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“Sunrise” by Victor Hugo
“Sunrise” by Victor Hugo

“Sunrise” by Victor Hugo

Foul times there are when nations spiritless Throw honour away For tinsel glory, to base happiness A mournful prey.

Then from the nations, fain of lustful rest, Dull slavery’s dreams, All virtue ebbs, as from a sponge tight-prest Clear water streams.

Then men, to vice and folly docile slaves, Aye lowly inclined, Ape the vile, fearful reed that stoops and waves For every wind.

Then feasts and kisses; naught that saith the soul Stirs shame or dread; One drinks, one eats, one sings, one skips, — is foul And comforted.

Crime, ministered to by loathsome lackeys, reigns; Yea, ‘neath God’s fires Laughs; and ye shiver, sombre dread remains Of glorious sires.

All life seems foul, with vice intoxicate, Aye, thus to be. — Sudden a clarion unto all winds elate Peals liberty!

And the dull world whose soul this blast doth smite, Is like to one Drunken all night, up-staggering ‘neath the light O’ the risen sun!

from: Chatiments

Translated by: Nelson R Tyerman

Poem from Victor Hugo Central.


  1. Jesse Byrd

    I discovered Hugo before I did Rand. My favorite novel after Atlas Shrugged is The Man Who Laughs. But somehow I missed this poem. I will send you my critique after I have time to digest its meaning.

  2. Jesse:

    Glad to hear it’s a new poem for you. I’d love to hear your critique.

    Yes, I love The Man Who Laughs, too — as well as Ninety-three and Toilers of the Sea. What, briefly, about The Man Who Laughs makes you place it so high in your list of favorite novels?

    Do you, by the way, have a recommendation for a good translation of Hugo’s Han of Iceland, aka Hans of Iceland?


  3. Jesse Byrd

    The Ayn Rand Archives–AR always started off each day by watching the sun come up. In AS, when Dagny quits TT and moves to the cabin in the woods, there is an extended description of a beautiful sunrise.
    The poem both pays tribute to the waxing glory of the human imagination and decrys its waning influence.
    Gwynplaine is the personification of Hugo’s (and mine also, when I first read it) ideal man, independent of any time or place. While externally disfigured by his culture, his consciousness remains unmarred.
    Who is Hans of Iceland?

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