Week 504: Nuits de juin, by Victor Hugo

This week being the week of the summer solstice I thought this lyric by Victor Hugo would make an appropriate offering for today. It was Hugo who in a poem about the biblical Ruth, ‘Booz endormi’, gave us that most beautiful image of the summer sky at night, when at the end of the poem Ruth looks up and wonders

Quel dieu, quel moissonneur de l’éternel été,
Avait, en s’en allant, négligemment jeté
Cette faucille d’or dans le champ des étoiles’.

(‘What god, what harvester of the eternal summer,
Had, as he went, so carelessly thrown down
That golden sickle in the field of stars’).

But this lyric too seems to me to capture beautifully the airy, dreamlike quality of these short June nights.

The freeish translation that follows is my own.

Nuits de juin

L’été, lorsque le jour a fui, de fleurs couverte
La plaine verse au loin un parfum enivrant;
Les yeux fermés, l’oreille aux rumeurs entrouverte,
On ne dort qu’à demi d’un sommeil transparent.

Les astres sont plus purs, l’ombre paraît meilleure;
Un vague demi-jour teint le dôme éternel;
Et l’aube douce et pâle, en attendant son heure,
Semble toute la nuit errer au bas du ciel.

Victor Hugo

June Nights

In summer, when day’s fled, and on the plain
Flowers pour their heady scents out far around,
Our eyes shut, ears half-open still for sound,
We lie in lucid sleep, or wake again.

Purer the stars now, sweet the shaded bower,
The heaven’s dome still flushed with day’s last light,
While, at the bottom of the sky, all night
The white dawn wanders, waiting for its hour.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s