by Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
translated by Jacqueline Michaud

sylvie coupe thouron

“Dans Ce Paysage,” oil on canvas, by Sylvie Coupé Thouron, 2011. Used with permission.

The sun slept this evening in clouds of mounting gray.
Tomorrow will bring the storm, and evening, and night
Then morning rays will rise, obscured by gauzy haze ;
Then again night, once again day–time’s endless flight !

All these hours will fade away, in crowds they will go
Over the surface of seas, to hills high above,
On silvery streams, and through forests they will flow
As contrapuntal hymns from our dead whom we love.

And the expanse of waters, the peaks of mountains,
Withered yet somehow young, and woodlands ever green
Will be renewed; the river’s pastoral fountain
Shall draw from foothills the flood it bears to the sea.

But I, bowing my head low with each passing day,
Move on, and, chilled even by so joyous a sun,
Soon shall take my leave in the middle of the play,
From the vast and lustrous world, to be missed by none !

*

Soleil Couchant

Le soleil s’ est couché ce soir dans les nuées.
Demain viendra l’ orage, et le soir, et la nuit ;
Puis l’ aube, et ses clartés de vapeurs obstruées ;
Puis les nuits, puis les jours, pas du temps qui s’ enfuit !

Tout ces jours passeront; ils passeront en foule
Sur la face des mers, sur la face des monts,
Sur les fleuves d’ argent, sur les forêts où roule
Comme un hymne confus des morts que nous aimons.

Et la face des eaux, et le front des montagnes,
Ridés et non vieillis, et les bois toujours verts
S’iront rajeunissant; le fleuve des campagnes
Prendra sans cesse aux monts le flot qu’il donne aux mers.

Mais moi, sous chaque jour courbant plus bas ma tête,
Je passe, et, refroidi sous ce soleil joyeux,
Je m’ en irai bientôt, au milieu de la fête,
Sans que rien ne manque au monde, immense et radieux !

Published 13 February 2014.

Jacqueline Michaud’s poems have appeared in New England Review and Breadloaf Quarterly, The Florida Review, and elsewhere. She has published two collections of poetry: The Waking Hours: Poems & Translations, and White Clouds. A member of the American Literary Translators Association, Michaud’s translations of Francophone poets have appeared in Per Contra, Poems for the Millennium: University of California Book of North African Literature (2013), and Chicago Quarterly Review.

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