La Legende des Siecles
by Victor Hugo
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La justice, c'est vous, l'humanite; mais Dieu Est la bonte.

Compare also the concluding lines of Le Crapaud.

The word has no exact equivalent in English. It comprehends kindness, tenderness, and gentleness.

It may be interesting to note that Hugo was fond of comparing an object composed of a centre and rays to a spider. Edmond Huguet (Les Sens de la Forme dans les Metaphores de Victor Hugo) gives the following examples:

'De la hauteur ou je suis, la rade pleine de nacelles (a quatre rames) figure une mare couverte d'araignees d'eau.' (Alpes et Pyrenees.)

'Nous estimons une araignee chose hideuse et nous sommes ravis de retrouver sa toile en rosace sur les facades des cathedrales, et son corps et ses pattes en clef de voute dans les chapelles.' (France et Belgique.)

'Les lanternes de ce temps-la ressemblaient a de grosses etoiles rouges pendues a des cordes, et jetaient sur le pave une ombre qui avait la forme d'une grande araignee.' (Les Miserables.)

Rostabat prend pour fronde, ayant Roland pour cible, Un noir grappin qui semble une araignee horrible. (La Legende des Siecles, Le Petit Roi de Galice.)

'Trois ou quatre larges araignees de pluie s'ecraserent autour de lui sur la roche.' (Les Travailleurs de la Mer.)

Hugo appears to have had a feeling of antipathy for the spider and frequently chose it as the symbol of evil. In _Dieu: Le Corbeau_,_ the spirits of good and evil are thus described:—

L'un est l'Esprit de vie, au vol d'aigle, aux yeux d'astre, Qui rayonne, cree, aime, illumine, construit; Et l'autre est l'araignee enorme de la nuit.

In La Fin de Satan, of the days before the Flood,

Depuis longtemps l'azur perdait ses purs rayons, Et par instants semblait plein de hideuses toiles Ou l'araignee humaine avait pris les etoiles.

And of Ignatius Loyola,

Sombre araignee a qui Dieu, pour tisser sa toile, Donnait des fils d'aurore et des rayons d'etoile.

Compare also:—

La toile d'araignee horrible de Satan. (La Trompette du Jugement.)

In other passages the spider is a type of the unpleasant.

La nuit, qui sert de fond au guet mysterieux Du hibou promenant la rondeur de ses yeux, Ainsi qu'a l'araignee ouvrant ses pales toiles. (La Confiance du Marquis Fabrice.)

See also the passage from La Bouche d'Ombre, quoted in the notes to Le Crapaud.


The subject of this exquisite little idyll is taken from the Book of Ruth, chapter iii, in which Ruth the Moabitess is described as lying at the feet of Boaz, the kinsman of her dead husband, Mahlon the Hebrew, in order that she might claim from him that he should marry her and continue the family of Mahlon, as provided by the law of Moses.

Judith. There was a Judith, daughter of Beer the Hittite, one of the wives of Esau (Gen. xxxvi. 34). Hugo may or may not have had this personage in his mind.

asphodele. Hugo is not always accurate in his local colouring. Asphodels are not found in Palestine.

Galgala, the form found in the Septuagint and Vulgate of the place-name Gilgal.

Les grelots des troupeaux. Here, again, Hugo is inaccurate. Sheep in Palestine do not have bells attached to them.

Jerimadeth. The name seems to be of Hugo's own invention. It was a trick of the poet's to make proper names suit the exigencies of rime, as in this instance, in which 'Jerimadeth rimes with' demandait.


It is impossible to name the period to which Hugo is referring in this poem more precisely than by saying that it is the age of Rome under the Empire. As will be seen from the notes, the personages and events alluded to are not all contemporaneous. It was enough for Hugo that they were typical of the Roman decadence.

Trimalcion. The festival of Trimalcion is an episode in the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, the poem in which are described all the excesses of Roman luxury and debauchery. Petronius Arbiter lived in the time of Claudius.

Lesbie. Hugo is guilty of one of his inaccuracies here. Lesbia was the lady to whom the poems of Catullus (87-47 B.C.?) were addressed, while Delia, who is mentioned below in connexion with Catullus, was in reality the mistress of Tibullus (54 B.C.-19 A.D.).

Crassus. Hugo no doubt refers to M. Licinius Crassus (died 53 B.C.), the Triumvir, who, when praetor, led an army against the revolted gladiators under Spartacus. He twice defeated them and subsequently crucified or hung, along the road from Capua to Rome, six thousand slaves who had been taken prisoners.

Epaphrodite. Epaphroditus, a freedman and favourite of the Emperor Nero, was the master of Epictetus, the lame slave and Stoic philosopher, who was amongst the greatest of pagan moralists. Epaphroditus, who treated his slave with great cruelty, is said to have been one day twisting his leg for amusement. Epictetus said, 'If you continue, you will break my leg.' Epaphroditus went on, the leg was broken, and Epictetus only said, 'Did I not tell you that you would break it?'

Hugo seems to have in mind the short reigns of Galba (r. A.D. 68-9), Otho (r. A.D. 69), and Vitellius (r. A.D. 69), all of whom perished by violence.

Vitellius was famous even among the later Romans for his gluttony and voracious appetite. During the four months of his reign he is said to have spent seven millions sterling on the pleasures of his table. When at last the people rose against him, and the soldiers proclaimed another emperor, Vitellius was found hiding in his palace. He was dragged out into the Forum and killed on the Gemoniae (les Gemonies), a staircase which went up the Capitoline Hill and on which the corpses of criminals were exposed before being thrown into the Tiber. This is the Escalier referred to in the next line.

l. 57. These tortures were not known in Rome. They suggest rather the Middle Ages.

le cirque. The circus where chariot-races took place. Hugo seems to be confusing it with the Colosseum, where the gladiatorial combats were fought.

Le noir gouffre cloaque. The Cloaca Maxima was the great sewer of Rome. It is still in existence and in use. Hugo here first makes it the symbol of the destruction towards which the Roman Empire was tending, and then treats it half as a concrete reality, half as a figure for some underworld in which dethroned but living emperors meet. This blending of the symbol and the thing symbolized is characteristic of the poet.

chiffres du fatal nombre: the figures or digits that stand for the doomed number, i.e. the number with which a doomed man is marked.

Attila, the famous king of the Huns, 'the Scourge of God' as he was called, reigned A.D. 434-53.


The poem is founded on the 'Chanson de Girart de Viane,' one of the Carolingian cycles of epic poems, written by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube, a poet of Champagne who lived in the first half of the thirteenth century.

The story, as told in the Chanson, is as follows:—

Girard, or Girart, the son of Garin of Montglave, a poor nobleman, goes with his brother Renier to the court of Charlemagne to seek his fortune. After being at court for some time he quarrelled with the Emperor, owing to the latter marrying the widow of Aubery, duc de Bourgogne, who was pledged to Girart. As a compensation for the loss of his bride, he was given the Comte of Vienne, in Dauphine. When he presented himself before Charlemagne to do homage, the queen, whose affection for her old lover had changed to contempt, forced him by a trick to kiss her foot instead of that of her husband. Some time after, Girart learnt the truth, and, furious at the insult placed upon him, he rebelled against his sovereign. Renier, who had been made duke of Genoa, with his son Olivier and his daughter 'la belle Aude,' came to help him. Charlemagne besieged Vienne with a great army, and amongst his warriors was his nephew Roland, who was his principal champion, just as Olivier was that of Girart. A siege, like that of Troy, ensued, many doughty deeds being done by the two heroes. In the course of the fighting Roland sees Aude and falls in love with her. He takes her prisoner, and almost succeeds in carrying her off to his tent, but Olivier rescues her. Finally, it is agreed that the quarrel between the monarch and his vassal shall be settled by a duel between the two champions. Needless to say, the latter fall in readily with the proposal. Olivier is armed by an aged Jew, Joachim, who with others of his nation had fled to Vienne with Pontius Pilate after the Crucifixion, and had not yet succeeded in dying. The combat takes place in an island in the Rhone, and la Belle Aude, with mingled feelings, watches from a window her brother and her lover contending for victory. The struggle is full of tremendous incident. At the outset each of the champions cuts the horse of the other in two and the fight is continued on foot. Olivier's sword is broken, and Roland invites him to send for another and take a little rest and refreshment. A boatman goes to Vienne and procures from the old Jew a famous sword, called Hauteclere, and some wine. The fight is renewed and lasts till nightfall, when an angel descends from heaven, and orders the two heroes to be reconciled and to fight together against the Saracens. The warriors embrace and Olivier promises Roland the hand of his sister. Such was the beginning of the friendship of the two mighty champions ofChristendom.

Hugo's poem, however, is not based directly on the story, but on a modern prose adaptation by Achille Jubinal which appeared in _Le Journal du Dimanche_ in 1846. Leon Gautier indeed, in _Les Epopees francaises, says: 'Victor Hugo s'est propose de traduire notre vieux poeme, dont il avait sans doute quelque texte sous les yeux.' But it is clear from the mistake about the word Closamont and other details that Gautier was mistaken and that the source from which Hugo drew was Jubinal's reproduction.

Hugo omitted from his adaptation two incidents of great poetic interest, namely, the picture of Aude watching the fight, and the miraculous intervention of the angel. He has, on the other hand, inserted the barbaric incident of the fight with trees. He has eliminated, that is to say, the tender and the religious elements from the story and made it simply the narrative of a Homeric combat, with more than a touch of the grotesque. Nevertheless, he has retained the characteristic incident of the chivalrous behaviour of Roland in sending for a new sword for his enemy and in giving him time for rest, a trait which finds a parallel in many other Chansons, notably in the story of the battle of Roland with Ferragus, a Saracen giant. When Ferragus is worn out with fighting, Roland watches over him while he sleeps, and on his awakening enters into a theological discussion with him in the hope of converting him to Christianity. When this pious desire fails, the combat is renewed.

Saint Michael is described in Rev. xii. 7-9 as fighting against Satan and casting him out of heaven.

Hugo is mistaken in his description of Olivier, who was not lord of Vienne and a sovereign count, but only the son of Renier, duke of Genoa. The only statement in these two lines which is correct is that his grandfather was Garin.

L. 27. As already noted, in the original story it is an aged Jew who arms Olivier for the fight.

Rollon (English Rollo) was the Norse pirate who invaded France in A.D. 912 and founded the Duchy of Normandy. The reference to him is of course an anachronism.

estoc (c pronounced), a long narrow sword used for thrusting.

cimier (from Latin cyma, the young sprout of a cabbage), the crest on the helmet.

Roland's sword, Durandal, which was given him by Charlemagne, plays the same part in the French Chansons as Siegfried's sword Balmung in the Nibelunglied, or Excalibur in the Arthurian cycle. Other forms of the name are Durendas, Durrenda, Durandarda.

en franc neveu du roi, like a real or genuine nephew of the king.

Tournon, a town situated on the right bank of the Rhone, in the department of Ardeche. It still produces a well-known wine, called Vins de l'Ermitage.

1. 70. Here is a curious mistake, which Jubinal originated and Hugo copied. Closamont was the original possessor of the sword, not another name for the weapon. The lines in the 'Chanson de Girart de Viane' are:—

Une en aporte ke molt fut onoree. plus de c. anz l'ot li iuis gardee, Closamont fut, k'iert de grand renommee, li emperere de Rome la loee.

Sinnagog or Sinnagos was the Saracen king of Alexandria with whose attack on the castle of Garin, Olivier's grandfather, the story of 'Girart de Viane' begins.

1. 144. This is another deviation from tradition, as we have it in the Carolingian cycle. Roland never married Aude. He was still betrothed to her when he fell at Roncesvalles.


The poem on part of which this is based is an anonymous Chanson written in the thirteenth century and belonging to the cycle known as the cycle of Guillaume.

The story is as follows. Charlemagne is returning from Spain, after the defeat at Roncesvalles, his army discouraged, his knights exhausted, and wishing only to be at home and in comfort. Suddenly he catches sight of a city, surrounded by a crenelated wall, splendid within, with a palace the roofs of which shine in the sun, its feet bathed in the sea, which is covered by the ships of its commerce. Charlemagne wishes to attack it, but the duke of Bavaria advises him to let it alone; it is garrisoned by thousands of pagans and his men are exhausted. The Emperor addresses several of his barons in turn, offering to each the city if he will take it. One and all refuse: Charlemagne upbraids them for their cowardice, bids them go home, and declares he will take the town by himself. Then Hernaut de Beaulande brings forward his son Aimeri, who volunteers to undertake the task. With the aid of one hundred barons he captures the city and is made Count of Narbonne. Hugo has selected the first and the best part of the Chanson for modernization. Leon Gautier (Les Epopees francaises) says: 'Rien n'egale en majeste le debut de ce poeme, dont le denoument est presque trivial... Rien de plus ennuyeux que le recit de tant de combats contre les Sarrasins; rien de plus attachant que le tableau de ce grand desespoir de Charlemagne a la vue de Narbonne, dont aucun de ses Barons ne veut entreprendre la conquete. Il n'y a peut-etre dans aucune poesie aucun episode comparable a ce discours de l'Empereur, lorsqu'il crie a tous ses chevaliers: "Rales vos en, Bourguignon et remenrai ici, a Narbonois." C'est ce qu'a bien compris Victor Hugo, qui a si fidelement traduit et surpasse encore les beautes du texte original.'

Hugo's poem, however, is not based directly on the Chanson, but on two prose adaptations written by Achille Jubinal, and published respectively in the Musee des Familles (1843) and the Journal du Dimanche (1846). Yet these stories did little more than furnish the framework for the poem, by far the greater part of which is the original work of Hugo.

a la barbe fleurie, white-bearded. Expression taken from the Chanson. In mediaeval poetry Charlemagne is always described as an old man.

Roncevaux, which we call by the Spanish name Roncesvalles, is the valley in the Pyrenees where Charlemagne's rearguard was attacked and cut to pieces by the Moors during his retreat from Spain.

Ganelon, the knight through whose treachery the defeat of Charlemagne at Roncesvalles was brought about.

les douze pairs. The twelve Paladins of tradition, who formed Charlemagne's Round Table.

L. 6-10. These words are taken almost verbatim from Jubinal's adaptation of the story in the Musee des Familles. Jubinal's words are:

'L'etcheco-sauna (le laboureur des montagnes) est rentre chez lui avec son chien; il a embrasse sa femme et ses enfants. Il a nettoye ses fleches ainsi que sa corne de boeuf, et les ossements des heros qui ne sont plus blanchissent deja pour l'eternite.'

In a note Jubinal says: 'Ces paroles sont empruntees au chant basque d'Altabicar.'

Son cheval syrien. In the Chanson Charlemagne rides on a mulet de Sulie (Syrie). Jubinal changed the mule into a horse. This is one of the points of detail which show that Hugo followed the modern author.

L. 25. The city, as we learn subsequently, was Narbonne. Narbonne is on the west coast of the Gulf of Lyons, near the eastern end of the Pyrenees. Originally a Roman colony, it was one of the chief seats of the Visigoths, from whom it was taken by the Saracens, when they overran Southern France. Charlemagne took it from the latter in 759. Till the fourteenth century it was a port, but the sand has blocked up the harbour and the town is now some distance from the sea.

machicoulis, battlements; or, more exactly, a gallery round the tower with openings in it from which projectiles could be hurled upon an enemy below.

vermeil. The word is one of Hugo's favourite adjectives, and is used to suggest a bright vivid red, and almost invariably in connexion with objects that have pleasurable associations.

The following are a few typical instances of its use:—

'L'aube vermeille.' (Les Feuilles d'Automne: Madame, autour de vous.)

'Les cones vermeils' (du palais dans les nuages). (Ibid.: Soleils Couchants.)

'Les beaux rosiers vermeils.' (Les Quatre Vents: L'Immense Etre.)

'Les astres vermeils.' (Ibid.: La Nuit.)

'Aux soirs d'ete qu'embrase une clarte vermeille.' (Dieu L'Ange.)

'Les plats bordes de fleurs sont en vermeil: (Eviradnus.)

'Et, vermeille,

Mahaud, en meme temps que l'aurore, s'eveille.' (Ibid.)

The word seems to be used without any definite suggestion of colour in such phrases as 'des espaces vermeils' (Plein Ciel), 'quand le satyre fut sur la cime vermeille' (Le Satyre), 'des arbres vermeils' (of trees lit up by the setting sun) (Le Crapaud).

The word is used with a bold extension of meaning in Les Voix Interieures: A Eugene, where the appetite of boyhood is called 'l'appetit vermeil.'

dromon, mediaeval warship, worked by oars and sail, the ancestor of the galley. The word is also used, as apparently here, for merchantmen.

Bearnais, inhabitant of Bearn, the province in the Pyrenees from which Henri IV came.

Turcs. This is of course a mistake for Saracens or Moors. The word occurs in the original poem, Jubinal copied it, and Hugo copied Jubinal. The original, it maybe noted, had 'trente mille Turcs,' Jubinal cut them down to 'vingt mille.' Hugo's 'vingt mille' is another detail which shows that his poem is based on Jubinal's adaptation.

preux. The Old French adjective meant 'valiant.' At the present time the word is only used in the phrase preux chevalier. Preux as a noun is rare, but de Vigny has 'Charlemagne et ses preux.'

je ne farde guere: I speak without affectation. Farder used absolutely in this way is rare.

rendus: knocked up, overdone.

arbaletes, crossbows.

L. 80, For the metaphor compare the Chanson in Les Chatiments, Livre VII

Berlin, Vienne etaient ses maitresses; Il les forcait, Leste, et prenant les forteresses Par le corset; Il triompha de cent bastilles Qu'il investit.— Voici pour toi, voici des filles, Petit, petit.

These two passages are good specimens of what Brunetiere called Hugo's barbarous and Merovingian humour, a species of humour which suits well the reproduction of a mediaeval Chanson, even if it offends the critical in a modern satire.

gentil, used in its original sense of 'noble'.

maillot, Old French form of maillet, a mace or club. salade, head-piece worn by knights, a word used in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries.

duche, which is now masculine, was formerly of the feminine gender.

liais, lias; pierre de liais is Portland stone.

douve, as a term in fortification, means the wall of a ditch.

estramacon, a long, straight, two-edged sword. The word is of Italian origin and first came into use in the sixteenth century. In an adaptation of a thirteenth-century Chanson it is out of place, as is salade above.

escarcelle, a kind of large purse which was carried at the belt.

l 193. The reference to the Sorbonne, which was founded in 1252, is of course an anachronism.

estoc. See note on MARIAGE DE ROLAND.

bachelier. In the Middle Ages the word was used of a young man of good birth who, being too poor to raise his own standard, fought under the banner of a knight, but not as a squire. The juxtaposition of Je suis bachelier with Je sais lire en latin has given rise to the suspicion that Hugo, who found the word in one of Jubinal's articles, understood it in the modern sense. In the absence of further evidence, however, the poet may be considered entitled to a verdict of 'not proven'.


Bivar, in Spanish Vivar, was the name of the ancestral home of the Cid. It is a castle near Burgos, in which the Cid was born in 1040.

patio (Spanish), a court or open space in front of a house. The ti is pronounced as in French question.

buenos dias=good day.

l 18. The full name of the Cid was Rodrigue Ruy Diaz de Bivar, or in Spanish Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar.

campeador. The Spanish word campeador, derived from campear, to be eminent in the field, signifies excellent, pre-eminent, and was the title given to their champion by the Spaniards, The Moors called him the Cid, i.e. Seid, an Arabic word for chief.

pavois, an old word for a large shield, which protected the whole body, and on which the Franks raised the king whom they had elected.

richomme, from the Spanish ricohombre, a title given to the Barons of Aragon.

servidumbre (Spanish), an establishment of servants. In Spanish the last syllable is sounded.


As far as is known, the story is of Hugo's own invention. The epoch may be supposed to be the later Middle Ages, the place anywhere in Teuton lands. The proper names are mostly of Hugo's own invention; some are, however, echoes from German mediaeval history. The poem and another called Le Petit Roi de Galice form a section of the Legende called Les Chevaliers Errants.

l 1. There was a Ladislaus, King of Poland, in the fourteenth, and a Sigismund, Emperor of Germany, in the fifteenth century. But the personages of the poem are in reality wholly imaginary.

stryge (written also strige), a vampire or demon that wanders about at night. Derived from Latin striga, a bird of night, or a witch.

lemure: Lemures (the singular is very rare) is the Latin lemures, the disembodied spirits which haunted houses and caused terror to the living.

val, valley, The word is now little used and only in poetry, except in the phrase par monts et par vaux.

preux. See note on AYMERILLOT, l 54.

munster (German), cathedral.

bauges, properly the lairs of wild boars.

Amadis, commonly called Amadis of Gaul, the hero of a celebrated mediaeval poem, written originally in Spanish, which recounts his heroism in war and constancy in love. He is the typical knight-errant and true lover.

Baudoin. This is Baldwin, brother of Godfrey of Bouillon. He became King of Jerusalem and died in 1118. During the Crusade he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy City.

Sir G.Young in his Poems from Victor Hugo suggests that Corbus may stand for Cottbus, the capital of Old or Lower Lusatia.

burg (German), a castle.

guivre (also written givre), a heraldic term meaning a serpent.

dree, a fantastic stone ornament.

fohn (German Foehn), the south wind.

le Grand Dormant: Frederick Barbarossa, who, tradition says, never died, but is still sleeping in a cave.

roture, i.e. his position as a peasant. Roture is derived from the Latin ruptura, the action of breaking the earth, and is the base of the common word roturier.

releve, used in its feudal sense of 'to hold of'; the castle was not feudally dependent on the city.

L. 214, i.e. the castle reflects the history of the ancient kings.

les deux haches de pierre. This is said figuratively and alludes to the deeds of Attila, who ravaged the Eastern Empire and extended his dominions almost to the Ural Mountains, whilst later on, crossing the Rhine, he attacked the Goths of Southern France and Spain.

Lusace, Latin Lusatia, German Lausitz, was a district between the Elbe and the Oder, in what is now the kingdom of Saxony. But the name has no significance. The personages and places in the poem are in reality all imaginary.

la griffe is the claw of a beast or bird of prey; la serre is the foot of a bird of prey.

Sortent de leur tenaille. A somewhat obscure expression. Apparently tenaille is used in the sense of 'vice', and the words mean 'are of their manufacture or moulding.'

L. 291. i.e. the Emperor is the superior in rank.

dromons. See note on AYMERILLOT, L. 39.

l'ordre teutonique, the Order of Teutonic Knights. Originally founded to protect the Christians in Palestine, the Teutonic Knights received domains in Italy and Germany from the Pope and Emperor, conquered Prussia (1228), and established there a military power which lasted four centuries.

hydre. In Greek legend the hydra was a serpent with seven heads, and, when one of them was cut off, two grew in its place. It is Hugo's favourite figure for cruelty or tyranny.

Lusace consisted of two margraviates, the upper and the lower.

elle a peur du fleuron, i.e. she is afraid to be marchioness. The flower-shaped ornaments in a crown are called fleurons. A marquis's coronet was adorned with 'fleurons' alternating with pearls and the contrast between the pointed 'fleuron' and the round pearl suggests the figure employed in the next line.

tribunaux d'amour, or cours d'amour, were the celebrated courts of the Middle Ages, presided over by ladies of high rank, which gave judgement in cases of love and gallantry and laid down laws for lovers. They existed principally in France, especially in Southern France.

L. 369. The Wends were a Slav people who lived in Lusatia, but the name Thassilo is Bavarian.

Nemrod. See note on PLEINE MER, l.107.

Fenris: the great wolf of Scandinavian mythology whose growth was such that the gods in fear chained him to a rock. Some day his upper jaw will touch the sky, while his lower still rests on earth, and then Odin will tremble for his throne.

le serpent Asgar. This serpent is probably of Hugo's invention and its name taken from the mythical city of the Scandinavians, Asgard, built by the gods and in which they often resided.

l'archange Attila. This is not the king of the Huns, nor is he one of the known archangels. However, as the Scriptures mention only three archangels, Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, out of the seven, Hugo may or may not be right in speaking of an archangel of the name of Attila. Le grand chandelier brought from the lower regions by the archangel is merely a poetic fancy and a reminiscence of the seven-branched candlestick of the tabernacle (Exod. XXV. 31-7).

Acteon. Actaeon in Greek mythology was a hunter who saw Diana bathing, and was in consequence changed by the goddess into a stag.

L. 437. chanfrein, the piece of armour which covered the head of the horse.

Les chatons des cuissards sont barris de leurs cles. A difficult line. The chatons were the studs or screws which held the thigh-piece (cuissard) in its place, and the instrument which worked them was called la cle. Barres appears to mean simply 'fastened'. Sir G.Young translates:—

'Their cuissart-studs up to the socket braced'

boutoir, the sharp spike on the knee-piece.

crible. The word refers to the visor with seven bars, which was one of the marks of a marquis's rank.

mortier. The round cap which was the ancient emblem of sovereignty in France. It was worn by barons who possessed full powers of administering justice in their domains, also by the presidents of the 'parlements', and by the chancellors. A modified form is still part of the official dress of some of the judges of the highest courts.

It will be noted that the antiquities in this passage are French, not German.

tortil, a ribbon twisted round a crown, the special ornament of a baron, not of a duke. It also signifies in heraldry a circular band or pad to which heraldic negroes' heads were attached.

rondache, a round shield.

L. 492. The reference is to the coronet of a French marquis, which bore eight jewelled ornaments, four of which consisted each of three great pearls arranged as a trefoil, while the other four were 'feuilles d'ache,' the heraldic representation of the leaf of the wild parsley.

hydre: see note on L. 323.

timbre, in heraldry, signifies anything placed above the escutcheon to mark the rank of the person to whom it belonged. Here Hugo seems to use it of the shield, perhaps because the triangular shield was a mark of knightly rank.

fauves, here 'terrible'.

A chapter might be written on Hugo's bold and occasionally strange uses of this word. Its primary meaning is either 'dull red' or 'tawny', but in Hugo's poetry it is used rather as a somewhat vague epithet to suggest darkness, gloom, cruelty, savagery, or oppressive power. It never denotes merely a physical quality; in such expressions as 'leur fauve volee', speaking of the ravens in La Fin de Satan, 'le desert fauve' (Androcles), 'son bec fauve', of the vulture (Sultan Mourad), the suggestion of wildness or ruthlessness predominates. Usually the word is used in a wholly figurative sense. Thus in La Fin de Satan the fallen archangel, flying from Jehovah, is 'fauve et hagard', Barabbas stumbling against the Cross is 'fauve', and of the lunatic in the tombs it is said: 'fauve il mordait'. In all these cases the meaning is 'wild','savage '. In Dieu we have 'Venus, fauve et fatale' ('cruel'), in L'Ane les canons dont les fauves gueulees' ('terrible'), in L'Annee Terrible'un hallier fauve ou des sabres fourmillent' ('wild'), and France is called upon to be 'franchement fauve et sombre' ('fierce'). In the following passages we have bolder uses still:

Le progres a parfois l'allure vaste et fauve ('awe-inspiring') Et le bien bondissant effare ceux qu'il sauve. (Dieu.)

If man had been unselfish,

L'ombre immense serait son fauve auxiliaire. (Ibid.)

Of war,

Elle chantait, terrible et tranquille, et sa bouche Fauve bavait du sang dans le clairon farouche. (Changement d'Horizon.) La fauve volupte de mourir. (Mangeront-ils?)

It is applied even to sound. 'Le fauve bruit' is used in L'Ane of the battles of primeval monsters, and more mystically in La Vision d'ou sortit le livre of the passing of the Spirit of Fatality.

Also of smell

Que l'homme au ciel s'egare ou qu'il fanatise Avec la fauve odeur des buchers qu'il attise. (Religions et Religion.)

Nor must the strange well-known line in La Bouche d'Ombre be forgotten

Le fauve Univers est le forcat de Dieu.

Fauve is always used of what is dark and gloomy, just as vermeil is always applied to what is bright and pleasant.

cimier. See note on LE MARIAGE DE ROLAND.

melusine. A heraldic figure, half woman, half serpent, bathing in a basin. Taken from the name of a fairy, celebrated in the folklore of Poitou.

alerion, a heraldic figure, representing an eagle without beak or claws.

le manche d'une guitare is the small end.

bourguignotte, a small helmet without throat-piece, so called because it was first used by the Burgundians.

_Diane eblouissait le patre: a reference to the 'old sweet mythos,' as Browning calls it, of Diana, the goddess of the Moon, stooping from heaven to kiss the shepherd Endymion, as he lay asleep on Mount Latmos.

Rhodope, the wife of Haemus, king of Thrace, who was changed into a mountain because she thought herself more beautiful than Hera.

1. 839. The allusions are to the quarrels between the Greek and Roman Churches.

galoubet. A little wind instrument in shape like a flageolet, with three holes. It was played with the left hand, while the right beat a tambourine. It was peculiar to Languedoc and Provence.

marche, German Mark, military frontier.

L'idee. In the original edition of 1859 the word was L'epee.

Josaphat. The valley of Josaphat or Jehosaphat is between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, and according to both Jewish and Moslem tradition is to be the place of the Last Judgment. This tradition may be based on Joel iii. 12, or on the meaning of the word Josaphat, which is, 'Jehovah will judge,' or on both.

goules, from Arabic ghul. English ghoul. The creatures who, according to Eastern superstition, devour dead bodies.

lamies, from Lat. lamia, a fabulous being possessing the head of a woman and the body of a sea-serpent, which was supposed to devour children.

en rupture de ban. Rompre le ban is to set at defiance a decree of banishment, the punishment for which was death.

un dogue en arret. The name dogue is given to a kind of large dog, akin to a bloodhound, but the term is not correctly used here, as en arret means pointing.

vermeille. See note on AYMERILLOT.


In his preface to the volume of 1859 Hugo appeals to the history of the Turks by Cantemir as a justification for his picture of Sultan Mourad. This was Demetrius Cantemir (1673-1723), who had a remarkable history, and wrote a valuable book. Though not a Turk, he attached himself to the Turks, and fought under the banner of the Crescent during his early life. In 1710 he was made Waiwode, or Governor, of Moldavia, Then, deserting the setting for the rising sun, he allied himself with Czar Peter the Great, then at war with Turkey. But the campaign was unsuccessful, and Cantemir, flying from Moldavia, took refuge in the Ukraine. For the rest of his life he divided his time between study and instructing the Moldavians who had accompanied him. He is said to have spoken Persian, Turkish, Arabic, modern Greek, Russian, Moldavian, and Italian. The work to which Hugo refers was a history of the aggrandizement and decadence of the Ottoman Empire. Written in Latin, and translated subsequently into English, French, and German, it was long the standard work on the subject.

It does not seem probable that Hugo had any particular Sultan in mind when he delineated Sultan Mourad. Indeed the geography of the poem suggests that he is depicting an idealized Oriental tyrant.

The nearest approximation to the monster to be found in the pages of Cantemir is Ammath IV (r. 1623-40), of whose cruelty and bloodthirstiness the historian gives a vivid account. His principal exploit was the taking of Bagdad from the Persians, on which occasion he slaughtered 1,000 of the citizens in cold blood.

For Hugo's conception of the power and influence of the Turkish Empire when at its zenith, see Le Rhin: Conclusion, II, III.

Liban is Lebanon.

rampantes. The word is used with the heraldic sense.

I. 19. The so-called Temple of Theseus (its real dedication is doubtful) stands on a low hill just outside Athens. It is in a state of almost perfect preservation. The nails which crowded its woodwork were doubtless those on which the heads of slaughtered Greeks were fastened. Of course in the Greek temple there was no woodwork, except possibly in the roof.

cangiar, a short Turkish sword, with an almost straight blade, having a single edge.

Naxos is an island in the South Aegean Sea; Ancyra, a town in Asia Minor.

epiques. A curious use of the word. It appears to mean 'worthy of epic poetry,' i.e. the spectres were those of great heroic men. In Les Chants du Crepuscule Hugo has 'des grenadiers epiques' (Napoleon II).

Elea, Megara, are towns in Greece, Famagusta is in Cyprus.

Agrigentum was a well-known Greek colony in Sicily; Fiume, at the head of the Adriatic Sea, is now an Austrian port.

Modon, a maritime town in the Peloponnesus.

Alep, Aleppo. Brousse, a town in Anatolia.

Damas, Damascus.

Tarvis (English Treviso) is a town in the province of Venice.

boyard. The boyards were the feudal nobles of Roumania and other Balkan countries.

Rhamseion, a sepulchral monument built by Ramses III, king of Egypt, in the fourteenth century B.C.

Generalife, the palace of the Moorish kings at Granada in Spain. It is scarcely necessary to say that no Turkish Sultan ever held any part of Spain.

echouait. The word is here used transitively (a rare use) in the sense of 'drove against.'

soudan, a word of Arabic origin, was a mediaeval name for certain Mahometan princes in Egypt and Asia Minor. The word seems here loosely to designate the Turkish sultans.

turbe, a kind of small round chapel, usually attached to a mosque, in which the tombs of Sultans and other great persons are placed.


This is the third section of a poem called L'Italie: Ratbert. The story is of Hugo's own invention, and is intended to delineate on the one hand the savagery, and on the other the knight-errantry, of the Middle Ages.

Pharamond, a somewhat legendary Frankish chieftain of the fifth century A.D.

Final. The name, alone or in composition, is borne by three small towns or villages on or near the Genoese coast. There was a marquisate of Final in the Middle Ages.

Witikind. Hugo possibly had in mind the Saxon chief of this name (A.D. 750-807) who for five years successfully resisted the power of Charlemagne, and finally made an honourable peace with him. It does not appear that he ever bore the title of king. His country was the ancient Saxony, that is the country between the lower Rhine and the lower Elbe. He had no connexion with Genoa, whither Hugo has dragged the Saxons without justification.

Albenga: the name is taken from a small town on the Genoese coast, not far from Final.

abbe du peuple, a name of a popularly elected magistrate at Genoa. The office was in existence from 1270 to 1339.

tribun militaire de Rome: Latin, tribunus militaris; the officers of the legion, six in number, who in republican times commanded in turn, six months at a time.

architrave, the lower part of the entablature, that which rests immediately on the column. To understand the line, it must be remembered that the tower is conceived as a ruin.

alleux, a feudal term, signifying hereditary property. The word is misused here in the sense of feudal dues.

censive. Another feudal term, meaning the dues owed by an estate to the lord of whom it was held.

balistes (from Latin ballista), mediaeval machines for hurling stones and darts.

le puits d'une sachette, a hole in which a recluse lived. Sachette (masc. sachet) was the name given to certain nuns of the Augustinian order who wore a loose woollen garment (sac), whence the name was derived. It afterwards became used of any recluse. In Notre-Dame de Paris Hugo applies it to the half-crazy inhabitant of the Tour-Roland.

cruzade, an old Portuguese coin, so called because it was marked with a cross. There was an old cruzade worth about 3 fr. 30, and a new cruzade worth not quite 3 fr.

Narse, or Narses, was king of Persia A.D. 294-303.

Tigrane, the name of an Armenian, not a Persian dynasty. There were seven kings of this name, and they occupied the Armenian throne from 565 to 161 B.C.

nonce. This word is in strictness used only of the emissaries of the Pope. Its use in any sense is an anachronism, as it was not introduced till the sixteenth century.

Ratbert is thus described at the beginning of the poem:—

Ratbert, fils de Rodolphe et petit-fils de Charles, Qui se dit empereur et qui n'est que roi d'Arles.

Arles, which Hugo spells with or without the s according to the exigencies of the metre, was the capital of the kingdom of Provence, one of the kingdoms formed out of the fragments of Charlemagne's empire. It embraced most of S.E. France, and lasted from A.D. 855 to 1032. This kingdom was frequently called le royaume d'Arle. Roy d'Arle is therefore a historical title, but the names Ratbert and Rodolphe, as grandson and son respectively of Charlemagne, are imaginary.

Macchabee. Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish hero, who freed his country from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Amadis See note on EVIRADNUS.

Aetius, a Roman general who lived in the fifth century A.D. One of the last heroes and defenders of ancient Rome, he fought Franks, Burgundians, Huns, and succeeded in uniting the German kings of Gaul against Attila, and inflicting a crushing defeat upon him (A. D. 451).

latobrige. The Latobriges were an ancient German tribe who lived in what is now Wurtemberg and Baden.

Platon: the Athenian philosopher Plato, justly placed amongst the poets.

Plaute: Plautus, the Roman writer of comedies, who lived in the second century B.C.

Scaeva Memor, a Roman poet and tragedian of the first century A.D., rescued from oblivion by this line. The three make a bizarre trio; see note on BOOZ ENDORMI.

Sicambre. The Sicambres were the German tribe who in Roman times lived on the Rhine.

incruste d'erable, i. e. inlaid with maple.

bailli, i. e. governor.

reitre, an old word, derived from the German Reiter, used of the German knights.

buccin, properly a whelk, is a name given to a musical instrument very similar to a trombone.

brassiere, a little jacket or vest worn close round the body. The word is usually used in the plural. Likely enough Hugo intends simply the corset.

au penchant des mers, i. e. where the land slopes to the sea. A peculiar expression; au penchant de la terre would be more usual.

les chouettes felines. The epithet refers to their nocturnal habits.

L. 353. The antecedent of que is vautours. The reference is to gladiatorial combats in the Roman Circus, and the louve d'airain is the famous bronze wolf of the Capitol, a statue representing a wolf suckling two children.

fauve, here 'savage'. See note on EVIRADNUS.

cru, i. e. unashamed.

faite vermeil. See note on AYMERILLOT, where the same phrase occurs.

L. 391. figurant, 'suggesting the form of'. A highly characteritic touch. Hugo possessed a faculty of poetic vision which changed the shapes of things so as to bring them into harmony with the dominant ideas of the moment. Cf. LA ROSE DE L'INFANTE, and LA CONFIANCE.

Heliogabales. Heliogabalus was a Roman Emperor (r. 217-222) noted for his sensuality and his caprices.

cistre, cittern or cithern, a musical instrument resembling the guitar.

un Louvre: the Louvre is the well-known palace in Paris where many kings of France resided. Note the antithesis in the same line, antre de rois, Louvre de voleurs.

les ors, various kinds of gold. Sixte Malaspina, introduced as one of the counsellors of Ratbert in a poem entitled 'Ratbert' not given here.

chape is the Picard form of 'cape' (see note on LES PAUVRES GENS, l. 97). It is the name for a long cloak, fastened in front, and worn by clergy and choristers when performing Divine Service. Formerly any long loose cloak was called a charpe. As is still the custom in the Greek Church, images of the Virgin or saints are largely used, and they are found as ornaments on pieces of furniture and sacerdotal vestments.

L. 455. A peacock roasted whole and served up ornamented with its feathers was a favourite dish at the banquets of the fifteenth century.

hypocras, an infusion of cinnamon, sweet almonds, amber, and musk in sweetened wine.

Le roi d'Arle. See note to l. 179.

l'araignee. See note under PUISSANCE EGALE BONTE.

jacque (also written jaque), a short close-fitting coat or tunic.

vair (English vair), the fur of the squirrel, a highly esteemed and costly material for dress in the later Middle Ages.

chevalier haubert, i. e. a knight who has the right to wear the haubert or cuirass.

Urbain quatre, Pope (1261-. 1264). He is rightly described as the son of a cobbler.

Afranus, introduced as the bishop of Frejus, and one of Ratbert's evil counsellors, in the poem of 'Ratbert'. See note on l. 435 supra.

L. 721. For the element of supernatural vengeance on cruelty compare L'Aigle du casque, published in the 1877 series.


A French critic has said happily of this poem: '"La Rose de l'Infante" est un chef-d'oeuvre, digne d'etre illustre par Velasquez.' (Gaston Deschamps in Petit de Julleville's Histoire de la langue et de la litterature francaises.)

The little princess, of whom such an enchanting picture is given in this poem, is an imaginary figure. There was no Infanta of five years of age at the epoch of the Armada.

basquine, a rich skirt worn by Spanish women.

point de Genes, Genoese lace, which at one time rivalled that of Venice.

fil d'or florentin, gold thread of Florence.

Duc de Brabant was one of the many titles of the King of Spain.

L. 69. See note on LA CONFIANCE.

glas (pronounced gla), 'passing bell.'

vitreux: 'glassy,' 'lack-lustre.' The sunken eyes seemed of an unfathomable depth.


Escurial. The vast and gloomy palace near Madrid built by Philip II in the form of a gridiron in memory of St. Laurence, on whose feast-day he won the battle of St. Quentin.

L'Inde. The inclusion of India in Philip's dominions can hardly be justified. As King of Spain he possessed nothing in India, and as King of Portugal only a few trading stations and fortresses.

For Hugo's conception of the power and position of Spain at this epoch, see Le Rhin: Conclusion, II, III.

L. 130. Prescott describes Philip as being habitually grave in manner, unsocial and sombre, and always dressed in black. The Order of the Golden Fleece was the only jewel he ever wore.

L. 137. 'Better a ruined kingdom, true to itself and its king, than one left unharmed to the profit of the Devil and the heretics. '—Correspondence of Philip, quoted by Prescott in the History of Philip II.

Burgos, the ancient capital of Old Castile. Aranjuez, a town in the province of Toledo, where Philip had a summer residence.

la toison d'or, the Golden Fleece, an order of knighthood founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 1420.

grincer un sourire: a bold and vivid expression, grincer meaning 'to gnash the teeth.'

gastadour, from the Lat. vastator, ravager, despoiler.

l'Escaut, the Scheldt. The Adour is a river in Southern France, but no ships for the Armada came from France. One suspects the influence of gastadour in the line above.

mestre de camp, an old term for commander of a regiment.

L. 182. There were no German vessels in the Armada. ourque, more usually written bourque, is a small Dutch or Flemish cargo-boat with two masts. It is something between the modern ketch and the old Flemish 'bilander'.

moco, Spanish word for 'cabin-boy'.

Pausilippe, a promontory near Naples.


Placed by itself under the heading L'Inquisition in the series of 1859, and preceded by the following note:—'Le bapteme des volcans est un ancien usage qui remonte aux premiers temps de la conquete. Tous les crateres du Nicaragua furent alors sanctifies, a l'exception du Momotombo, d'ou l'on ne vit jamais revenir les religieux qui s'etaient charges d'aller y planter la croix.' (SQUIER, Voyage dans l'Amerique du Sud.)

Momotombo is a volcano in the state of Nicaragua. E.G.Squier was an American antiquarian and author who was appointed charge d'affaires to all the Central American States in 1849. He does not appear to have written any work with the title quoted by Hugo. The passage quoted occurs in his Nicaragua, its people, scenery, and monuments, published in 1852. He relates in this book an instance of a bishop being asked to baptize a volcanic vent which had suddenly opened in a mountain!

Torquemada (1420-1489) was the notorious inquisitor-general of Castile and Aragon, whose name has become a by-word for relentless persecution and cruelty.


le golfe d'Otrante, between Italy and Albania.

au Phare: it is not clear what lighthouse is intended.

une Tarentaise, woman of Tarentum, in South Italy.

Gaete, English Gaeta, a bay and town on the west coast of Italy, north of Naples.

L. 47. The historical allusion here is not clear. Prince Eugene of Savoy, Marlborough's colleague, and Cardinal Mazarin were not contemporaries.

Livourne, Leghorn. Spinola: the reference may or may not be to the famous Imperialist general in the Thirty Years War.

prames, big flat-bottomed boats, capable of carrying cannon, and used for coast defence.

Notre-Dame de la Garde, a sanctuary at Marseilles.

Palma, a town in Majorca.


Victor Hugo's father was an officer in the army of the great Napoleon and fought in Spain as a general, but nothing is known of this incident except what is here told.

Caramba (Spanish), a colloquial interjection, implying surprise and astonishment.


To Hugo ugliness was as much a subject for pity as degradation or misery. Compare the following passage from Les Contemplations: Ce que dit la Bouche d'Ombre:—

Pleurez sur les laideurs et les ignominies. Pleurez sur l'araignee immonde, sur le ver, Sur la limace au dos mouille comme l'hiver, Sur le vil puceron qu'on voit aux feuilles pendre, Sur le crabe hideux, sur l'affreux scolopendre, Sur l'effrayant crapaud, pauvre monstre aux doux yeux, Qui regarde toujours le ciel mysterieux.

For Hugo's feeling for the brute creation, see Dieu: L'Ange.

Augustules. The last Emperor of Rome, Romulus, was given by the people the derisive nickname of Augustulus, or 'the little Augustus'. The capture of Ravenna in his reign by Odoacer marks the end of the Western Empire.

vermeils. See note on AYMERILLOT, 1. 35.

miroitait, glittered with light.

farouche, hard, cruel.

fauve, wild, shy. See note on EVIRADNUS, 1. 529.

1. 103. A difficult expression. Apparently it refers to the harsh grating of the wheel against the side of the rut.

connivence: the complicity of the burden upon his back with his master in keeping the ass in a straight course.

I. 134. i.e. the sad and melancholy, such as the ass, are equal to the angels, if they feel pity.


musoir, the head of a pier or jetty.

vertes couleuvres. The serpent appealed to Hugo's poetic instinct, and he saw its shape and its glitter in many natural objects. Compare the following passages, for most of which I am indebted to Edmond Huguet's Metaphores et comparaisons dans l'oeuvre de Victor Hugo:

La ronce, le serpent, tord sur lui ses anneaux. (Eviradnus, 1. 98.)

On voyait sur ses ponts des rouleaux de cordages Monstrueux, qui semblaient des boas endormis. (Pleine Mer, ll. 125-6.)

Ce sinistre vaisseau les aidait dans leur oeuvre. Lourd comme le dragon, prompt comme la couleuvre. (Ibid. 11. 116-17.)

L'ail voyait sur la plage amie Briller ses eaux, Comme une couleuvre endormie Dans les roseaux. (Derniere gerbe.)

Par instants, dans cette profondeur vertigineuse, une lueur apparaissait et serpentait vaguement, l'eau ayant cette puissance, dans la nuit la plus complete, de prendre la lumiere on ne sait ou et de la changer en couleuvre. (Les Miserables.)

La, c'est le regiment, ce serpent de batailles Trainant sur mille pieds ses luisantes ecailles. (Les Voix Interieures.)

J'ai vu au loin comme un long serpent de brume avec des ecailles de soleil ca et la pose sur l'horizon... C'etait l'Angleterre.— France et Belgique.

Dans ses flancs tenebreux, nuit et jour, en rampant Elle (la terre) sent se plonger la racine, serpent Qui s'abreuve aux ruisseaux des seves toujours pretes. (Souvenirs d'Enfance.)

cape, a cloak with hood, with which women protect their head and shoulders. Used in Modern French only in a few provinces, except in certain phrases such as sous cape, 'secretly'. The word is the same as the English 'cape'.

C'est la marine! Marine is often used as a nickname, as we say in English 'Jack'. On the French coast the word is often familiarly used in speaking to a man who is or has been a sailor, e.g. Dis-donc, la marine! Tiens, voila la marine! In this case it means 'Here am I!'

bonnet de forcat, 'woollen cap worn by convicts and also by fishermen.'

chiffon: used colloquially for a child, especially for a little girl.


Analysis. The vision of a gigantic derelict vessel on a boundless sea. This is the old world, the past of grandeur and horror.

In the nineteenth century a monster warship was built on the Thames, type of the spirit of that age. It carried two thousand guns; its topmast was higher than St. Paul's; now it has become this derelict.

The old world was subject to many plagues and scourges. Its moving spirit was Hatred, its characteristic, Division. Race strove with race; vice, ignorance, superstition, cruelty prevailed.

Now the old world has vanished, the ship is deserted. What has become of man? Look upwards!

cachalot. The cachalot or sperm-whale is one of the largest cetaceans, often attaining a length of more than 80 ft.

le grand mat, the mainmast.

deferle (of a wave), 'breaks.'

l.38. See the remarks, in the Introduction, on Hugo's treatment of shadows.

etrave, the stern of a vessel.

etambot, the stern-post.

l.53. The vessel pitches as she meets the waves (le tangage qui brave); the rolling throws up most foam (le roulis qui fume).

eclat, splinter.

fauve, savage, barbarous. See note on EVIRADNUS.

Le dernier siecle. "Pleine Mer" and "Plein Ciel" form a section of the Legende, entitled Vingtierne Siecle.

sur la Tamise. Hugo was hostile to England. He regarded the British Empire as one of the two great dominions the shadow of which was oppressing the world in the middle of the nineteenth century, the other being Russia. England embodied "l'esprit de commerce, de ruse et d'aventure". He developed this theme with a nervous and forcible eloquence, if not with great political insight, in Le Rhin: Conclusion (published in 1842).

portemanteaux, davits, on which the boats are slung.

grelin, a hawser or warp.

palans, tackle for raising heavy weights; block and pulley.

amure, rope by means of which the lower corners of a sail are held, 'tack.'

se le passaient, passed it along, i.e. the ship.

Nemrod. Nimrod is in Hugo the incarnation of the spirit of war. Cf. especially La Fin de Satan: Le Glaive.

pavois, as a naval term, 'bulwarks.'

vrille, gimlet. The conception is of some immense spiked ram.

alcoran, the Koran. Al is the Arabic definite article.

L. 191 refers to the texts in the Koran which order the death of those who do not accept Mahometanism.

simoun, simoon, the hot wind of the Sahara.



The vision of a ship in the sky. What is it? It is man, who has burst the bonds that held him to earth and risen into the clouds. It is matter soaring through the heavens.

First lyrical passage. The passage of the ship through the sky.

Description of the life in the ship; the absence of arms; the feeling of power and joy. Description of the ship's movement.

Second lyrical passage. The voyage amongst the stars.

Whither will man go? He has thrown off his oid nature, his past history is buried, he aspires to immortality.

Third lyrical passage. Is man to reach Heaven without death?

No, man must remain man, but the weight has been taken from his feet. War has vanished; man is good and just.

Fourth lyrical passage. The ship is moving towards Virtue, Knowledge, Right, Reason, Brotherhood, Justice and Love, and is carrying with it man, who will find liberty and unity in the light.

La Fable, i.e. the myth of Aeolus.

Eole. Aeolus was the god of the Winds, which he kept fastened up in a bag.

fausse clef, skeleton key.

fatal, 'charged with destiny.'

pesanteur. Not 'weight' but 'the force of gravity'.

Nadir is the point in the heavens which would be reached if a line were drawn through the centre of the earth and carried on till it reached the sky. But here it seems to be used loosely for any distant point in the heavens. The meaning is that from a remote distance the round earth, as it came into view beneath the ship, would have the appearance of a dusky comet.

aeroscaphe. A word once proposed, but never widely accepted, as a designation for an airship. It is derived from the Greek aer (air) and skaphe (a vessel).

humaine, i.e. made by man.

treuil, 'windlass.'

moufle, 'block.'

moteur, 'driving power.'

L. 171. i.e. by mathematics and poetry, that is by reason and imagination combined.

Euler was a Swiss geometrician (1707-83) who made great contributions to mathematics and mechanics.

Delos. Tradition says that Delos in the Aegean Sea was once a wandering island, and that Zeus fastened it down that it might be a home for Latona, who was about to give birth to Apollo and Diana.

Leibniz (English Leibnitz), the German mathematician, chemist, and philosopher (1646-1716).

Fulton, the American inventor (1765-1815), who was one of the first mechanicians to construct a steamboat.

Kepler. The German Kepler (1571-1630) was one of the founders of modern astronomy.

These three men are chosen as typical embodiments of the spirit of progress.

Simoun. See note on PLEINE MER.

mistral. In the South of France the north-east wind is so called.

Sous le renversement de l'urne. The urn is the symbol of that 'Fatalite' which to Hugo was the dark shadow over human life. Cf. LA TROMPETTE.

Andromeda, Orion, and the Pleiades are well-known constellations. Arcturus is a star of the first magnitude in Bootes.

The Scorpion and the Archer are next each other in the heavens. The lines express in a somewhat bizarre manner the effect of the outpouring of life on the stars.

Aldebaran, a reddish star of the first magnitude in the constellation of Taurus.

Cephee. Cepheus is the name of a constellation, as also is Perseus.

des espaces vermeils. See note on AYMERILLOT.

L. 232. Zoroastre. Zoroaster was the founder of the Persian religion. He was a great observer of the stars.

L. 245. Fatalite. In Victor Hugo the word denotes, not so much destiny, as the feeling or the doctrine that man is the helpless victim of an unseen and cruel power. It is a gloom which overhangs human life, from which in the progress of the ages man will be delivered. Compare La Vision d'ou sortit ce livre, where the spirit of 'Fatalite' is associated with paganism and contrasted with the spirit of religion. In Dieu again 'Fatalite' is one of the three sombre deities of paganism, the other two being Venus, the goddess of pleasure, and Hecate, the goddess of death. Cf. also the following lines from La Fin de Satan, put into the mouth of man's evil angel:—

Je suis Lilith-Isis, l'ame noire du monde. Tremble! l'etre inconnu, funeste, illimite, Que l'homme en fremissant nomme Fatalite, C'est moi. Tremble! Ananke, c'est moi. Tremble! Le voile C'est moi.

And again in Satan's speech to the Almighty:—

Tu seras Providence et moi Fatalite.

Notre-Dame de Paris is based upon this theme. See especially Livre VII. iv.

L. 255. For the metaphor compare 'la fausse clef du fatal gouffre bleu', l. 37, and the following passage in L'Ane about the prison of life:—

La porte en est massive et la voute en est dure; Tu regardes parfois au trou de la serrure, Et tu nommes cela science; mais tu n'as Pas de clef pour ouvrir le fatal cadenas.

L. 273. Cf. the well-known line in Les Contemplations: Ce que dit la Bouche d'Ombre:—

Le fauve univers est le forcat de Dieu.

Man is likened to a convict, in that he is undergoing punishment, not in that he deserves it.

Allioth, a star of the first magnitude in the Great Bear.

J'en arrive: 'Tis from there I come.

la pesanteur. Gravity symbolizes the forces which keep man down.

guebres, fire-worshippers, i.e. the Persians, who still adhere to the ancient religion of Zoroaster. The word itself is Persian.

Thales (English Thales), one of the seven wise men of Greece.

L. 317. An allusion to the well-known doctrine of the music of the spheres, enunciated by Plato.

chouette. The owl, as a bird of darkness, was to Hugo suggestive of evil things. Cf. La Confiance.

frisson des roseaux, i.e. a trembling like that of reeds.

Spinosa (English Spinoza) (1632-77), the Jewish philosopher, whose rationalistic views would be evidence to Hugo of his need of faith.

Hobbe. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the famous English philosopher, is best known by his defence of absolute monarchy. In ethics he held that man is swayed only by the desire for pleasure and the fear of pain. Either of these views would be to Hugo a system of despair.

Erebe (Erebus) was originally one of the Titans who was cast by Zeus into Tartarus. The word is thus used as a synonym for the lower world, especially those regions where evil deeds are expiated.

fatalite. See note on l. 245.

gehenne. Gehenna was the valley near Jerusalem where crimmals were executed. In the New Testament it is used as a synonym for hell.

Nimrod is again the embodiment of the spirit of war. Aaron typifies ecclesiastical resistance to progress.

Beccaria was an Italian publicist (1738-94) who worked for the reform of the penal law. His principal work was a small volume called Treatise on Crime and Punishment, which was translated into nearly every language in Europe. His opposition to the use of torture, to the infliction of the death penalty, and to arbitrary arrest no doubt appealed specially to Hugo.

Dracon, i.e. Draco, the Athenian legislator, the memory of the excessive severity of whose laws lingers in our adjective draconian.

Empedocle. Empedocles was a Greek philosopher who was born in Sicily about 450 B.C. He is best remembered from the tradition that he threw himself down Etna in despair at his incapacity to solve the problem of its action.

Promethee. Prometheus was the Titan who stole fire from heaven and gave it to men, for which Zeus chained him to a rock in the Caucasus. In legend and poetry he figures as the benefactor and civilizer of mankind.

pesanteur. See note on l. 305.

l'antique ideal, the ancient visions, as for instance those of Isaiah and Virgil, of a golden age.

farouche, i. e. that has never been realized.

L. 473. i. e. leaving the old humanity farther and farther behind.


buccin. See note on LA CONFIANCE.

blanchissant l'absolu, i.e. lighting up infinite space.

urne, used as the symbol of Destiny. See notes on PLEIN CIEL.

L. 117. i.e. entered the immeasurable and infinite.

gehennam, another form of gehenne, closer to the Hebrew geia Hinnom, the valley of Hinnom. See note on PLEIN CIEL.

avernes. Avernus was a lake in Campania, which the popular Roman belief held to be an entrance to the lower regions. Hence comes averne, used as a synonvm for hell.

L. 165. See note under PUISSANCE EGALE BONTE.




Odes et Poesies diverses. Paris, 1822. The volume contains several poems not found in subsequent editions. Han d'lslande, novel. Paris, 1823. La Muse francaise, begun in 1823, ended in July, 1824. It contains several articles by Hugo. Odes et Ballades, 2nd volume. Paris, 1824. Relation d'un voyage au Mont Blanc. Paris, 1825. The MS. was sold to a publisher, but never published. Bug-Jargal, novel. Paris, 1826. Odes, 3rd volume. Paris, 1826. Cromwell, drama. Paris, 1827. Les Orientales. Paris, 1828 (December). Le Dernier Jour d'un condamne. Paris, 1829 (January). Marion Delorme. Paris, 1829. Not acted until 1830. Hernani, ou l'honneur castillan, drama. Paris, 1829. Acted for the first time on February 26, 1830. Notre-Dame de Paris. Paris, 1831 (March 15). Les Feuilles d'automne. Paris, 1831. Le Roi s'amuse, drama. Paris, 1832. Lucrece Borgia, drama. Paris, 1833. Marie Tudor, drama. Paris, 1833. Les Chants du crepuscule. Paris, 1835. Angelo, drama. Paris, 1835. Les Voix interieures. Paris, 1837. Ruy Blas, drama. Paris, 1838. Les Rayons et les Ombres. Paris, 1840. Le Rhin. Paris, 1842. It is divided into three parts: Les Lettres, La Legende du beau Pecopin et de la belle Bauldour, Conclusion politique. Les Burgraves, trilogy. Paris, 1843. Napoleon le Petit. Brussels, 1852. Les Chatiments. Geneva, 1853. Les Contemplations. Paris, 1856. La Legende des siecles. First Series. Paris, 1859. Les Miserables. Paris, 1862. William Shakespeare. Paris, 1864. Les Chansons des rues et des bois. Paris, 1865. Les Travailleurs de la mer. Paris, 1866. L'Homme qui rit, novel. Paris, 1869. L'Annee terrible. Paris, 1872. Quatre-vingt-treize, novel. Paris, 1873. La Legende des siecles. Second Series. Paris, 1877. L'Art d'etre grand-pere. Paris, 1877. L'Histoire d'un crime. Paris, 1877. It was written at Brussels soon after the coup d'etat of 1851, but not published until 1877, when the Republic was in danger. Le Pape. Paris, 1878. La Pitie supreme. Paris, 1879. L'Ane. Paris, 1880. Religions et Religion, poems. Paris, 1880. Les Quatre Vents de l'Esprit. Paris, 1881. Torquemada. Paris, 1882. La Legende des siecles. Third Series. Paris, 1883.



Le Theatre en liberte. Paris, 1886. La Fin de Satan, poem. Paris, 1886. Choses vues, a sort of diary. Paris, 1887. Toute la Lyre. Paris, 1888. Extraits de la correspondance de Victor Hugo. Paris, 1888.


Besides these works Hugo wrote many articles, some of which appeared subsequently in complete editions of his works. The most remarkable of these are Journal des idees, des opinions et des lectures dun jeune Jacobite. 1819.

Les Destins de la Vendee. 1819. Sur Walter Scott. 1823. Sur Lord Byron (a propos de sa mort). 1824. Guerre aux demolisseurs. 1825-32. Journal des idees et des opinions d'un revolutionnaire de 1830. Sur Mirabeau. 1834. La Liberation du territoire. 1873. Many political articles, speeches, and prefaces.



The studies and criticisms on Hugo form a large and ever-increasing library. The most remarkable among them are the following:

SAINTE-BEUVE. Critiques et Portraits litteraires. Articles on Victor Hugo. 1832. GUSTAVE PLANCHE. Nouveaux portraits litteraires. Studies and criticisms on some of Hugo's plays. 1832-8. Revue des Deux Mondes, passim. Articles by Gustave Planche, A. Fontaney, and Charles Magnin. CHARLES ASSELINEAU. Melanges d'une bibliotheque romantique. 1867. LEONARD DE LOMENIE. Galerie des contemporains illustres. Vol. I. 1879. GUSTAVE DESSOFFY (le comte). Discours sur la vie litteraire de Victor Hugo. 1845. ELISA CHEVALIER. La Verite sur Victor Hugo. 1850. EUGENE DE MIRECOURT. Victor Hugo. 1854. HIPPOLYTE CASTILLE. Victor Hugo. A. MAZURE. Les Poetes contemporains. ERNEST HAMEL. Victor Hugo. 1860. ALFRED NETTEMENT. Victor Hugo. 1862. MADAME VICTOR HUGO. Victor Hugo, raconte par un temoin de sa vie. 2 vols. 1863. PAUL DE SAINT-VICTOR. Victor Hugo. 1885. E. Dupuis. Victor Hugo, l'homme et le poete. 1897. PETIT DE JULLEVILLE. Histoire de la litterature francaise. 1894-1900. CH. RENOUVIER. Victor Hugo, le Poete et le philosophe. 2 vols. 1900. A. SLEUMER. Die Dramen von Hugo. Berlin, 1901. GASTON DESCHAMPS. Conferences sur Victor Hugo. 1898. EMILE FAGUET. Histoire de la litterature francaise. 1900.

And a host of articles by such critics as Emile Montegut, Emile Augier, Edmond Scherer, without speaking of the innumerable notes and criticisms which have appeared on Hugo and his work in daily papers and periodicals both in France and in foreign countries.



These are extremely numerous, but previously to 1851, that is, before Hugo left France, they all represent him as a clean-shaven man. After his exile Hugo grew a beard, hence the alteration so noticeable in the portraits subsequent to 1851.

The portrait chosen represents Hugo in his youth, at the time of the first appearance of Notre-Dame de Paris.


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