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VICTOR HUGO was born at Besançon in 1802; his father was General Leopold Hugo, whose German-sounding name is accounted for by the fact that he was descended from a family of Lorraine.
The poet writes thus of his birth:--
Let us just glance for a moment at the world into which Victor was born.
The French Revolution had proclaimed the social and civil liberty, equality and fraternity of all men, yet, because there was no law, freedom remained an unrealized dream. Anarchy and terror reigned supreme while the chief power passed from one band of men to another. Then arose Napoleon, a second, less noble Julius Cæsar; he was made First Consul, then Consul for life, when he used his power to reorganize shattered France.
Made Emperor by the voice of his people, his military genius, backed up by the fervent loyalty of those whom he had raised from a mob to a nation, changed the face of Europe.
The victories of Marengo, Hohenlinden, Ulm, Austerlitz and Jena laid Germany, Austria and Italy at his feet: Eylau and Friedland threatened Russia, which preserved a show of liberty only by the Peace of Tilsit. Spain fought desperately for her liberty, but at last even she had to accept a foreign king at the tyrant's hand.
Victor Hugo's childhood was shadowed by these great events. General Hugo took his family with him wherever he went with Napoleon's victorious legions, and thus Hugo visited Corsica, Italy and Spain.
We can trace two great influences in these childish days which bore great fruit in the poet's after life:--
(1) His mother's love. Hugo's mother was a noble, religious woman of wide sympathies; and the atmosphere of tender family love which, thanks to this good mother, surrounded the poet from his birth, resulted in the harmonious development of his affections: to his mother's influence we may ascribe his great love for his family--one of his most pleasing traits--his pitifulness and sympathy for the poor, and his earnest patriotism. The poet commemorates his mother's love in these beautiful lines:--
Oh! L'amour d'une mère! Amour que nul n'ouble!
Pain merveilleux qu'un dieu partage et multiplie!
Table toujours servie au paternel foyer;
Chacun en a sa part et tous l'ont tout entier."
(2) The other dominant feature of Hugo's boyhood was the picturesque charm of the sunny southern lands in which he lived. The beauty of these scenes affected him in two ways. Firstly, they awakened his æsthetic sense and gave him a high ideal of beauty. Secondly, his mind was stored with vivid pictures of beautiful landscapes. I like to think of the observant little boy drinking in these sights--taking mental pictures, as we should say.
These pictures remained rather in his imagination than in his memory, for when, later on, he drew on the stored-up treasures, we find him painting with more brilliant colours than those of nature, building enchanted cities greater and more gorgeous than any he saw as a child. When in after life he returned to Spain, he was disappointed, and felt that the glories he had portrayed had existed only in his fancy--or was it that the wondering eye of the little child could perceive depths of splendour to which the critical man was blind?
Victor Hugo has described his childhood in a little poem, "Mon Enfance," the last verse of which shows how his poetic genius began to stir within him:--
The year 1812, that dreadful year of disasters to the French, that year of deliverance for oppressed Europe, brought great changes to Victor.
We, remembering those black months of last winter, can understand how all France shared the sufferings of her soldiers, how all seemed to live through the struggle to reach Moscow--to witness the burning of the city--to feel the shame of the retreat, the agonies of that long march over the silent snow-covered plains. At last the remnant of the vast host reaches the Beresina: the pontoons are thrown over the flood--the men hurry to cross--the bridges break, and few indeed escape the icy waters and the pursuing Cossacks. That was the beginning of the end. We know the rest of the story--how the enemies of France held up their heads and banded together, how the allies poured into France and Marmontel's capitulation was followed by the abdication of the Emperor and his withdrawal to Elba, then later, how the feverish hopes of the Hundred Days were quenched at Waterloo.
In 1812 General Hugo sent his wife and family home to Paris. Victor's mother was, naturally, much preoccupied, and the boys, Abel, Eugène and the future poet, were left much alone. Victor found his happiness in a library to which he had free access and where he devoured eagerly volumes of verse, biography, travel and even scientific treatises. Then when affairs were more settled came a period of regular study. General Hugo wished his son to enter the Polytechnic School, and Victor devoted himself for a time to serious mathematical studies, but, finding these little to his taste and impelled by his inborn gift of poetry, he at last made up his mind to give himself to literature.
At the age of fourteen he translated Virgil into French verse and wrote heroically: "I will be a Chateaubriand or nothing." When fifteen years old he just missed a prize offered by the Academy for a piece of verse, but soon afterwards gained three prizes at the Jeux Floraux of Toulouse, a sort of modern tournament of poetry.
In 1822 his first volume of verse appeared, the "Odes et Ballades," poems animated by such fervent royalist enthusiasm as to bring him a pension of 1000 francs from Louis XVIII. About this time came a joy and a sorrow which made a man of Victor. The joy was his marriage with Mademoiselle Adèle Foucher, daughter of a family friend, and whom he had known from childhood. He loved her long in vain. M. Foucher and General Hugo opposed the match, though Madame Foucher favoured the young poet sufficiently to allow him to meet her and her daughter not infrequently in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The success of the "Odes" disarmed the prudent fathers of their objections and the marriage took place.
Many pretty stories are told of the honeymoon, spent in a château with a lovely old-fashioned garden; as for example, how Victor gave his bride a neat little parcel, from which, as she eagerly opened it, a great bat flew up in her face: that was the poet's way of offering her his charming verses, "La Chauve-souris."
The sorrow I mentioned was twofold: Victor's tenderly-loved mother died soon after his marriage, and about the same time his brother, Eugène lost his reason. The effect of these events is seen in Victor Hugo's poetry: the purely intellectual, as it were impersonal utterances of the artist give way to deeper, more human feeling, though always, as we shall see, the artist outweighs the man: his imagination is stronger than his emotions.
Now we must turn our eyes from Hugo the man, and fix our attention for a while on the poet. The reason of the great interest attaching to Hugo the poet is the fact that he is, as it were, the white foam on the crest of a great wave; though he does not really lead it but is carried on by it, yet in observing his course--and it is easier to see the dazzling foam than any other part of the surging waters--we follow that of the whole great body, in this case the Romantic movement in France.
To understand this movement we must turn back to the Middle Ages. Then in England, France and Germany, each nation, as it advanced in civilization, was developing a literature which might be described as indigenous, the natural expression of the national genius. Under these circumstances such works as "Piers Plowman," the "Chanson de Roland," &c., were produced.
Naturally one nation influenced another, often to a great extent; thus Chaucer shows plainly the effects of contact with the Italian writers, and the German Minnesingers show how the spirit of the Troubadours had spread from Southern France. Italian literature cannot be included in the class of mediæval national developments, because Italy inherited the tradition of the great writers of Greece and Rome, so that we find Dante in the 13th century avowedly the pupil of Virgil.
Three great characteristics of these mediæval or Gothic developments of literature, as also of art and architecture, stand out prominently.
Firstly, there were no hard-and-fast rules or conventions. The artist was fettered only by the limitations imposed by his material and by his personal sense of the fitness of things. Hence a wonderful freshness and originality is shown in all the work of this time--the result of perfect freedom in choice of subject and in method of representation. Thus the first great condition of all good work in art is secured; we have, as the matter which to become literature needs only a permanent form of expression worthy of the thoughts themselves, the conceptions of individual minds.
Secondly, actual sensuous beauty was much less sought after than truth of idea--in fact, beauty seems hardly ever to be deliberately sought, while in some cases the grotesque seems to have been purposely aimed at, as, for example, in the quaint carved gargoyles of Gothic cathedrals.
Thirdly, the great source of inspiration in literature, architecture and music, was the Christian religion. Was not the worship of the Virgin Mary, as the ideal of womanhood, the cause of the age of chivalry, with the bursts of literary activity that accompanied it, in France and Germany? Again, what but religious enthusiasm could have brought about the erection of the glorious cathedrals and churches which adorned mediæval Europe, buildings whose perfection in minutest details testifies no less than their size to the loving devotion of the artist? Further, that golden age of literary and artistic activity in Florence which produced a Dante and a Giotto is distinctly traceable to the religious stir made by the apostles of work and faith, S.S. Francis and Dominic.
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 resulted in the great movement known as the Renascence--the new birth or revival of learning--for it spread abroad among all nations of Europe the classical literatures of Greece and Rome. I am using this word "classical" exclusively of ancient Greece and Rome, then all literatures formed on their model--not, as Matthew Arnold used it, as meaning the best class of all styles of literature.
"The Renascence was the revival of literary taste . . . But this taste fastens especially--not on the beauty of conceptions conveyed to us, but on beauty of expression. If we lose sight of this we shall be perplexed by the unbounded enthusiasm which we find in the sixteenth century for the old classics. What great evangel, we may ask, had Cicero and Virgil and Ovid, or even the Greek dramatists, for men who had experienced a thousand years of Christianity? The answer is simple. They had none whatever. The civilization of the Christian nations of the sixteenth century was a very different thing from the civilizations of Greece and Rome. It had its own thoughts, its own problems, its own wants. The old-world thoughts could not be thought over again by it. This, indeed, was felt, though not admitted, by the Renascence students themselves. If the great writers of Greece and Rome had been valued for their matter, their works would have been translated by the Renascence scholars, as the Bible was by the Reformers. But it was not so. The Renascence scholars did all they could to discourage translations. For the grand discovery that we call the Revival of Learning was--not that the ancients had something to say, but that whatever they had to say they knew how to say it."
It was for their beauty of form that the classics were admired. Now the very essence of beauty of form consists in this, that the form is moulded naturally by the idea it expresses; it is not impressed from without, but grows up with the idea.
This the Renascence artists did not realize, but tried to impose the forms they so much admired upon their own conceptions. Let us make this point clear by an example of those conventions which were natural to Greek literature, but artificial in their application to Renascence works. Among the ancients the theatre was a great public open-air building, the stage always representing a street (generally before a palace), the place in which the Greeks lived nearly all their lives. Hence of necessity the scene was never changed, nor could the action spread over more than a few hours, i.e., about as long as the same group of people could be reasonably imagined to stand in the street.
In modern times there was no necessity for these "unities" of time and place; in England, indeed, the great dramatists refused to be bound by them, but in France the classical tragedian of the seventeenth century respected them superstitiously, often hurrying the action so much as to spoil his work.
The Renascence artists and writers certainly produced much that was really classical in the sense of belonging to the very best work, but later on classic taste degenerated or developed into formalism and conventionality, and love of beauty into that insipidity which results from lack of variety and contrast, just as the tasteless Rococo succeeded the "classic," beautiful Cinquecento art.
When the 18th century added a superficial, philosophical atheism to this formalism, it seemed as if the spirit of poetry were dead, and only its dry bones of verse and rhyme remained.
The chains of this formalism were shaken by that emotional genius Rosseau, who indicated as materials for poetry the poet's own feelings and emotions. His pupil, the author of "Paul et Virginie," opened up the world of picturesque nature to the poet.
The next step was the breaking of classical tradition by the Revolution: then Shakespeare became known and admired--certainly in a garbled, conventionalized translation, which makes of Othello and Desdemona a pair of lovers, which banishes Iago as "ugly," and turns the handkerchief into a billet, the pillow into a dagger.
Next, Madame de Staël, banished by Napoleon, studied and introduced into French literary circles the works of the great German poets, Goethe and Schiller, thus exercising a strong influence over the taste of her day. She was much struck by the contrast between the classical literatures of Southern Europe and those of the North, which she--the first to use the word in this sense--dubs romantic. She goes so far as to say that this Romantic literature is the only one that can grow and develop, because it alone is indigenous to modern times, it alone expresses our history, our religion, our personal feelings. So at the beginning of this century the old traditions were broken, and the world was waiting to find its voice in a great writer who should interpret and satisfy its longing after a new art. Then arose the morning stars of the new school: Byron, the gloomy bard of self-absorbed passion; Chateaubriand, who by his famous "Génie du Christianisme" opened to poets the vast field of picturesque and emotional elements afforded by our religion; and Walter Scott, who gave back to the world the poetry and charm of the age of chivalry.
The sum of all these influences is the Romantic movement. For a long time there was no recognized leader of the new art, for there was no man of talent who gathered up in himself all these tendencies and was able to unveil the ideal that all men dimly felt, and to lead the way to its attainment.
Then came Victor Hugo, and soon all the Romantics saw their rightful chief in the young poet, whose ideal was theirs, and whose brilliant imagination, wedded to a consummate mastery of his art, made him a giant among his contemporaries.
In 1827 Hugo published the creed of the new school in the preface to his impossible drama, "Oliver Cromwell."
Here is the essence of this creed:--
Man and the universe are essentially dual. We have the natural contrasts of body and soul, matter and spirit, the true and the false, the good and the evil, the beautiful and the ugly. These contrasts, as they are the characteristics of life, should be the foundation of art. Hence in Hugo's writings, as in those of all Romantics, we shall be particularly struck by the perpetual recurrence of antithesis.
It is not hard to understand how this definite expression of the faith of the new school gratified the one party and filled the classics with disgust. What! put the grotesque and evil on a level with the beautiful and good as subjects for artistic representation? Impossible! Horrible.
Hugo next set himself to storm the great fortress of classical art, to put a romantic drama on the stage. Accordingly in 1828 he wrote "Marion Delorme," considered his best drama, embodying all the canons of the new poetry. This piece was much admired by the critics to whom it was read--Gautier and Sainte-Beuve included; and every stage-manager in Paris tried to get it for his theatre. The manager of the Odéon was especially persistent. He pointed out that if the representation caused a pitched battle between classics and romantics, his theatre would be the most favourable battlefield, since a whole army of the romantic students of the Quartier Latin would be at hand to defend the piece. That argument having failed, he tried to carry off the manuscript by force. The play, however, never appeared; the government, seeing in Hugo's Louis XIII. a caricature of the then King Charles IX., interdicted the drama.
In a personal interview with Charles himself, Hugo failed to obtain the desired permission, and we find him indignantly refusing a sugar plum in the shape of a large pension.
About this time Hugo became a zealous Napoleonist, though his mother had brought him up a royalist.
Next he wrote "Hernani," a very romantic drama indeed. Immense difficulties had to be overcome before the piece was played. The censors quarrelled with the author about every possible point, then the actors and actresses--who were accustomed to the usual banal classic tragedies--mocked the piece and tried to wear out Hugo's patience. But he persisted; every day he went down to the Comédie Française, through the ice and snow of that very hard winter, and tried to rouse the enthusiasm of his actors. Add another difficulty: Hugo would not adopt the usual expedient to secure a certain degree of success, he would not hire the regular applauders of the theatres--the "claque."
The newspapers were full of the coming event. It was foreseen that it would be a real contest. All the young men who desired the triumph of the new art--mostly rather rowdy young students and artists--rallied round Victor Hugo, who assigned to them a certain part of the theatre. Fearing to arrive to late, these gallant defenders assembled too soon, and long before the appointed time a motley crowd of romantics surrounded the theatre, distinguished by floating locks and wild beards, clad "à la romantique" in the most eccentric garments conceivable, from Théophile Gautier's celebrated scarlet satin waistcoat to the most piratical-looking mantles and cloaks.
The classic set amused itself by saluting these fantastic romantics with a volley of cabbage-stalks, egg-shells and other savoury missiles, till at three o'clock the doors were opened to admit the gloomy bandits. These found the time till seven o'clock heavy on their hands, but passed it lolling about and devouring their dinners.
At last the curtain rose and Hugo had the satisfaction of seeing a house packed with elegant women and distinguished men, save where the sombre ranks of his defenders stood out dark against the splendours of the Philistine camp. The first three acts of "Hernani" went pretty well, but the closing scenes--especially that on the balcony--were a glorious triumph for Hugo. The applause was deafening, Dona Sol was overwhelmed with bouquets, and the author was called before the curtain.
Next day came a reaction; the newspapers were full of scathing criticisms, and each successive representation of the piece was a real battle, the hissing and mocking laughter of the classics drowned by the thundering applause of the romantics. Hugo said himself that every single line of the play was hissed, and so hot was popular feeling that his very person was threatened. Only the close of the season brought peace and comfort to the distracted author and his wife. It is rather amusing to hear that the poet was turned out from his flat by an unsympathetic landlord, who objected to having night turned into day by the bands of noisy students, who after every representation escorted Hugo home from the theatre.
From now till 1843 our poet enjoyed a period of ever-increasing popularity and of great literary activity. Among his many works I will only mention two or three. In the "Orientales" (1829), Hugo published a collection of gorgeous pictures of the East, the harvest of his boyhood's life in Spain. Other volumes of lyrics were, "Les Féuilles d' Aulomne," "Chants du Crèpuscule," "Voix intérieures," "Rayons et Ombres." In 1831 appeared "Notre Dame," which, spite of slender plot and absence of character-painting, is, by virtue of its magical restoration of mysterious mediæval Paris and of its marvellous language, perhaps the greatest Romantic novel. The plan of the book is something like that of Harrison Ainsworth's sensational "Old St. Paul's." Other dramas also in prose and verse were written and played. But in 1843 the total failure of the drama, "Les Burgraves," the fruit of Hugo's stay on the Rhine among the castles of the older robber barons, added to another sadder incident, closed this part of the poet's career. The fall of "Les Burgraves" really marks the end of the romantic movement, which was succeeded by the gradual development of our modern realistic school.
The other event of which I spoke was the great sorrow of the poet's life, touching him in his tenderest feelings--his love for his children. His favourite daughter, Léopoldine, was married in 1843, in all the joy of youth and beauty. Soon afterwards Victor Hugo went on a short journey, and while stopping at Rochefort he learnt from a newspaper the terrible tidings that, five days before, his beloved child had been drowned in the Seine while boating with her young husband. Their bodies were recovered; they had died locked in each other's arms; in their death they were not divided. The blow of this bereavement was so great that it seemed to break the poet's lyre. Not for thirteen years did the father's grief find expression and consolation in his art.
After 1843 Hugo comes before us in a new light, as a politician, but in parliament his vanity and his imaginative eloquence brought him into ignominious conflict with his more business-like opponents. At first Hugo was on the side of Napoleon, but in 1849 he suddenly joined the opposite camp, and consequently when in 1852 the "Coup d'État" put Napoleon III. on the imperial throne, Hugo found it advisable to leave the country. He took refuge in Jersey, whence his voice sounded throughout Europe, like Voltaire's from Ferney. Hugo felt the sadness of exile deeply and wrote from Jersey as from the tomb. His first utterances were bitter satires levelled against Napoleon "le Petit," as he called him--such were "Les Châtiments." Among all these powerful poems--personally I consider this his finest work--I must mention as especially powerful that marvellous piece "L'Expiation," a wonderful review of the disasters of 1812-1815, considered as divine punishment for the boundless, lawless lust of power which in Napoleon had become blasphemy and murderous disregard of human suffering. One cannot fail to be struck in reading this piece by the magical word painting of the horrors of the Retreat of 1812. Note how the recurrence of those two words, "Il neigeait," gives an impression by its actual sound alone, like a tolling bell, of the monotonous, deathlike, silent horror of the endless snow-covered plain, glittering coldly, hardly, while upon it thousands of brave lives faded away in bitter suffering and tragic helplessness--
"Il neigeait. On était vaincu par sa conquête.
Pour la première fois l'aigle baissait se tête.
Sombres jours! l'empereur revenait lentement,
Laissant derrière lui brûler Moscou fumant.
Il neigeait. L'âpre hiver fondait en avalanche.
Après la plaine blanche une autre plaine blanche.
On ne connaissait plus les chefs ni le drapeau.
Hier la grande armée, et maintenant troupeau,
On ne distinguait plus les ailes ni le centre.
Notice also how the short sentences, each terminating at the end of the line, which thus always end with a falling infection of the voice, give an effect of hopelessness; the sound thus echoing the sense as an accompaniment follows the spirit of a song.
The "Châtiments" were followed by some rather vague and unsatisfactory philosophical writings, which let one into the secret of the poet's bitter grief for the loss of his child. What consolation could such a creed as this bring to any human heart in the agonies of bereavement?--"Dieu, c'est l'infini vivant. Le moi latent de l'univers patent, voilà Dieu. Dieu est l'invisible evident. Le monde dense, c'est Dieu. Dieu dilaté, c'est le monde. Nous ne croyons à rien hors de Dieu." These words are taken from a most interesting book, "William Shakespeare," written during the years spent in Jersey, and which is practically a series of meditations about genius and the greatest men of genius in the world's history. This work abounds in deep thoughts: here are a few of them:--
"Comme l'eau qui, chauffée à cent degrès, n'est plus capable d'augmentation calorique et ne peut s'élever plus haut, la pensée humaine atteint dans certains hommes sa complète intensité."
"Homère, Eschyle, Job, Phidias, Isaie, Paul, Juvenal, Dante, Michel-Ange, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Beethoven, quelques autres encore marquent le cent degrés du génie."
"L'art supréme est la région des égaux. Le chef d'vre est adéquat au chef-d'vre. L'esprit humain a une cime: l'idéal; Dieu y descend, l'homme y monte."
"Les génies sont un dynastie: il n'y en a méme pas d'autres. Ils portent toutes les couronnes, y compris celle d'épines."
"L'ex 'bon goût,' cet autre droit divin qui a si longtemps pesé sur l'art, et qui était parvenu à supprimer le beau au profit du joli, l'ancienne critique pas encore tout à fait morte, constatent à leur point de vue chez tous les souverains génies le méme défaut: l'exagération--les génies sont outrés. Ceci tient à l'infini qu'ils ont en eux. En effet ils ne sont pas circonscrits. Ils contiennent de l'ignoré."
"La poésie est élément, irréductible, incorruptible. Comme la mer, elle dit chaque fois tout ce qu'elle a à dire: puis elle recommence avec une majesté tranquille et avec cette variété inépuisable qui n'appartient qu'à l'unité."
"Le profond mot Nombre est à la base de la pensée de l'homme. Il est pour notre intelligence élément. Il signifie harmonie aussi bien que mathématique. Le nombre se révèle à l'art par le rhythme qui est le battement du cur de l'infini. Dans le rhythme, loi de l'ordre, on sent Dieu."
"De toutes les questions, celle qui nous serre le c r c'est la question de l'áme. L'áme est-elle? La persistance du moi est le soif de l'homme. Sans le moi persistant toute la création n'est pour lui qu'un immense 'à quoi bon!' Aussi écoutez la foudroyante affirmation qui jaillit de toutes les consciences. Toute la somme de Dieu qu'il y a sur la terre dans tous les hommes se condense en un seul cri pour affirmer l'áme."
If space allowed I would quote the passage in which Hugo proves S. Paul's claim to rank among the greatest of the human race: it is especially interesting as coming from a man of such a creed as our poet's, and the appreciative tone in which it is written testifies to Hugo's wide range of sympathy.
Towards 1856 the bitterness of the poet's grief was taken away--compare these words written at the foot of a crucifix, with the creed I quoted before:--
And now his sorrow burst out into his tenderest song and he wrote the lovely Contemplations, filled with the memory of the child he had loved and lost awhile.
To this period belongs also his marvellous prose epic--"Les Misèrables"--chaos of picture and philosophy, capable of infinite interpretations. It is a poem of hope whose theme is the salvation of the individual by repentance, expiation. Or again, it is a democratic, humanitarian poem, contrasting the vices of the selfish, self-righteous middle-class with the virtues of the very poor, tempted, oppressed, deceived, suffering, dying. In this book comes a very sympathetic drawing of a little child, Cosette. Hugo was the first Frenchman who made children live in his works: we know why he could do it: the father's tender love and grief for one child opened the poet's eye to see, and tuned his lyre to sing the charm of children generally.
In 1870 the abdication of Napoleon III., the result of the Franco-Prussian war, opened again to Hugo the gates of his native land.
He endured the siege of Paris, but escaped the horrors of the Commune, then settled finally in Paris. Here he lived out happily the remainder of his life, adored by the people and surrounded by his beloved grandchildren, Georges et Jeanne, who inspired him to write his well-known "Art d'ètre grandpère," from which I quote the delicious little "Poème du Jardin des Plantes"--
CE QUE DIT LE PUBLIC.
"Les lions, c'est des loups."
" C'est très méchant, les bêtes."
"Les petits oiseaux, ce sont des malhonnêtes;
Ils sont des sales. "
Six Ans (regardant les serpents).
"Les Serpents" . . .
Cinq Ans (les examinant):
"C'est en peau."
"Prends garde au singe; il va tenderness prendre ton chapeau."
Cinq Ans (regardant le tigre):
"Encore un loup!"
"Viens voir l'ours avant qu'on le couche."
Cinq Ans (regardant l'ours):
Cinq Ans (regardant l'éléphant):
"Il a des cornes dans la bouche."
"Moi, j'aime l'éléphant, c'est gros"--
Sept Ans (survenant et les arrachant
à la contemplation de l'éléphant):
Vous voyez bien qu'il va vous battre avec son nez."
In 1883 Hugo published his last great work, the final series of the "Lègende des Siècles," a philosophic review of the world's history in a number of poetic pictures.
In 1885 died this idol of the people, the man who had gathered up in himself and fittingly expressed all the great waves of feeling of his century.
According to his own wish, the poet was buried in a simple pauper's coffin, but this coffin was exposed in state, by the universal wish of his countrymen, under the Arc de Triomphe veiled in black, and was followed by 100,000 men through a crowd of 2,000,000 people to its final resting place in the Panthéon, where a place had been prepared for it by the removal of the shrine of S. Genevieve, the gentle patroness of Paris.
"Victor in Drama, Victor in Romance,
Cloud-weaver of phantasmal hopes and fears,
French of the French, and Lord of human tears;
Child-lover; Bard whose fame-lit laurels glance
Darkening the wreaths of all that would advance,
Beyond our strait, their claim to be they peers!"