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The Distance, the Shadows

Selected Poems

Victor Hugo

Translated by Harry Guest

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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
Paperback
ISBN: 978 0 856463 45 7
Series: Poetica
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Published: November 2002
218 x 139 x 19 mm
256 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Digital access available through Exact Editions
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    Grand-daughter

    Jeanne squatting on the grass looked pensive,
    a serious curve to her pink cheek.
    I went up. ‘Anything you want?’
    For I obey my grandchildren, observe them,
    try all the time to grasp what’s in their head.
    And she replied. ‘Beasties.’
    So I parted grass-blades, found an ant.
    ‘There you are.’ She was half-satisfied.
    ‘No, beasties are big,’ she told me.
                                                                           They dream
    the huge. Seas lure them to the shore,
    lull them with a harsh rhythm,
    enticing them with shadow
    and the monstrous flying of the wind.
    They relish terror, need the marvellous.
    I had no elephant handy and apologized.
    ‘Won’t something else do? Tell me, Jeanne.’
    She raised a tiny finger at the sky.
    ‘That,’ she said. It was time for evening.
    I saw the moon’s great disc on the horizon.

    Translated by Harry Guest

    Victor Hugo, the most prolific and versatile of the French Romantics, is one of the greatest nineteenth-century writers. Partly because of its enormous range and variety, his poetry has remained comparatively little known outside France. In this new edition of his acclaimed translations, Harry Guest convincingly brings into English many of Hugo’s great qualities: his passion for social justice, his simple humanity and an imaginative breadth of vision which few poets have equalled. The book’s usefulness is enhanced by the inclusion of the French texts, drawn as they are from so many different periods of Hugo’s work.

    Victor Hugo
    Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was a many-sided man: poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and painter. He is often considered to be France’s greatest poet. His novels, including Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris, stand in almost equally high regard. ... read more
    Harry Guest
    Harry Guest was born in Penarth, Wales in 1932. He read Modern Languages at Cambridge before beginning a career as a teacher in schools and universities in Japan and England. He edited and translated Penguin’s Post-War Japanese Poetry (1972). Recent books include a novel Lost Pictures and Traveller’s Literary Companion to ... read more
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