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Sunday
Dec232012

Hugo, "Je la revois, après vingt ans, l'île où Décembre"

A work ("Again I see that isle, where two score gone) by this French man of letters, written on August 8, 1872, on returning to this island.  You can read the original here.

Again I see that isle, where two score gone, 
Most foul December sought and cast me out;  
That very isle indeed! Pale shipwrecked lout!  
That isle, a room still undisturbed, anon.  

Yes, this is how it was; this sweet isle seems  
To laugh, while I detect the same bird's flight, 
The same lush flowers trembling through all night, 
The same bright sylvan dawn in its mad beams. 

Again one more mirage, how those fields call, 
The orchards and the ripest fruits untorn; 
And in the firmament looms the same storm, 
The same grass at the foot of every wall. 

The same white roof awaits that loves me still: 
Beyond the scolding stream, eternal flow, 
That vision of my Eden, lost I know 
Down where the selfsame dazzling depths run chill.  

I recognize, 'tis true, this magic shore, 
As it appear'd to me in days more sweet; 
Where Acis and Galatea we seek, 
And yet where Booz and Ruth will linger more.

Because no isle, no mountain, and no beach,
Is better made amidst these bitter depths, 
To hide the rose of idyll in its breast, 
Beneath the tragic horror of the sea. 

O Heaven!  O this Ocean!  An abyss 
Of silence, the same nature, and of noise; 
Who knows what crack unfathomable is poised
Against both night and day in mortal vis.

It was these hamlets, yes, it was these beaches; 
It was the same fleet, volatile regard; 
That acrid scent of savage heath discharged,
Into the tumults of that same wind's reaches.  

Those waves, in silver laces ripp'd out, now show
The ruins whence derived their foamy mast.    
In them one finds the same pale shadows cast 
Upon the same eternal, changing flow.

Because the acrid sea's so full of grief,  
These same ignored, eroded paths lose steam;
Waves which still worry in terrific dreams, 
About the shape of those remaining reefs.

The same immense bird flocks weave here their lines, 
Atop the mounts where God makes thunder loud;
Those same trees' peaks, collected in a crowd, 
Have not stopped trembling, trembling all this time.  

I saw again, atop the humble lea, 
The same breath undulating in the ryes;
Those same stray eagles, those same butterflies,  
Above the ocean's boundless vanity.  

The same tide cloaks this isle of foam retread, 
Just like a horse a snaffle soon makes white; 
'Twas the same blue, 'twas the same mist alight. 
How many then once lived who now are dead!

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