Monday, May 7, 2018

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo (1802—1885) is one of France’s greatest writers, known for his novels, poems and plays. His stories, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862) continue to capture the imagination of readers today, and of those who have seen them retold in various forms.

In his writing Hugo took on political, philosophical and religious issues, such as promoting the abolition of the death penalty. In 1848 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly, and later to the Legislative Assembly. After the 1851 coup, Hugo escaped to Brussels and lived in exile for close to twenty years — primarily in the English Channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

He was critical of the church of his day for not championing the cause of the poor and exploited. Although he held some ideas, and sometimes behaved in ways, inconsistent with a Christian life, Victor Hugo clearly expresses Christian views in many of his works.

The following is translated by E.H. and A. M Blackmore.

“O God, whose work excels all we can think…”

O God, whose work excels all we can think,
Creator with no boundary and no brink,
-------Lidless and sleepless eye!
Soul never shut! Life’s everlasting spring!
Mystic gulf from which comes a billowing
-------Smoke of men, beasts and sky!

You human nations strewn throughout your coasts,
Rise up; unite, innumerable hosts;
-------Make war on God. Yes, do!
Attack the infinite Unattainable
Who is so kind that he is terrible,
-------So deep that he is blue.

Measure your frailty and his boundless power.
Legions besieging the almighty tower,
-------Multitudes far extended,
Frail insects thronging the vast pediment,
Passing things—before his first star is spent
-------Your last day will be ended!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.