Victor Hugo's poetry 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 gradually shifted to Bonaprtist and Republican. 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 preeminent literary figure duing 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 eligiac and lyric poets of his time.

The precocious 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) that revealed Hugo to be a great poet, a natural master of lyric and creative song.

Odes et BalladesEdit

Odes et Ballades published in 1828, is a collection of poems by author Victor Hugo written between 1822 and 1828.

Les OrientalesEdit

Les Orientales is a series of poems by Victor Hugo. They reflect European interest in the exotic East.

Les ChâtimentsEdit

Les Châtiments is a collection of poems by Victor Hugo, attacking the grandeur of Napoléon III's Second Empire. Written in 1853, the collection contains some of Hugo's most scathing work, including "Les égouts" ("The sewers"), which contrasts the lives of the poor whom Hugo claims Louis-Napoléon ignored with the pompous grandeur to which the emperor subscribed. Even the editor of the collection claimed that Hugo had gone too far with his vehement criticisms of the Second Empire. However, even if Hugo's comments did exaggerate the failings of Louis-Napoléon's regime, they present a strong critique of a society, bound by censorship of the press and the arts. One should equally argue that the failings of that same regime would indeed be difficult to exaggerate in terms of the time in which Hugo lived. This is very important to keep in mind: sure Napolean was no Hitler, but Hugo was a much-needed voice for continued social change in an impoverished, 19th-century France.

Les ContemplationsEdit

Published in 1856 Les Contemplations dealt with the pain and tragedy of the death of his daughter and the pain of exile. Escaping pain the poems search nature for answers and for God.

La Légende des sièclesEdit

is a series of poems by Victor Hugo that recounts man's struggle throughout history.

L'Année TerribleEdit

is a series of poems written by Victor Hugo. They deal with the trauma of losing his son and the Siege of Paris

L'Art d'être grand-pèreEdit

Victor Hugo's "L'Art d'être grand-père" or Art of Being a Grandfather was a series of poems that dealt with the tender feelings of being with innocent young children. It celebrated those feelings of love and tenderness, in contrast to the complexities of his other poems that dealt with politics and grand themes these poems were of a more simple nature.

La Fin de SatanEdit

(The End of Satan) is a work of poetry Victor Hugo wrote in 1886.

The book starts with the disgrace of Satan ("Depuis quatre mille ans il tombait dans l'abîme" [1]).

This is followed by the story of Nimrod, a powerful and monstrous king of Judaea, who becomes bored after he has fully dominated the universe and decides to conquer the heavens. For this purpose he builds a cage and attaches four giant eagles to it with meat of dead lions above their head out of reach to attract them upward. With his servant the eunuch, Nimrod embarques the cage and the eagles start towards the Heavens. After a journey of one year, Nimrod shoots an arrow into the infinite, then falls back to earth dead.

The second part of La Fin de Satan is about the life and death of Jesus. It emphasises the evil of human beings. In "Tenebres" (2:21) we hear Barabbas curse this impure world that liberated him instead of Christ and claim that we would have chosen to die if offered the choice.

The third part is about the angel Liberty who comes down to earth to forgive the beast Satan.


  1. Geoffrey Barto's translations
  2. EveryPoet
  3. Victor Hugo Central
  4. Literature on the Age of Napoleon

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