Social icons

Inspiration: Victor Hugo's "Demain, dès l’aube"

tulip petal

Henri Vidal's Statue of Cain

Victor Hugo's original manuscript of Tomorrow, at Dawn
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.


  1. This is such a beautiful poem. I'm so sorry about your friend.

    1. Thank you so much Melinda. My friend is recovering ever so slowly, but surely. I'm hopeful...

  2. I'm so sorry to hear of your friend. I've said goodbye to some dear family friends (and family) in the last few years - it's surreal that their vitality can ebb just like that. The poem is sad but beautiful. I've found great solace in reading the words and thoughts of great thinkers and artists. Sending you many good wishes.

    1. I really appreciate your wishes Lulu, thank you. My condolences for your recent losses. It's so difficult, the shifts that come along with illness and loss... as you said, surreal. How wonderful we can find solace in words and one another. Thank you again...

  3. I'm very to sorry to hear about your friend, Catherine. It's never easy to see loved ones so vibrant just suddenly become ill. I am praying for you and your friend. Thank you for sharing the comforting words of Victor Hugo. I will keep this with me for when I need comforting too. Blessings, my friend.

    1. You're an angel Charmaine, thank you so much for your prayers... my friend is making a slow recovery. I'm very hopeful but although he is not, the good news is I know he'll be ok because love surrounds him. Thanks again my friend :) btw, I was reluctant to write this post, but you've confirmed I needed to... xo

  4. Dear Catherine, my warmest wishes to your friend and may you find comfort and solace around you to make you stronger and help you and your friend keep - or find - hope.

    1. So very kind of you Daydreamer... please know how much your kindness means to me. My friend is recovering ever so slowly. Hope and strength and determination! Thank you again my friend, ...merci xo

  5. The photo of a single tulip petal reminds us of the beauty and fragility of life. I sincerely hope that your friend recovers fully.

    1. Thank you so much Pat, I very much appreciate your well wishes for my friend's recovery. You described the tulip photograph perfectly...

  6. Oh Catherine, thank you so much for this amazing Hugo's poem! I really enjoyed the french version (thanks God my memory still keeps enough of a language I've studied more than ten years ago!).

    The written word and the classical music is a must when I feel empty, tired and sad. I hope from the bottom of my heart that all is going to be all right with your friend, smile and hope are the key. Sometimes they could make miracles.

    1. Why thank you so much Natalie, I'm very touched by your words. Can't agree with you more about the power of Hope... my friend is doing much better now :)

      Hugo's poem in French is beautiful indeed. I hope it can offer some consolation when you most need it. Really appreciate you stopping by, grazie.


Hello + Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment...

La Mémoire Vive © 2016 Catherine Goron. Powered by Blogger.