Translating Hugo: One-Year-Old: My Journey to the French Language

george-blog

George Walker Scott

Translating Hugo :  One-Year-Old

This translation of Hugo’s poem, One-Year-Old, is dedicated to my grandson, George Walker Scott.  The first time I read this sweet poem, I was reminded of my own sentiments towards my first grandchild and the awe and wonder that his Papa and I felt when we met him.  A second enduring quality of this poem is that George also has the same physical characteristics of Hugo’s son with blond hair and blue-green, twinkling eyes! Hugo describes his one-year-old son and his purity of heart and soul, with a very protective spirit, as we all have towards our children and grandchildren.

The ending of this poem describes a parent’s new perspective of the world once our children are introduced into it: the ill will, pettiness and trivialities fade away amid this new wonderful world of innocents.

grammar-george

George and Grammar, 1 year old

One-Year-Old by Victor Hugo

Lorsque l’enfant paraît, le cercle de famille
Applaudit à grands cris. Son doux regard qui brille
Fait briller tous les yeux,
Et les plu tristes fronts, les plus souillés peut-être,
Se dérident soudain à voir l’enfant paraître,
Innocent et joyeux.

Soit que juin ait verdi mon seuil, ou que novembre
Fasse autour d’un grand feu vacillant dans la chambre
Les chaises se toucher,
Quand l’enfant vient, la joie arrive et nous éclaire.
On rit, on se récrie, on l’appelle, et sa mère
Tremble à le voir marcher.

Quelquefois nous parlons, en remuant la flamme,
De patrie et de Dieu, des poètes, de l’âme
Qui s’élève en priant ;
L’enfant paraît, adieu le ciel et la patrie
Et les poètes saints !  la grave causerie
S’arrête en souriant.

La nuit, quand l’homme dort, quand l’esprit rêve, à l’heure
Où l’on entend gémir, comme une voix qui pleure,
L’onde entre les roseaux,
Si l’aube tout à coup là-bas luit comme un phare,
Sa clarté dans les champs éveille une fanfare
De cloches et d’oiseaux.

Enfant, vous êtes l’aube et mon âme est la plaine
Qui des plus douces fleurs embaume son haleine
Quand vous la respirez ;
Mon âme est la forêt dont les sombres ramures
S’emplissent pour vous seul de suaves murmures !
Et de rayons dorés !

president-bush-little-w

George with President Bush, his namesake!

Car vos beaux yeux sont pleins de douceurs infinies,
Car vos petites mains, joyeuses et bénies,
N’ont point mal fait encor ;
Jamais vos jeunes pas n’ont touché notre fange,
Tête sacrée ! enfant aux cheveux blonds ! bel ange
A l’auréole d’or !

Vous êtes parmi nous la colombe de l’arche.
Vos pieds tendres et purs n’ont point l’âge où l’on marche,
Vos ailes sont d’azur.
Sans le comprendre encor vous regardez le monde.
Double virginité ! corps où rien n’est immonde,
Ame où rien n’est impur !

Il est si beau, l’enfant, avec son doux sourire,
Sa douce bonne foi, sa voix qui veut tout dire,
Ses pleurs vite apaisés,
Laissant errer sa vue étonnée et ravie,
Offrant de toutes parts sa jeune âme à la vie
Et sa bouche aux baisers !

Seigneur ! préservez-moi, préservez ceux que j’aime,
Frères, parents, amis, et mes ennemis mêmes
Dans le mal triomphants,
De jamais voir, Seigneur ! l’été sans fleurs vermeilles,
La cage sans oiseaux, la ruche sans abeilles,
La maison sans enfants !

Victor Hugo, 18 mai 1830

papa-george

George and Papa

My English Translation :

 When the child arrived, the circle of family
Applauded in a great outburst. His sweet gaze twinkled
Made all our eyes twinkle,
Even the saddest face, the most careworn perhaps,
Would smile to see the enfant happy,
Innocent and joyous.

That June green, at the threshold, or that November
Was surrounded with a great vacillating fire in the bedroom
The chairs drawn close together,
When the enfant came, his joy arrived and brought us clarity,
We laughed, caught our breath, we called to him and his mother
Trembling, to see him walk.

george-infant-blog-2

George, 2 months

Sometimes we talked, stirring the fire,
Of our homeland and of God, of poets, of the soul
Which was lifted in prayer;
When the enfant arrived, all of the talk of the heavens and homeland
And homeland and the saintly poets,
Suspended, with a smile and laughter.

The night, when men sleep, when the spirit dreams, at that hour
Where one hears sobbing, as a woman’s voice
As a wave between the reeds
As if the dawn, all of the sudden, there, shining like a beacon
Her clarity in the fields awakening to the fanfare
Of clocks and songbirds.

Child, you are the dawn and my soul is the plain
Which of the softest flowers embalmed in its sunlight
When you breath it;
My soul is the forest with black branches
Implicitly for you alone, of sweet murmurs
And of golden rays!

Because your beautiful eyes are infinitely tender,
Because your small hands, joyful and blessed,
Have wronged no one ever;
Never has your youth been touched by our filth,
Sacred head! child with blond hair! beautiful angel
In an aura of gold!

grammar-george-2

George and Grammar, 2 years old

You are among us the column of the arch
Your feet, tender and pure, which you have walked, have not aged
Your eyes of blue.
Without understanding it, you still look at the world.
In your body, nothing is unclean,
Nothing in your soul is impure!

He is so beautiful, the enfant, with his sweet smile,
His gentle good faith, his voice which can say all,
His tears fastly disappearing.
Leaving unmoved the error of his view, astonished and delighted,
Offering all parts of his young soul in life
And his mouth with sweet kisses!

Dear Lord, keep me, keep those whom I love,
Brothers, parents, friends, and my enemies,
In their ill-chosen triumphs,
From never seeing, Lord! The summer without the bright red flowers,
The cage without birds, the hive without bees,
The house without children.

18 mai 1830

Je t’aime, my petit George.
Grammar

mom-dad-george

George with Mom and Dad

Copyright 2016 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Translating Hugo: One-Year-Old: My Journey to the French Language

  1. Beautiful poem! Thank goodness for the translation. Grandchildren are truly a gift from God, I have four and each one is so precious, I also have been blessed with 2 greats, bonus blessing. Congratulations Marie

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