Poems of Victor Hugo  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The poems of Victor Hugo captured the spirit of the Romantic era. They were largely devoted to 19th century causes. Many touched on religious themes. Initially they were royalist but soon became Bonapartist, Republican, and liberal. Hugo's poems on nature revealed a continuing search for the great sublime.

Like many young writers of his generation, Hugo was profoundly influenced by François-René de Chateaubriand, the founder of Romanticism and France’s pre-eminent literary figure during the early 1800s. In his youth, Hugo resolved to be “Chateaubriand or nothing,” and his life would come to parallel that of his predecessor’s in many ways. Like Chateaubriand, Hugo would further the cause of Romanticism, become involved in politics as a champion of Republicanism, and be forced into exile due to his political stances. Between 1829 and 1840 he would publish five more volumes of poetry (Les Orientales, 1829; Les Feuilles d'automne, 1831; Les Chants du crépuscule, 1835; Les Voix intérieures, 1837; and Les Rayons et les ombres, 1840), cementing his reputation as one of the greatest elegiac and lyric poets of his time.

The passion and eloquence of Hugo's early work brought success and fame at an early age. His first collection of poetry (Nouvelles Odes et Poésies Diverses) was published in 1824, when Hugo was only twenty two years old, and earned him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. Though the poems were admired for their spontaneous fervor and fluency, it was the collection that followed two years later in 1826 (Odes et Ballades) which revealed Hugo to be a great poet, a natural master of lyric and creative song.

Contents

Collections

Published during Hugo's lifetime

Posthumous collections

Posthumous collections selected from Hugo's manuscripts




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