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La Legende des Siecles by Victor Hugo

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_gastadour_ in the line above.

_mestre de camp_, an old term for commander of a regiment.

L. 182. There were no German vessels in the Armada. _ourque_, more
usually written _bourque_, is a small Dutch or Flemish cargo-boat with
two masts. It is something between the modern ketch and the old Flemish

_moco_, Spanish word for 'cabin-boy'.

_Pausilippe_, a promontory near Naples.


Placed by itself under the heading _L'Inquisition_ in the series of
1859, and preceded by the following note:--'Le bapteme des volcans est
un ancien usage qui remonte aux premiers temps de la conquete. Tous
les crateres du Nicaragua furent alors sanctifies, a l'exception du
Momotombo, d'ou l'on ne vit jamais revenir les religieux qui s'etaient
charges d'aller y planter la croix.' (SQUIER, _Voyage dans l'Amerique du

Momotombo is a volcano in the state of Nicaragua. E.G.Squier was an
American antiquarian and author who was appointed _charge d'affaires_
to all the Central American States in 1849. He does not appear to have
written any work with the title quoted by Hugo. The passage quoted
occurs in his _Nicaragua, its people, scenery, and monuments_, published
in 1852. He relates in this book an instance of a bishop being asked to
baptize a volcanic vent which had suddenly opened in a mountain!

_Torquemada_ (1420-1489) was the notorious inquisitor-general of
Castile and Aragon, whose name has become a by-word for relentless
persecution and cruelty.


_le golfe d'Otrante_, between Italy and Albania.

_au Phare_: it is not clear what lighthouse is intended.

_une Tarentaise_, woman of Tarentum, in South Italy.

_Gaete_, English Gaeta, a bay and town on the west coast of Italy, north
of Naples.

L. 47. The historical allusion here is not clear. Prince Eugene
of Savoy, Marlborough's colleague, and Cardinal Mazarin were not

_Livourne_, Leghorn. _Spinola_: the reference may or may not be to the
famous Imperialist general in the Thirty Years War.

_prames_, big flat-bottomed boats, capable of carrying cannon, and used
for coast defence.

_Notre-Dame de la Garde_, a sanctuary at Marseilles.

_Palma_, a town in Majorca.


Victor Hugo's father was an officer in the army of the great Napoleon
and fought in Spain as a general, but nothing is known of this incident
except what is here told.

_Caramba_ (Spanish), a colloquial interjection, implying surprise and


To Hugo ugliness was as much a subject for pity as degradation or
misery. Compare the following passage from _Les Contemplations: Ce que
dit la Bouche d'Ombre_:--

Pleurez sur les laideurs et les ignominies.
Pleurez sur l'araignee immonde, sur le ver,
Sur la limace au dos mouille comme l'hiver,
Sur le vil puceron qu'on voit aux feuilles pendre,
Sur le crabe hideux, sur l'affreux scolopendre,
Sur l'effrayant crapaud, pauvre monstre aux doux yeux,
Qui regarde toujours le ciel mysterieux.

For Hugo's feeling for the brute creation, see _Dieu: L'Ange._

_Augustules_. The last Emperor of Rome, Romulus, was given by the people
the derisive nickname of Augustulus, or 'the little Augustus'. The
capture of Ravenna in his reign by Odoacer marks the end of the Western

_vermeils_. See note on AYMERILLOT, 1. 35.

_miroitait_, glittered with light.

_farouche_, hard, cruel.

_fauve_, wild, shy. See note on EVIRADNUS, 1. 529.

1. 103. A difficult expression. Apparently it refers to the harsh
grating of the wheel against the side of the rut.

_connivence_: the complicity of the burden upon his back with his master
in keeping the ass in a straight course.

I. 134. i.e. the sad and melancholy, such as the ass, are equal to the
angels, if they feel pity.


_musoir_, the head of a pier or jetty.

_vertes couleuvres._ The serpent appealed to Hugo's poetic instinct, and
he saw its shape and its glitter in many natural objects. Compare the
following passages, for most of which I am indebted to Edmond Huguet's
_Metaphores et comparaisons dans l'oeuvre de Victor Hugo_:

La ronce, le serpent, tord sur lui ses anneaux. (_Eviradnus_, 1. 98.)

On voyait sur ses ponts des rouleaux de cordages
Monstrueux, qui semblaient des boas endormis.
(_Pleine Mer_, ll. 125-6.)

Ce sinistre vaisseau les aidait dans leur oeuvre.
Lourd comme le dragon, prompt comme la couleuvre.
(_Ibid._ 11. 116-17.)

L'ail voyait sur la plage amie
Briller ses eaux,
Comme une couleuvre endormie
Dans les roseaux.
(_Derniere gerbe._)

Par instants, dans cette profondeur vertigineuse, une lueur
apparaissait et serpentait vaguement, l'eau ayant cette puissance,
dans la nuit la plus complete, de prendre la lumiere
on ne sait ou et de la changer en couleuvre.
(_Les Miserables._)

La, c'est le regiment, ce serpent de batailles
Trainant sur mille pieds ses luisantes ecailles.
(_Les Voix Interieures._)

J'ai vu au loin comme un long serpent de brume avec des
ecailles de soleil ca et la pose sur l'horizon... C'etait l'Angleterre.--
_France et Belgique._

Dans ses flancs tenebreux, nuit et jour, en rampant
Elle (_la terre_) sent se plonger la racine, serpent
Qui s'abreuve aux ruisseaux des seves toujours pretes.
(_Souvenirs d'Enfance._)

_cape_, a cloak with hood, with which women protect their head and
shoulders. Used in Modern French only in a few provinces, except in
certain phrases such as _sous cape_, 'secretly'. The word is the same as
the English 'cape'.

_C'est la marine! Marine_ is often used as a nickname, as we say in
English 'Jack'. On the French coast the word is often familiarly used
in speaking to a man who is or has been a sailor, e.g. _Dis-donc, la
marine! Tiens, voila la marine!_ In this case it means 'Here am I!'

_bonnet de forcat_, 'woollen cap worn by convicts and also by

_chiffon_: used colloquially for a child, especially for a little girl.


_Analysis._ The vision of a gigantic derelict vessel on a boundless sea.
This is the old world, the past of grandeur and horror.

In the nineteenth century a monster warship was built on the Thames,
type of the spirit of that age. It carried two thousand guns; its
topmast was higher than St. Paul's; now it has become this derelict.

The old world was subject to many plagues and scourges. Its moving
spirit was Hatred, its characteristic, Division. Race strove with race;
vice, ignorance, superstition, cruelty prevailed.

Now the old world has vanished, the ship is deserted. What has become of
man? Look upwards!

_cachalot_. The cachalot or sperm-whale is one of the largest cetaceans,
often attaining a length of more than 80 ft.

_le grand mat_, the mainmast.

_deferle_ (of a wave), 'breaks.'

l.38. See the remarks, in the Introduction, on Hugo's treatment of

_etrave_, the stern of a vessel.

_etambot_, the stern-post.

l.53. The vessel pitches as she meets the waves (_le tangage qui
brave_); the rolling throws up most foam (_le roulis qui fume_).

_eclat_, splinter.

_fauve_, savage, barbarous. See note on EVIRADNUS.

_Le dernier siecle_. "Pleine Mer" and "Plein Ciel" form a section of the
_Legende_, entitled _Vingtierne Siecle_.

_sur la Tamise_. Hugo was hostile to England. He regarded the British
Empire as one of the two great dominions the shadow of which was
oppressing the world in the middle of the nineteenth century, the
other being Russia. England embodied "l'esprit de commerce, de ruse
et d'aventure". He developed this theme with a nervous and forcible
eloquence, if not with great political insight, in _Le Rhin: Conclusion_
(published in 1842).

_portemanteaux_, davits, on which the boats are slung.

_grelin_, a hawser or warp.

_palans_, tackle for raising heavy weights; block and pulley.

_amure_, rope by means of which the lower corners of a sail are held,

_se le passaient_, passed it along, i.e. the ship.

_Nemrod_. Nimrod is in Hugo the incarnation of the spirit of war. Cf.
especially _La Fin de Satan: Le Glaive_.

_pavois_, as a naval term, 'bulwarks.'

_vrille_, gimlet. The conception is of some immense spiked ram.

_alcoran_, the Koran. _Al_ is the Arabic definite article.

L. 191 refers to the texts in the Koran which order the death of those
who do not accept Mahometanism.

_simoun_, simoon, the hot wind of the Sahara.



The vision of a ship in the sky. What is it? It is man, who has burst
the bonds that held him to earth and risen into the clouds. It is matter
soaring through the heavens.

First lyrical passage. The passage of the ship through the sky.

Description of the life in the ship; the absence of arms; the feeling of
power and joy. Description of the ship's movement.

Second lyrical passage. The voyage amongst the stars.

Whither will man go? He has thrown off his oid nature, his past history
is buried, he aspires to immortality.

Third lyrical passage. Is man to reach Heaven without death?

No, man must remain man, but the weight has been taken from his feet.
War has vanished; man is good and just.

Fourth lyrical passage. The ship is moving towards Virtue, Knowledge,
Right, Reason, Brotherhood, Justice and Love, and is carrying with it
man, who will find liberty and unity in the light.

_La Fable_, i.e. the myth of Aeolus.

_Eole_. Aeolus was the god of the Winds, which he kept fastened up in a

_fausse clef_, skeleton key.

_fatal_, 'charged with destiny.'

_pesanteur_. Not 'weight' but 'the force of gravity'.

_Nadir_ is the point in the heavens which would be reached if a line
were drawn through the centre of the earth and carried on till it
reached the sky. But here it seems to be used loosely for any distant
point in the heavens. The meaning is that from a remote distance the
round earth, as it came into view beneath the ship, would have the
appearance of a dusky comet.

_aeroscaphe_. A word once proposed, but never widely accepted, as a
designation for an airship. It is derived from the Greek _aer_ (air) and
_skaphe_ (a vessel).

_humaine_, i.e. made by man.

_treuil_, 'windlass.'

_moufle_, 'block.'

_moteur_, 'driving power.'

L. 171. i.e. by mathematics and poetry, that is by reason and
imagination combined.

_Euler_ was a Swiss geometrician (1707-83) who made great contributions
to mathematics and mechanics.

_Delos_. Tradition says that Delos in the Aegean Sea was once a
wandering island, and that Zeus fastened it down that it might be a home
for Latona, who was about to give birth to Apollo and Diana.

_Leibniz_ (English Leibnitz), the German mathematician, chemist, and
philosopher (1646-1716).

_Fulton_, the American inventor (1765-1815), who was one of the first
mechanicians to construct a steamboat.

_Kepler_. The German Kepler (1571-1630) was one of the founders of
modern astronomy.

These three men are chosen as typical embodiments of the spirit of

_Simoun_. See note on PLEINE MER.

_mistral_. In the South of France the north-east wind is so called.

_Sous le renversement de l'urne_. The urn is the symbol of that
'Fatalite' which to Hugo was the dark shadow over human life. Cf.

Andromeda, Orion, and the Pleiades are well-known constellations.
Arcturus is a star of the first magnitude in Bootes.

The Scorpion and the Archer are next each other in the heavens. The
lines express in a somewhat bizarre manner the effect of the outpouring
of life on the stars.

_Aldebaran_, a reddish star of the first magnitude in the constellation
of Taurus.

_Cephee_. Cepheus is the name of a constellation, as also is Perseus.

_des espaces vermeils_. See note on AYMERILLOT.

L. 232. _Zoroastre_. Zoroaster was the founder of the Persian religion.
He was a great observer of the stars.

L. 245. _Fatalite_. In Victor Hugo the word denotes, not so much
destiny, as the feeling or the doctrine that man is the helpless victim
of an unseen and cruel power. It is a gloom which overhangs human life,
from which in the progress of the ages man will be delivered. Compare
_La Vision d'ou sortit ce livre_, where the spirit of 'Fatalite' is
associated with paganism and contrasted with the spirit of religion. In
_Dieu_ again 'Fatalite' is one of the three sombre deities of paganism,
the other two being Venus, the goddess of pleasure, and Hecate, the
goddess of death. Cf. also the following lines from _La Fin de Satan_,
put into the mouth of man's evil angel:--

Je suis Lilith-Isis, l'ame noire du monde.
Tremble! l'etre inconnu, funeste, illimite,
Que l'homme en fremissant nomme Fatalite,
C'est moi. Tremble! Ananke, c'est moi. Tremble! Le voile
C'est moi.

And again in Satan's speech to the Almighty:--

Tu seras Providence et moi Fatalite.

_Notre-Dame de Paris_ is based upon this theme. See especially Livre
VII. iv.

L. 255. For the metaphor compare 'la fausse clef du fatal gouffre bleu',
l. 37, and the following passage in _L'Ane_ about the prison of life:--

La porte en est massive et la voute en est dure;
Tu regardes parfois au trou de la serrure,
Et tu nommes cela science; mais tu n'as
Pas de clef pour ouvrir le fatal cadenas.

L. 273. Cf. the well-known line in _Les Contemplations: Ce que dit la
Bouche d'Ombre_:--

Le fauve univers est le forcat de Dieu.

Man is likened to a convict, in that he is undergoing punishment, not in
that he deserves it.

_Allioth_, a star of the first magnitude in the Great Bear.

_J'en arrive_: 'Tis from there I come.

_la pesanteur_. Gravity symbolizes the forces which keep man down.

_guebres_, fire-worshippers, i.e. the Persians, who still adhere to the
ancient religion of Zoroaster. The word itself is Persian.

_Thales_ (English Thales), one of the seven wise men of Greece.

L. 317. An allusion to the well-known doctrine of the music of the
spheres, enunciated by Plato.

_chouette_. The owl, as a bird of darkness, was to Hugo suggestive of
evil things. Cf. _La Confiance_.

_frisson des roseaux_, i.e. a trembling like that of reeds.

_Spinosa_ (English Spinoza) (1632-77), the Jewish philosopher, whose
rationalistic views would be evidence to Hugo of his need of faith.

_Hobbe_. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the famous English philosopher, is
best known by his defence of absolute monarchy. In ethics he held that
man is swayed only by the desire for pleasure and the fear of pain.
Either of these views would be to Hugo a system of despair.

_Erebe_ (Erebus) was originally one of the Titans who was cast by Zeus
into Tartarus. The word is thus used as a synonym for the lower world,
especially those regions where evil deeds are expiated.

_fatalite_. See note on l. 245.

_gehenne_. Gehenna was the valley near Jerusalem where crimmals were
executed. In the New Testament it is used as a synonym for hell.

Nimrod is again the embodiment of the spirit of war. Aaron typifies
ecclesiastical resistance to progress.

_Beccaria_ was an Italian publicist (1738-94) who worked for the reform
of the penal law. His principal work was a small volume called _Treatise
on Crime and Punishment_, which was translated into nearly every
language in Europe. His opposition to the use of torture, to the
infliction of the death penalty, and to arbitrary arrest no doubt
appealed specially to Hugo.

_Dracon_, i.e. Draco, the Athenian legislator, the memory of the
excessive severity of whose laws lingers in our adjective _draconian_.

_Empedocle_. Empedocles was a Greek philosopher who was born in Sicily
about 450 B.C. He is best remembered from the tradition that he threw
himself down Etna in despair at his incapacity to solve the problem of
its action.

_Promethee_. Prometheus was the Titan who stole fire from heaven and
gave it to men, for which Zeus chained him to a rock in the Caucasus. In
legend and poetry he figures as the benefactor and civilizer of mankind.

_pesanteur_. See note on l. 305.

_l'antique ideal_, the ancient visions,
as for instance those of Isaiah and Virgil, of a golden age.

_farouche_, i. e. that has never been realized.

L. 473. i. e. leaving the old humanity farther and farther behind.


_buccin_. See note on LA CONFIANCE.

_blanchissant l'absolu_, i.e. lighting up infinite space.

_urne_, used as the symbol of Destiny. See notes on PLEIN CIEL.

L. 117. i.e. entered the immeasurable and infinite.

_gehennam_, another form of _gehenne_, closer to the Hebrew _geia
Hinnom_, the valley of Hinnom. See note on PLEIN CIEL.

_avernes_. Avernus was a lake in Campania, which the popular Roman
belief held to be an entrance to the lower regions. Hence comes
_averne_, used as a synonvm for hell.

L. 165. See note under PUISSANCE EGALE BONTE.




_Odes et Poesies diverses_. Paris, 1822. The volume contains several
poems not found in subsequent editions.
_Han d'lslande_, novel. Paris, 1823.
_La Muse francaise_, begun in 1823, ended in July, 1824. It contains
several articles by Hugo.
_Odes et Ballades_, 2nd volume. Paris, 1824.
_Relation d'un voyage au Mont Blanc_. Paris, 1825. The MS. was sold to a
publisher, but never published.
_Bug-Jargal_, novel. Paris, 1826.
_Odes_, 3rd volume. Paris, 1826.
_Cromwell_, drama. Paris, 1827.
_Les Orientales_. Paris, 1828 (December).
_Le Dernier Jour d'un condamne_. Paris, 1829 (January).
_Marion Delorme_. Paris, 1829. Not acted until 1830.
_Hernani, ou l'honneur castillan_, drama. Paris, 1829. Acted for the
first time on February 26, 1830.
_Notre-Dame de Paris_. Paris, 1831 (March 15).
_Les Feuilles d'automne_. Paris, 1831.
_Le Roi s'amuse_, drama. Paris, 1832.
_Lucrece Borgia_, drama. Paris, 1833.
_Marie Tudor_, drama. Paris, 1833.
_Les Chants du crepuscule_. Paris, 1835.
_Angelo_, drama. Paris, 1835.
_Les Voix interieures_. Paris, 1837.
_Ruy Blas_, drama. Paris, 1838.
_Les Rayons et les Ombres_. Paris, 1840.
_Le Rhin_. Paris, 1842. It is divided into three parts: _Les Lettres_,
_La Legende du beau Pecopin et de la belle Bauldour_, _Conclusion
_Les Burgraves_, trilogy. Paris, 1843.
_Napoleon le Petit_. Brussels, 1852.
_Les Chatiments_. Geneva, 1853.
_Les Contemplations_. Paris, 1856.
_La Legende des siecles_. First Series. Paris, 1859.
_Les Miserables_. Paris, 1862.
_William Shakespeare_. Paris, 1864.
_Les Chansons des rues et des bois_. Paris, 1865.
_Les Travailleurs de la mer_. Paris, 1866.
_L'Homme qui rit_, novel. Paris, 1869.
_L'Annee terrible_. Paris, 1872.
_Quatre-vingt-treize_, novel. Paris, 1873.
_La Legende des siecles_. Second Series. Paris, 1877.
_L'Art d'etre grand-pere_. Paris, 1877.
_L'Histoire d'un crime_. Paris, 1877. It was written at Brussels soon
after the _coup d'etat_ of 1851, but not published until 1877, when the
Republic was in danger.
_Le Pape_. Paris, 1878.
_La Pitie supreme_. Paris, 1879.
_L'Ane_. Paris, 1880.
_Religions et Religion_, poems. Paris, 1880.
_Les Quatre Vents de l'Esprit_. Paris, 1881.
_Torquemada_. Paris, 1882.
_La Legende des siecles_. Third Series. Paris, 1883.



_Le Theatre en liberte_. Paris, 1886.
_La Fin de Satan_, poem. Paris, 1886.
_Choses vues_, a sort of diary. Paris, 1887.
_Toute la Lyre_. Paris, 1888.
_Extraits de la correspondance de Victor Hugo_. Paris, 1888.


Besides these works Hugo wrote many articles, some of which appeared
subsequently in complete editions of his works. The most remarkable of
these are _Journal des idees, des opinions et des lectures dun jeune
Jacobite_. 1819.

_Les Destins de la Vendee_. 1819.
_Sur Walter Scott_. 1823.
_Sur Lord Byron_ (a propos de sa mort). 1824.
_Guerre aux demolisseurs_. 1825-32.
_Journal des idees et des opinions d'un revolutionnaire de 1830_.
_Sur Mirabeau_. 1834.
_La Liberation du territoire_. 1873.
Many political articles, speeches, and prefaces.



The studies and criticisms on Hugo form a large and ever-increasing
library. The most remarkable among them are the following:

SAINTE-BEUVE. _Critiques et Portraits litteraires_. Articles on Victor
Hugo. 1832.
GUSTAVE PLANCHE. _Nouveaux portraits litteraires_. Studies and
criticisms on some of Hugo's plays. 1832-8.
_Revue des Deux Mondes_, passim. Articles by Gustave Planche, A.
Fontaney, and Charles Magnin.
CHARLES ASSELINEAU. _Melanges d'une bibliotheque romantique_. 1867.
LEONARD DE LOMENIE. _Galerie des contemporains illustres_. Vol. I. 1879.
GUSTAVE DESSOFFY (le comte). _Discours sur la vie litteraire de Victor
Hugo_. 1845.
ELISA CHEVALIER. _La Verite sur Victor Hugo_. 1850.
EUGENE DE MIRECOURT. _Victor Hugo_. 1854.
A. MAZURE. _Les Poetes contemporains_.
ERNEST HAMEL. _Victor Hugo_. 1860.
ALFRED NETTEMENT. _Victor Hugo_. 1862.
MADAME VICTOR HUGO. _Victor Hugo, raconte par un temoin de sa vie_. 2
vols. 1863.
PAUL DE SAINT-VICTOR. _Victor Hugo_. 1885.
E. Dupuis. _Victor Hugo, l'homme et le poete_. 1897.
PETIT DE JULLEVILLE. _Histoire de la litterature francaise_. 1894-1900.
CH. RENOUVIER. _Victor Hugo, le Poete et le philosophe_. 2 vols. 1900.
A. SLEUMER. _Die Dramen von Hugo_. Berlin, 1901.
GASTON DESCHAMPS. _Conferences sur Victor Hugo_. 1898.
EMILE FAGUET. _Histoire de la litterature francaise_. 1900.

And a host of articles by such critics as Emile Montegut, Emile Augier,
Edmond Scherer, without speaking of the innumerable notes and criticisms
which have appeared on Hugo and his work in daily papers and periodicals
both in France and in foreign countries.



These are extremely numerous, but previously to 1851, that is, before
Hugo left France, they all represent him as a clean-shaven man. After
his exile Hugo grew a beard, hence the alteration so noticeable in the
portraits subsequent to 1851.

The portrait chosen represents Hugo in his youth, at the time of the
first appearance of _Notre-Dame de Paris_.

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