Demain des L’aube by Victor Hugo

Hey Guys I got a request to translate Victor Hugo’s Demain Des L’aube. Thisis a very touching poem if you know the story behind it and the ost subtle translation. Its a work in progress and I have revised it 3 times already. I will discuss tomorrow the difficulties and the changes I have made in my subsequent revisions

Demain, dès l’aube…

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

 

Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour that whitens the countryside

I will leave. You see, I know that you wait for me.

I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain

I cannot remain far from you any longer.


Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

 

With eyes fixed on my thoughts, I will walk

Without anything to see outside, without hearing any noise

Alone, unknown, bent, hands crossed,

Sadness, and the day to me will be like the night.


Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Neither will I see the gilding of nightfall

Nor the mist lowering itself over Harfleur

And when having arrived, I will put on your tomb

A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom

 

 

 

18 responses to “Demain des L’aube by Victor Hugo

  1. That’s my translation :
    Tomorrow at dawn, when the fields whiten,
    I shall go. You see, I know you’re waiting for me.
    I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
    I cannot stay away from you any longer.
    I will walk, my eyes gazing on my thoughts,
    without seeing anything outside, without hearing any sound,
    Alone, unknown, the back bent, hands crossed,
    Sad, and day will be for me like night.
    I will watch nor the gold of the falling night,
    nor the sails going down to Harfleur,
    And when I will arrive, I will put on your grave
    A bouquet of green holly, and blooming heather.

  2. I believe this poem was written to his deceased daughter. Hugo was very close to her, and heart-broken when she died.Her name was Léopoldine, and she drowned in a boating accident.

    • Yes, she did, but her fiancé jumped in the water to try and save her but the current was too strong and they died together.

  3. Many thanks

    Heard this for the first time yesterday at a funeral. It sounded beautiful but my French is not very good these days (use it or lose it!)Great translation and much appreciated

  4. I studied this poem over 50 years ago and return to it on occasions. Beautifully written and difficult to do it justice in English. I shall be using it, and Aznavour’s ‘à ma fille’ to teach the future tense to my French class (I’m not a teacher, long story, my fee goes to Hollybank Trust, Mirfield). I like the translations above. The following would be my offering:
    Tomorrow at dawn, the meadows white with dew,
    I shall leave. You see, I know you expect me,
    I shall go through the forest, I shall go through the mountain,
    I can stay away from you no longer.
    I shall walk deep in thoughts,
    Oblivious to the world,
    Alone, anonymous, stooped, hands crossed,
    Sad, and for me days will be as nights.
    I shall neither notice the golden sunset,
    Nor at the distant sails descending on Harfleur,
    And as I arrive, I shall lay on your grave
    A bunch of green holly and flowering heather.

    Enjoy!

  5. I studied this poem over 50 years ago and return to it on occasions. Beautifully written and difficult to do it justice in English. I shall be using it, and Aznavour’s ‘à ma fille’ to teach the future tense to my French class (I’m not a teacher, long story, my fee goes to Hollybank Trust, Mirfield). I like the translations above. The following would be my offering:
    Tomorrow at dawn, the meadows white with dew,
    I shall leave. You see, I know you expect me,
    I shall go through the forest, I shall go through the mountain,
    I can stay away from you no longer.
    I shall walk deep in thoughts,
    Oblivious to the world,
    Alone, anonymous, stooped, hands crossed,
    Sad, and for me days will be as nights.
    I shall neither notice the golden sunset,
    Nor the distant sails descending on Harfleur,
    And as I arrive, I shall lay on your grave
    A bunch of green holly and flowering heather.

    Enjoy!

  6. A high school French teacher, my goal is to have students memorize one poem a year, and this is a beauty. I have had this poem in mind during this past week, thinking of a Francophone friend whose funeral is this Sunday. To share it with her twin sister, I found your translation, which is very helpful. Mine is a variation. I would say as a native English speaker that mountains needs to be plural in a translation and also that in the penultimate line, it must be “arrive” in the present tense, and “will place, put, lay” in the future tense, unlike the French where both verbs are in the future. Merci beaucoup et voila!

    Tomorrow at dawn, when the countryside lightens,
    I shall leave. You see, I know you’re waiting for me.
    I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountains.
    I cannot stay away from you any longer.

    I will walk, my eyes gazing on my thoughts,
    without seeing anything outside, without hearing any sound,
    Alone, unknown, my back bent, my hands crossed,
    Sad, and the day for me will be like night.

    I will look at neither the gold of the setting sun,
    nor the sailboats going down toward Harfleur,
    And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb
    A bouquet of green holly and of heather in bloom.

  7. I studied and learned this poem by heart for an oral exam in Paris, many moons ago when I was 18 years old. The poem has a long history for me in varied contexts,the poem itself always beautiful and poignantly moving. Strangely, I only ever translated it in my head, and never attempted to write a version. I say strangely because I’ve translated quite a lot of French prose into Enlish poetry!
    While I like the above translations, I know mine would be different again, if I were to have a go that is! Thank you for yours. Oh, and I’d definitely have ‘sails’: that’s the whole point for me: Hugo’s eighteen year-old daughter drowned in a sailing accident at Harfleur. And I grew up in a sailing family, and we lost a young close family friend through drowning in a sailing accident.

  8. Pingback: Victor Hugo, Father and Poet « mynameisserendipity·

  9. I l (earnt this beautiful poem at primary school in France many years ago (about52/3 years), and heard it on France-Inter radio this afternoon, which prompted me to read it again, using the internet…Thanks all

    Rekha (Feb 2011) I think you must mean:

    Ma fille mortE, TU ME manques…if you mean ‘I miss you’, ‘Je te manque= You miss me’. Leopoldine drowned and her husband drowned in a boating accident, while VH was away with (his mistress) Juliette Drouet. He stopped writing for a few years after this poem.

    The tragic fate of his other daughter Adele was the subject of a film in 1975, with Isabelle Adjani

    A

  10. the story behind the poem.
    Leopoldine his oldest daughter (Adelle is his second daughter) drowned in a lake and Hugo never recovered from losing her. he makes a point in saying in another poem that she came and went out of his life (come un vol d’oiseau).
    Demain est un poeme tres triste et melancolique.

  11. Two months ago, my dear, 24-year old son took his own life. Lifelong diabetes and the more recent onset of bipolar disorder had ravaged him, spiritually and physically, and robbed him of any desire to live. This poem of Victor Hugo’s, which I chose to memorize when I, too, was 18, keeps re-entering my mind. It so accurately expresses the overwhelming flood of grief I feel on a daily basis. That’s what the best poets do. They use word to share or convey our most passionate feelings.

  12. Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour that lightens the countryside
    I will leave. You see, I know you’re waiting for me.
    I will go by forest; I will go by mountain
    I cannot remain apart from you any longer.

    I will walk with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
    Seeing nothing outside, hearing no sound
    Alone, unknown, hunched, hands clenched,
    Sad, and the day to me will be as night.

    Neither will I see the gilding of nightfall
    Nor the distant mist descending over Harfleur
    And when I arrive, I will place on your tomb
    A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom.

    May I add my own effort in translating Hugo’s emotive text? I find the original French text has more ‘punch’ that is lost in translation – words that make my heart ache.

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