Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
3 septembre 1847

Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations, 1856.

Tomorrow, at dawn, at the time when the countryside pales,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go through the forest, I will go through the mountain.
I cannot remain far from you any longer.

I will walk with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Seeing nothing else, hearing no noise,
Alone, unknown, my back hunched over, my hands folded,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.

I will not look at the gold of the evening which falls,
Nor the sails in the distance going down toward Harfleur,
And when I arrive, I will lay on your tomb
A bouquet of green holly and of heather in bloom.
Victor Hugo (1802 — 1885) is a French writer. He’s as famous for his poetry as his theater, his essays or his novels.

He was a key figure in the Romantic movement in France. He’s also known for being an engaged artist who had to go into exile because of his writings.

As a novelist, he wrote very famous books such as Notre Dame de Paris (1831), Les Misérables (1862).

As a poet, he wrote Les Châtiments (1853), Les Contemplations (1856) or La Légende des siècles (1859).

As a theater writer, he wrote Hernani (1830) or Ruy Blas (1838).

His death, in 1885, generated an intense national mourning : he was really famous in his lifetime and this celebrity never stopped. He’s today considered as a major French writer, one of the most important.

We can find this poem « Demain, dès l’aube » in Les Contemplations, a collection of 158 poems about memories, love, joy, life, death and grief written between 1830 and 1855. The collection was published in 1856.

In 1843, Léopoldine Hugo, his daughter fell into the Seine with her husband they married a few months before) while they were boating. They both drowned. This tragedy had a huge impact on Victor Hugo’s personality and it influences a lot his work, notably his poetry : numerous poems are dedicated to Léopoldine’s memory.

« Demain, dès l’aube » is one of them. It’s a magnificent text in which the poet is speaking to an anonymous person and tells him / her he’s gonna have a long long trip tomorrow in order to meet him / her. This person may be a very dear friend, maybe a lover, as Hugo says he can’t remain far from her. The two last verses only reveal her identity : the poet is going to a cemetery to put flowers on a grave. And « demain » will be the anniversary of the death of Léopoldine, (September 4th, 1843).
Aube (fém.) : dawn.
Blanchir : to whiten, to light up.
Inconnu : unknown.
Courbé : hunched, bent.
Croisé : crossed, folded.
Tombe (fém.) : grave.
Bouquet ((masc.)) : bunch, bouquet.
Houx ((masc.)) : holly.
Bruyère (fém.) : heather.

Here are some words that belong to the lexical field of the death :

Mort (fém.) : death.
Mort, morte : dead.
Mourir : to die.
Décès ((masc.)) : death, decease.
Enterrer : to bury.
Enterrement ((masc.)) : burial, funeral.
Cimetière ((masc.)) : cemetery.
Most of the verbs in this poem are at the future tense :
je partirai, j’irai, je marcherai, je ne regarderai, j’arriverai, je mettrai

Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Je puis is another form (a literary one) of je peux (the verb pouvoir at the first person of the present tense). Je peux is the only form that is widely used. But at the interrogative form, we’re not allowed to ask Peux-je ?. It’s wrong. We say Puis-je ? (formal question), Est-ce que je peux ? (standard question) or Je peux ?(informal question). © 2010–