Anvil Press Poetry

The Distance, The Shadows

Selected Poems

The Distance, The Shadows

By: Victor Hugo

Translated by: Harry Guest

Pages: 256

Size: 216 x 138 mm

Published: 2002

Bilingual edition

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Victor Hugo, the most prolific and versatile of the French Romantics, is one of the greatest nineteenth-century writers. Partly because of its enormous range and variety, his poetry has remained comparatively little known outside France. In this new edition of his acclaimed translations, Harry Guest convincingly brings into English many of Hugo’s great qualities: his passion for social justice, his simple humanity and an imaginative breadth of vision which few poets have equalled. The book’s usefulness is enhanced by the inclusion of the French texts, drawn as they are from so many different periods of Hugo’s work.

 

Grand-daughter

Jeanne squatting on the grass looked pensive,
a serious curve to her pink cheek.
I went up. ‘Anything you want?’
For I obey my grandchildren, observe them,
try all the time to grasp what’s in their head.
And she replied. ‘Beasties.’
So I parted grass-blades, found an ant.
‘There you are.’ She was half-satisfied.
‘No, beasties are big,’ she told me.
                                                                       They dream
the huge. Seas lure them to the shore,
lull them with a harsh rhythm,
enticing them with shadow
and the monstrous flying of the wind.
They relish terror, need the marvellous.
I had no elephant handy and apologized.
‘Won’t something else do? Tell me, Jeanne.’
She raised a tiny finger at the sky.
‘That,’ she said. It was time for evening.
I saw the moon’s great disc on the horizon.

Translated by Harry Guest

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