor fears of wives,

Nor reefs dimly reflected in the waters,

   Nor importunity of sinister birds.

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