Friday, March 11, 2011

Poetry Friday: Victor Hugo

I posted earlier this week about Victor Hugo and Les Miserables, so today I thought I would share one of my favorite Hugo poems. He had an amazing ability to capture a scene and a man's character in such few words. Hugo's father was a soldier for Napoleon. I don't know if this incident actually happened or if Hugo created it from some snippet his father shared or if it was completely from his creative imagination.

After the Battle
Victor Hugo

My father, of all heroes, kindliest,
Attended by the soldier he loved best
(Both for his mighty courage and his height),
Rode, where the battle had been fought, as night
Fell on the slain that cumbered all the ground.
Out of the shadows came a feeble sound.
A Spaniard of the army put to rout
Lay by the road, his life blood ebbing out.
Broken and groaning, on death’s very brink,
He whimpered: “Pity me! A drink! A drink!”
My father offered then to his hussar
A gourd that hung beside his saddle bar.
“Poor wounded man! Give this to him,” he said.
The soldier bent above the livid head
Of one whose mongrel blood had not yet tired
Of hate; who clasped a pistol still and fired;
With aim directed on my father’s brow;
And cried; “Die, Enemy, I curse you now!”
The ball skimmed close—so close his horse reared—then,
“Give him the drink,” my father said again.

Enjoy more Poetry Friday at Liz in Ink.


  1. I bought at an antique store a volume of Victor Hugo's love letters to his mistress. They are SO BEAUTIFUL. Wordy, but that's Hugo. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Dori - this episode could have been included in the Sermon on the Mount, huh?

  3. Irene, that sounds like a great find. Wordy is right where Hugo is concerned. Maybe that's why I find this poem so engaging. It's atypical.

    Robyn, I do love the man's character in the face of hatred, the ability to respond with grace, rather than what his enemy may have deserved.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Wow! Great story! It was going to be good when he offered the enemy water, and it just got better when he offered again after almost being shot!