Login   Sign Up 


Reply to Victor Hugo

by James Graham 

Posted: 25 October 2009
Word Count: 529

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Bêtise de la guerre

Ouvrière sans yeux, Pénélope imbécile,
Berceuse du chaos où le néant oscille,
Guerre, ô guerre occupée au choc des escadrons,
Toute pleine du bruit furieux des clairons,
O buveuse du sang, qui, farouche, flétrie,
Hideuse, entraînes l’homme en cette ivrognerie,
Nuée où le destin se déforme, où Dieu fuit,
Où flotte une clarté plus noire que la nuit,
Folle immense, de vent et de foudres armée,
A quoi sers-tu, géante, à quoi sers-tu, fumée,
Si tes écroulements reconstruisent le mal,
Si pour le bestial tu chasses l’animal,
Si tu ne sais, dans l’ombre où ton hasard se vautre,
Défaire un empereur que pour en faire un autre ?

Victor Hugo

Prose translation from Penguin Book of French Poetry 1820-1950

Mindlessness of War

Eyeless drudge, idiot Penelope, cradle-rocker of chaos where obliteration lurches, war, O war, engaging the clash of squadrons, filled with the passionate sound of bugles, O drinker of blood, savage, withered, hideous, dragging man into this drunken orgy, thundercloud distorting destiny, shunned by God, where hangs a gleaming darkness, blacker than the night, collossal madwoman, armed with wind and lightning bolts, what use are you, giantess, what use are you, smoke, if your crumbling debris rebuilds evil, if you drive out the animal in favour of the bestial, if, in the shadows where your randomness wallows, you can unmake an emperor only to make another?

Reply to Victor Hugo

Hugo, you were revered. The grand parade
that Paris put on in your honour was,
as Gide remarked, quite well deserved,
hélas! You saw yourself, sometimes unwisely,
as a bearer of the truth. I know you can’t reply, being
dead, but I can’t help not having been there while
you were still alive. So: in this rant of yours, why

pick on Penelope? She fended off the suitors well enough,
tempted perhaps a time or two to ‘show herself’ and
‘fire them up’ - so what? Should the fun of weaving
a death-shroud have been enough? She kept good faith
while wandering Odysseus was busy having
an eventful time with cannibals and cyclopes,
not to mention bedding for a year with Circe
and seven with Calypso!

You wrote a beautifully-crafted, rather purple,
very distasteful poem about war. War happens,
so you say, because some crazy withered witch,
‘buveuse du sang’, ‘berceuse du chaos’,
drags men into a drunken orgy. Even God,
turned off by this apparition, walks away!

No sir, it’s not Penelope, or any female archetype,
or even the feminine side of man we’re looking at.

It’s man. Especially his propensity to think
that power is better than sex. It’s man the gender.

In war, men are pierced and broken,
women and children crushed by stone,
but this is not done by mythical giantesses
brandishing metaphorical thunderstorms.

It is not done by god or devil, but by such
as Alexander, Caesar, Bonaparte.As you
well knew: you weren’t a primitive,
some medieval poet gorged
on superstition, you’re as modern
as I am. You meant

well enough, as
nearly always. Better
to condemn war
than glorify it.
You do not tell

the old lie, but leave
Penelope out of it.
Leave women out of it.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

James Graham at 17:03 on 25 October 2009  Report this post
This is very much for critique. Please be sparing with your compliments (if indeed you can think of any) and let’s talk about whether this poem was worth the effort or not.

An exercise I’ve occasionally given to students is to write a reply or riposte to a poem they don’t like. Some time ago I came across this Victor Hugo poem for the first time, and didn’t like it, so I decided to do my own exercise. But I’m not sure about it...

Does Hugo’s poem deserve a riposte? Is it ok as a poem of the time, and are my objections merely 21st century hindsight? Does Hugo’s formal, expertly crafted poem upstage my free verse, and should any reply be equally formal and well crafted in order to stand up beside the original?

What about the tone of my poem? Should it be more or less angry, more or less respectful? Is it not a very original reaction, too obvious?

And finally, if you find any nits to pick - large or small - just chuck them at me. Weak or redundant words, lines or entire passages - all that sort of stuff.


One footnote. I think it was André Gide who, when asked who he thought was the greatest French writer of the 19th century, replied, ‘Hugo, unfortunately’. (Hugo, hélas.) It’s a reference not everyone might get.

V`yonne at 17:50 on 25 October 2009  Report this post
Reminded me of when we were studying Le Cid and some of the boys in my class were maoning about it. Our teacher in defence of Corneille classically said 'Come on! It took the man hours to write this.'

I think yes this was probably a poem of its time and what was his motivation for writing it? Perhaps it was an exercise - the sort of equivalent of Flash Poetry of its day. This week's challenge is to blame war on women - that kind of thing. It's a classical piece.

Having said that the Alexandrine is not easy to write. Nor is it easy to read. Such were the constraints on classic works of French literature that Hugo didn't have the benefit of a Shakespeare.

You saw yourself, sometimes unwisely,
as a bearer of the truth.

is certainly true of Hugo - he definitely saw himself as the moral pulse and given that he fully deserves the attack. Also of course from a woman's pov the poem is wholly unjustified.

I liked your reply. I thought a more formal start leading to that ending would be better. Go for an Alexandrine perhaps then disintegrate it into 10 beats then hit us with that modern ending.
.................................As you
well knew: you weren’t a primitive,
some medieval poet gorged
on superstition, you’re as modern
as I am. You meant

well enough, as
nearly always. Better
to condemn war
than glorify it.
You do not tell

the old lie,

I loved this section, James and I perticularly liked the Wilfred Owen reference. Nicely executed on the whole - of ought I say Guillotined?



PS Sorry if I'm butting in on some other group here...I just found it interesting being in French and that...

Arian at 23:01 on 25 October 2009  Report this post
Hi James,
Well, I can actually think of quite a few compliments, mainly to do with its erudition and its nigh-perfect punctuation (not, in my view, a detail). But you’ve asked for our real feelings, so here goes - I guess my remarks fall into 2 broad categories: form and content.

1. Form
I know that the prose-poem argument is an old chestnut - we could debate it till the cows come h., and still be no further forward. And, for the record, I’m very much a free-verse enthusiast. All the same, I found it hard to distinguish this from prose with odd line-breaks. There’s very few, if any, of those elements which, to me, “poeticise” a piece – embedded rhyme, metrical structure, trope, assonance, consonance etc. As a result, the argument of the piece, though interesting and very well-phrased, has little (again, a personal view only) has little of the “music” I tend to associate with poetry: little rhythm or engaging language/imagery to provide an oblique perspective. To me, it’s these things which make a poem a poem. The process of reading it, its music, its inherent aesthetics, is at least as important as its intellectual content – its message.

2. Content.
Don’t have a lot to say here, except – are you in danger of merely trying to out-rant Hugo’s rant? After all, the point you make, though eloquently put and well-referenced, is (one might argue) equally guilty of a certain intellectual heavy-handedness: over-stating the position to make a point. Because, is the point itself entirely valid? Yes, it has a tempting predicate, reflecting a zeitgeist of politically-correct anti-patriarchalism (if there’s such a word), but there’s a lot of people who might argue that the female of the species isn’t entirely without blame in the bloodied history of our species, if not in the doing, then certainly in the urging. Lady Macbeth was a comparative innocent! It's at least arguable.

Anyhow, none of this is to be dismissive of something I very much enjoyed reading, and I hope you don’t mind the slightly(!) negative tone to my remarks. I thought seriously before posting, and only did so because you asked for honesty. I’m 100% sure there will be others who will, perfectly legitimately, take a diametrically opposed view to mine.

All the best

purpletandem at 10:47 on 27 October 2009  Report this post
Hi James,

Very brave of you to take on Victor Hugo!!

I confess I had a similar reaction to Peter’s first point. First of all, I read Bêtise de la Guerre and got a feel for it. Then I read your poem and found myself unconsciously trying to scan yours to fit the scheme of the French poem. Obviously that didn’t work.! Then I tried to read yours as English free verse and realised I was still having trouble owing perhaps to its slightly conversational rhythm. Then I decided to try reading it as prose, ignoring the line breaks, which seemed to work very well. The meaning came through better for me. I felt some lines scan more easily than others, of course – the last two stanzas, for instance, gave me no problem.

I think that if I were trying to do a riposte to a structured poem I would consider responding in a structured way, not necessarily mimicking the original (particularly so for a poem in another language) but with a structure that felt appropriate. In this case I might have considered blank verse or heroic couplets. I would also wonder about responding at roughly similar length. However that would just be my approach – or at least the one I would first consider. I don’t think there is any right or wrong way here.

As for the argument of the original poem, I’m not sure that I find it particularly sexist. I’m no French scholar but it seems to me that Guerre in line 3 is the grammatical subject of the whole of the remainder of the poem. It may show how little I know about the language (which I left behind at school) but as guerre is a feminine noun I would expect its noun complements to agree with it where they have alternative forms, eg buveuse rather than buveur, geante rather than geant, folle rather than fou, etc.

Penelope is more difficult. I see the criticism of her not as being in some way responsible for war, but for silent complicity - in standing by her man, so to speak. Hugo almost seems to imply that she should have left Odysseus to his folly and gone off with one of her suitors. I have difficulty regarding that as a wholly sexist argument.

The conduct of war does seem to be ascribed to l’homme alone – no confusion there.

Of course, I may be completely wrong and Victor Hugo may have been deliberately pressing a misogynist analogy - in which case all that can really be said in defence is to ask whether he may have been somewhat a product of his time and his society in that respect?

I hope these comments are of some use. I have focused on criticism as requested, but I must say I got a lot out of reading the poem and was particularly impressed by your use and choice of language and generally knowing so much about the subject matter.

Kind regards,

SarahT at 01:52 on 31 October 2009  Report this post
Hi James,

I think I agree with the others about this reading almost as prose, rather than a poem but I also felt that it reads as a letter, rather than as a piece of straight prose, which somehow makes it more of a poem. I did find myself yearning for a little more poetrification within the lines, rather than the structure but, apart from that, I felt that they were generally cleanly written and well expressed. If you wanted to increase the poetry, perhaps you could just re-edit, for example by changing the structure to something that is closer to the format of Hugo's original.

Does Hugo’s poem deserve a riposte? Is it ok as a poem of the time, and are my objections merely 21st century hindsight? Does Hugo’s formal, expertly crafted poem upstage my free verse, and should any reply be equally formal and well crafted in order to stand up beside the original?

So what if the sentiments, are a 21st century hindsight. Why should that mean that they are not valid? Even though this piece may not fulfil some criteria of prose poetry, I think that it stands on its own because of content, in spite of the reservations that you and others have above. The fact that pt seems to disagree with your interpretation of Hugo's view of Penelope shows that the piece works as a trigger for discussion and debate, which means that it is well written and clearly argued. And if it fulfils these other functions, of opening up discussion etc, perhaps it is not important to worry about whether or not it is a poem. If you don't want to re-edit/poemify it, perhaps just let it be what it is: a sort of prose poem letter. Okay, so that's a bit vague but sometimes things just are!


FelixBenson at 12:30 on 31 October 2009  Report this post
Hi James

Reading the comments it occurred to me that a feminist interpretation would probably have questioned the validity of using traditional form in your ripost, and found more harmony (with the content) in a response written in free verse. Breaking down the old structures, etc. To my ears, the first two verses are very rhythmic anyway, with lots of satisfying half rhyme.

Halfway through verse three, when the poem turns from talking of Hugo's reputation and Penelope's story, there is a shift, and the poem does become more direct, shorter, terser - to really attack Hugo's argument. This seems to make sense - a more traditional form at the start for that subject - and a shift to a more modern tone for the argument of the poem.

But is the poem necessary...? I don't have enough French to question issues of translation. I can only work with the translation you have provided. I can see what Pt means - the section in the middle seems to talk of just of war and of man dragged into war by war itself – rather than the ‘witch’ dragging them in, I think. But there is no doubting the phrases, which open and close the poem:

Eyeless drudge, idiot Penelope, cradle-rocker of chaos
you can unmake an emperor only to make another?

So I don't see any difficulty with questioning Hugo on these points!

This is ‘the old lie’ you refer to at the end of the poem: Hugo is just repeating the stories which conveniently displace the blame of individuals for their actions. Who caused the fall from grace? Eve; Who opened the box? Pandora. In these tales Man did not create the 'troubles' in the world, they were merely unleashed by an unthinking 'eyeless' woman, and Man had his fate designed, and followed it.

Penelope uses every cunning she can to trick the suitors so she can wait for (faithless) Odysseus. Hugo suggests she is in a position of power- ‘making and unmaking emperors,’ but she clearly isn’t. She is trying to fight for her position against the whims of the men around her in the only way open to her, because she is a woman and can't hold onto power alone. ..simply because in that mythical society, and not so very long ago - in this very real one – women alone had no real power.

And wars are made from the decisions (or whims) of those in power.

So: justified in its argument- yes (for me).

And I don't see it as
reflecting a zeitgeist of politically-correct anti-patriarchalism
, either, because to me that statement inherently undermines the value of any feminist interpretation of, well...anything. And it is not a view I share.

Is replying to the poem worth it? I don't know, but I am inclined to say –yes. Ok, it isn’t a very original reaction in the sense that –most people – would say that the origins of war don’t start with mothers. On the surface you might seem to be preaching to the converted.... But the Hugo poem annoyed me when I read it, and poetry is a dialogue.

If we get to the point where we don’t think there is any point in addressing historical views then something fundamental is lost. The responses here show that there is still a lot of debate around feminist ‘readings’ too. Personally, I would hate to think we really are the point where the consensus is that these kinds of re-readings are not relevant anymore. Women got the vote in my Grandmother’s lifetime – that still shocks me - addressing the imbalance in the past is still relevant.

The only thing I would say is that, in these lines:
No sir, it’s not Penelope, or any female archetype,
or even the feminine side of man we’re looking at.

It’s man. Especially his propensity to think
that power is better than sex. It’s man the gender.

I might be inclined to say that this idea goes too far in the other direction.

I agree that Hugo in his poem should
leave women out of it in his poem,
and not tell
the old lie
...because -historically –it is ridiculous to suggest that women have had enough influence to generate much of the war to date, let alone be the origin of all war.

Hugo shouldn’t get away with that.

But, if I run a little thought experiment - what would have happened if women were in power completely - no men - at all? Lords and Commons back to back, just women?
(I like to entertain myself with such thoughts...)
Would things be so different? Some details – yes. And I'd like to think the bigger picture...but probably not. I’d probably be as depressed by the crimes of my gender as you are of yours.
So I am not sure about
It’s man the gender.

My feeling is that power corrupts, and in its simplest terms these are the origins of war. There might be differences between men and women, but in the end both women and men are susceptible.

A final point about style. Hugo’s poem is purple but it is a ‘sting’ of a poem. It hits you like a sling shot. I wonder if a shorter poem would pack more of a punch? I would also question if it is necessary to mollify the reader by being so respectful to Hugo at the start. I know why you did it...but maybe this poem is one that doesn’t justify it!

Wow. My response is long, sorry. I found this very interesting...


Felicity F at 15:30 on 01 November 2009  Report this post
Hi James...I will make some comments shortly, just gathering my thoughts on this one.


freynolds at 18:24 on 01 November 2009  Report this post
Hi James,

Very noble and brave of you to write a poem in reply to Victor Hugo and come to the rescue of both women and Penelope. I must, however speak for Victor Hugo as the translated text does not do much justice to the original poem, quite the contrary as much of the meaning is distorted.

Being French, I am both very familiar with his work but also able to get the intention of the author as he meant it to be.

Hugo wrote this poem as part of a book of poetry entitled 'L'Année terrible' The Terrible Year. It is centered around 1870 when France was at war with Prussia and there was also a civil war taking place in Paris. This particular poem uses rhetorical weapons to denounce the stupidity of war. It is a dialog addressed to war. War is personified for the sake of posing essential questions.

War is a feminine noun in French 'la guerre' and this is why Hugo addresses war as a she. The translator should never have used the feminine and should have transposed the ideas without insinuating a gender, since war has no gender in English.

The reference to Penolope is by no way intending to attack her, quite the contrary. Penelope was a very clever woman who stayed at home and fighted any suitors, whilst her husband was away and at the time presumed dead. She never doubted he would come back. Here, the translator should have given us ‘a dim Penelope’ or ‘a stupid Penelope’ as opposed to ‘idiot Penelope’ which completely changed the original meaning. Believe me, if Hugo has meant a personal attack on women, he would have started another revolution in France.

And as for André Gide comment of ‘Hugo, alas’ – it says it all; Andre Gide was good, very good, alas not quite as good as Hugo and there was a mix of loathing and admiration, there.

I think what you have written is admirable and very witty, don’t get me wrong, and I am glad there are poets out there, prepared to voice their thoughts and be brave enough to challenge even those who cannot reply. You are very clever with words and creating delectable verse. In this instance, however, I feel very strongly about the translation that prompted your noble gesture.

You have an amazing skill for questioning and reasoning, and humoring, which I find so incredibly irresistible and I wish I had a mind of similar exquisite proportions.


James Graham at 14:38 on 02 November 2009  Report this post
Fabienne, I was waiting with some trepidation for your comment! Now I understand Hugo’s poem much better, especially the point that from the third line there is no female figure present, only the grammatically feminine ‘La guerre’. The English translation is poor, turning the feminine gender into a female presence. Maybe the worst example is where ‘Folle immense’ is translated as ‘colossal madwoman’ - surely it’s simply colossal madness, or folly?

However...since Penelope is confined to the first line, and the rest of the poem isn’t about her at all, or about any woman, I wish Hugo had simply crossed out her name and put in a more relevant mythological figure - the war god Ares (Mars), for example, was associated with aggression and bloodlust, the most irrational aspects of war, whereas the war goddess Athene was thought to represent the more rational side, strategy, discipline and good command. I think even Athene would be out of place here - she might have put in an appearance during the Franco-Prussian war, or WW1, telling the political leaders to come to their senses, or else they would be struck by a thunderbolt. Ares comes across as an imbécile anyway - no confusion there.

I still think the naming of Penelope colours the rest of the poem. Even if it’s not meant to be a slur on Homer’s character, even if she’s meant to be a stupid Penelope unlike the original Penelope, I still think she’s out of place in the poem. I’m clearly not justified in criticising the poem as a whole; my ‘riposte’ is in fact a reaction to the the English translation. But there’s still that one word. Why Penelope?

I should add that I read Hugo at university - selected poems - and reading some of them again now I'm certain he is one of the great writers (minus the hélas!).

Thank you for posting such a thoughtful comment. And thanks to everyone else - I’ll reply to other comments as soon as I can.


freynolds at 15:14 on 02 November 2009  Report this post
You know, James, you have now picked my curiosity about the reference to Penelope. I had not questioned it before as much references were made to the Illiad and the Odissey at the time, but there must be a reason, I hope, for Hugo to have inserted her name.

I'll do a little research to see if there is any information about it but you are absolutely right and in light of your comment above, I also ask 'why Penelope?'. How I wish we could ask Hugo.



should be 'piqued my curiosity'

James Graham at 19:32 on 02 November 2009  Report this post
Oonah, that formal scheme of yours would have been brilliant. But now I am disarmed. I can still find reason to criticise Hugo’s poem, but it can’t be a crude cannonade. It turns out (see my reply to Fabienne) that ‘Penelope’ is the only word in the poem that refers to any woman - the rest is feminine grammatical gender, agreeing with ‘La guerre’. So Hugo’s whole verbal assault is directed at ‘la guerre’ not Penelope. The translation from the Penguin book is misleading. (Still, as I said, what’s Penelope doing in the first line?) All this is too subtle to justify a frontal assault, especially with lethal Alexandrines.

Maybe if I’d tried Alexandrines, I’d have ended up like the poets that Pope had a go at:

Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

Thanks for your comment, Oonah.

Kirsty, thank you for going into it in such depth. I like your remarks about Penelope - when I read The Odyssey I’m more sympathetic to Penelope than Odysseus, even though it’s not supposed to be his fault that he came home the long way round. (The swineherd runs a close second - somewhere in the middle of Odysseus’ heroic homecoming, if I recall, he says he’s had enough and needs to go and tend the pigs. I think I might have followed him.)

On ‘going too far in the other direction’, I wonder... If women were in the majority in government, maybe there would be fewer wars? We have the unfortunate example of Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands (‘Let us rejoice!’). On the whole, though, I think women would not all be pacifists but would favour such things as multilateral action through the UN and avoid wars of dubious legality. (Something like the difference between Bush and Obama!) And can you imagine a female counterpart to Adolf Hitler? ‘It’s man the gender’ is an overstatement, because many men don’t have these propensities, and don’t want power, and because if women had power there might be at least a few Thatchers among them.

Soon I must post a comment on your recent poem. I’m constantly behind schedule now!


V`yonne at 20:42 on 02 November 2009  Report this post
I still think the naming of Penelope colours the rest of the poem.
so do I and that is why I think the translation goes as it does. I don't think it is that poor. Hugo lead it in that direction. He was a great writer - great enough to say what he meant to say . On the other hand maybe we all read what we want to read...

A very interesting posting. Thanks.

purpletandem at 21:56 on 02 November 2009  Report this post
I think the criticism of Penelope is in regard to her relationship to war (and to men?) and I would suggest that the key word to that is berceuse for which I think "cradle-rocker" is a good translation.

This has been a very illuminating discussion. Not only that, it has emboldened me for my nect upload to post a translation from Baudelaire that I have been sitting on.


James Graham at 19:25 on 03 November 2009  Report this post
Thanks to all I haven’t replied to yet. Thanks too for really taking up my invitation to criticise - content, style, language, Was the poem worth writing? - the whole lot, lock, stock and two smoking barrels. I will have to be brief now - if I can - as there are new poems by other members waiting to be read.

Peter, I’ll soon post a free verse poem which does have some of those features you looked for in vain - embedded rhyme, assonance etc. There’s a particular challenge in writing a poem which sets out to make a point in argument. I agree that musicality and inventive language are usually more satisfying in a free-verse poem. You feel that even if the free verse doesn’t follow a formal scheme, the poem is still a work of art. I feel, though, that an effective poem can be written in plain language, more or less without the embellishments of figurative writing or sound-patterns. But the plain language has to be elegant, or compelling in some other way. One of the best models I can think of is Brecht; this is one of his ‘satires’ on the Hitler regime. The only ‘device’ used is a tasty sarcasm.

If governing were easy
There’d be no need for such inspired minds as the Führer’s.
If the worker knew how to run his machine and
The peasant could tell his field from a pastry board
There’d be no need of factory owner or landlord.
It’s only because they are all so stupid
That a few are needed who are so clever.

On the content, if my riposte is ‘anti-patriarchal’, then yes, I do think it’s valid. As it turns out, however, Hugo’s poem isn’t as patriarchal, or as misogynist, as it would appear (see previous comments) and that’s what undermines my rant somewhat.

Pt - you also correctly pointed out that grammatical gender shouldn’t be confused with biological gender, and that it’s ‘feminine’ war, not woman, that drags men into a drunken orgy. However, Hugo’s reference to Penelope is still a sticking point for me. I don’t understand why he chose the name Penelope instead of a god of war or a legendary warrior such as Achilles. ‘Idiot Achille’? And somehow - maybe not at all to a French reader - the feminine gender of ‘la guerre’ is overlaid by the feminine gender of Penelope.

On Penelope herself, perhaps it might be said that by remaining faithful she supports what her husband has done. Men can go off to war and not come home for years and years and their faithful wives will be waiting. Yes, maybe she should have gone off with one of the suitors.

I look forward to your Baudelaire. If I have any doubts about Hugo I’ve none about Baudelaire.

Sarah, a point I take from you is about hindsight. I don’t think the values of our present age are necessarily better or wiser than those of past ages; but in cases where we believe they are, we can set them beside those of past writers or thinkers, and criticise or even condemn. In the early years of European exploration, virtually no-one in Europe could see Africans or Amerindians as fully human. It was almost totally beyond the imagination of Europeans to recognise and respect the history and cultures of these peoples. Now many (though, hélas, still not all) Europeans do acknowledge all these things - and we are wiser, and 15th century Europeans were wrong. The same applies to patriarchy.

I also feel the lack of ‘poetry’ within the lines. Even plain language with a greater elegance and smoothness would be an improvement.

Oonah, that’s an interesting view that the translation isn’t so bad. Somehow, as I said somewhere above, the fact that Penelope is in the first line means Hugo can’t really keep her - or keep a vague female presence - out of the rest of the poem.

Enough already! The garden’s pretty much tidied up for winter, so I’ve time on my hands. If this has been half as interesting for you as it has for me, it’s been worth it.


Arian at 09:13 on 04 November 2009  Report this post
Hi James, yes, I take the point you make with the Brecht piece.
On my argument about argument, my French is very weak, so I'll accept F's conclusion about Hugo's real intention - which changes things a bit.
Personally, though, I think (a lot of people don't seem to agree) that one should separate the "poetic" merit of a piece from its message - one can enjoy a poem for itself, without agreeing with its message.


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .