Après la bataille

February 20, 2009 at 11:47 pm 14 comments

Victor Hugo

Listen (to Cyrano read)

Mon père, ce héros au sourire si doux,
Suivi d’un seul housard qu’il aimait entre tous
Pour sa grande bravoure et pour sa haute taille,
Parcourait à cheval, le soir d’une bataille,
Le champ couvert de morts sur qui tombait la nuit.
Il lui sembla dans l’ombre entendre un faible bruit.
C’était un Espagnol de l’armée en déroute
Qui se traînait sanglant sur le bord de la route,
Râlant, brisé, livide, et mort plus qu’à moitié.
Et qui disait: ” A boire! à boire par pitié ! ”
Mon père, ému, tendit à son housard fidèle
Une gourde de rhum qui pendait à sa selle,
Et dit: “Tiens, donne à boire à ce pauvre blessé. ”
Tout à coup, au moment où le housard baissé
Se penchait vers lui, l’homme, une espèce de maure,
Saisit un pistolet qu’il étreignait encore,
Et vise au front mon père en criant: “Caramba! ”
Le coup passa si près que le chapeau tomba
Et que le cheval fit un écart en arrière.
” Donne-lui tout de même à boire “, dit mon père.

There is a poetic English translation floating around on the net, but I find it a little contrived, and somewhat too far from the original. You’ll find it easily if you search for “After the Battle Victor Hugo”. I really like the fact that Hugo’s text flows easily and sounds pretty natural. So I’ll give you a verse by verse, pretty much a word for word translation.

After the battle

My father, a hero with such a sweet smile,
Followed by a single soldier whom he liked amongst all,
For his great bravery and his tall stature,
Was wandering on his horse, on the evening of a battle,
Across the field covered with bodies upon which night was falling.
He thought he heard a soft noise in the shadows.
It was a Spaniard from the routed army,
Who was crawling in his blood on the side of the road,
Groaning, broken, livid and more than half dead,
And who was saying: “Something to drink! Take pity, a drink!
My father, moved, gave to his faithful soldier
A flask of rum which hung from his saddle,
And said, “Take it and give a drink to the poor wounded man.”
All of a sudden, as the lowered soldier
Was bending towards him, the man, some kind of Moorish,
Steadies a pistol that he was still holding
And aims at my father’s forehead while shouting: “Caramba!”
The bullet went so close that the hat fell off
And the horse suddenly backed off.
“Give him a drink anyway” said my father.

Around 1800, Victor Hugo’s father was a general in the armies of Napoleon which invaded most of Europe to bring liberty, equality and brotherhood to the people oppressed in the neighboring countries. Surprisingly, the locals did not alway appreciate the wonderful presents that were forced upon them by foreigners. We now know better and such mistakes would not be repeated in the 21st century, but I digress.
This is a moving story told very efficiently as a modern filmmaker would. This would have made a great Kurosawa. Three shots. The camera pans across the bloody battlefield barely lit by an evening sky. Then the camera zooms in to the wounded Spaniard that we discover, low and back lit. Then a quick action scene, the explosion of a bullet, the camera follows the hat that flies off. As the camera zooms back out to the whole landscape, the famous last line is heard in a tired and weary voice, “Give him a drink anyway”.
This poem is quite famous in French speaking countries and several verses are often quoted, most notably the last one, when someone has a generous gesture for a fallen foe, –or cynically, whenever there is wine to be served, a common occurrence.

– Cyrano

Welcome Cyrano! Looking forward to more great readings from you! :)


Entry filed under: Black Mamba, Cyrano, French, Victor Hugo.

Rosh Hashanah

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ludwig  |  February 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Welcome (back) pō’ĭ-trē! Looking forward to more great readings from you! :)

  • 2. Mon père « Food for Oil Redux  |  September 24, 2009 at 3:36 am

    […] developent US Food Aid Mon père September 23, 2009, 9:33 pm Filed under: Uncategorized Mon père, ce héros My father is a Bayridge, Brooklyn boy, who spent many summers in Coney Island's Luna Park. A SF […]

  • 3. Aicha  |  January 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I love this story! Very good Mister Hugo! LOL

  • 4. Revathy  |  May 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    The word for word translation seems beautiful! (I can’t read French, so i don’t know what to compare it to).

    Hoping to see some newer posts put up?

  • 5. Funeral Readings  |  August 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    This poetry is beautiful. Are you going to update this blog?

  • […] (The english translation was taken from https://audiopoetry.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/apres-la-bataille/) […]

  • 7. Kim  |  April 12, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Beautiful translation.
    I am fluent in French, but was not 100% sure on some of the words Hugo used. It was very nice to read this and get a better comprehension of the poem, also I learned a few more vocabulary words.
    Thank you

  • 8. Phineas  |  August 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Broken link on the audio… here’s a great youtube rendition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPwJ3nXe7xw&feature=related

  • 9. car paint chip repair  |  December 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Its too bad the food didnt ultimately sit well with you though

  • 10. Shayari  |  June 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Shayari Forum – Publish and Read Shayari on Love, Sad, Funny, Romantic, Dosti, SMS, 2 Line Shayari, Urdu Shayari, Hindi Shayari, Punjabi Shayari, English Shayari, Wishes, Jokes, Ghazal, Nazm and lots of other Shayaris.

  • 11. Leonardo Nappi  |  December 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    dopo 40 anni sono riuscito a trovare questa poesia di cui non conoscevo il titolo ma ne sapevo a memoria la metà,sono molto contento d’averla trovata grazie google et mercì beaucoup a Victor Hugò

  • 12. Compassionate | fabrexo  |  August 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    […] to drink anyway.” You can read the poem in the original French with an English translation at https://audiopoetry.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/apres-la-bataille/ This little story is a metaphore of Israel’s conduct of the Gaza conflict. As the battle […]

    • 13. Marc-Eddy Lajoie  |  January 5, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      I love the contents of this poem written by Victor Hugo. I truly and deeply appreciate its originality in French and try to find its application in today’s world. Marc-Eddy L.

  • 14. gordonwilliam14035  |  April 8, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    this guy right her was the best trumpet player .. he been on this earth from august 4, 1901, to july 6, 1971…… Click https://twitter.com/moooker1


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