|Victor Hugo's original manuscript (1847) published in The Contemplations|
Yesterday was one of those days when inspiration drifted slowly out of reach, slipping further away with each exhale. I had received news that a friend was hospitalized, and the doctors gravely concluded that his heart has simply become too tired. Such a sad description for someone normally so full of vitality...
Walking along a carpet of golden leaves under shimmering autumnal sunlight, it was difficult to feel anything but blue.
For me, there is enormous consolation in art and the written word. So I turned to Victor Hugo's Demain, dès l’aube (Tomorrow, at Dawn). It's not an uplifting poem, but it offers solace within the realm of love, loss and longing. The piece was written by Hugo for his beloved daughter, Léopoldine, who died from a boating accident, and in it he travels to her tomb. The poem is simple in its wording and rhythm, somber in tone, yet enormously tender and evocative. It offers comfort through reconnection. So I took the journey with Victor Hugo... and by the end found that inspiration (and hope for my friend) was waiting there for me. In fact I realize it hovers constant, always nearby...
Demain, dès l’aube (Tomorrow, at Dawn) - by Victor Hugo
[The original French is followed by an English translation]
Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
Tomorrow, at dawn, in the hour when the countryside becomes white,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.
I will walk the eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Without seeing anything outside, nor hearing any noise,
Alone, unknown, the back curved, the hands crossed,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.
I will not look at the gold of the evening which falls,
Nor the faraway sails descending towards Harfleur.
And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb
A green bouquet of holly and flowering heather.