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L'Attente (1855)

L'Attente

Monte, écureuil, monte au grand chêne,
Sur la branche des cieux prochaine,
Qui plie et tremble comme un jonc.
Cigogne, aux vieilles tours fidèle,
Oh! vole! et monte à tire-d’aile
De l’église à la citadelle,
Du haut clocher au grand donjon.
Vieil aigle, monte de ton aire
À la montagne centenaire
Que blanchit l’hiver éternel;
Et toi qu’en ta couche inquiète
Jamais l’aube ne vit muette,
Monte, monte, vive alouette,
Vive alouette, monte au ciel!
Et maintenant, du haut de l’arbre,
Des flèches de la tour de marbre,
Du grand mont, du ciel enflammé,
À l’horizon, parmi la brume,
Voyez-vous flotter une plume,
Et courir un cheval qui fume,
Et revenir ma bien-aimée?

Anticipation

Squirrel, ascend the towering oak,
To the branch right next to the sky
Bending and trembling like a reed.
Stork, faithful to the ancient towers,
Swiftly ascend and wing your way
From the church to the citadel,
From lofty steeple to mighty keep.
Old eagle, ascend from your eyrie
To the age-old mountain peak,
Whitened by eternal winter.
And you, whom in your unquiet nest,
Dawn never once saw silent—
Joyous lark, ascend, ascend,
Ascend into the sky!
And now, from the high tree-top,
From the spires of the marble tower,
From the great mountain, from the flaming sky,
On the sky-line, in the mist,
Can you see a bobbing plume,
A hurtling, steaming horse—and then
My beloved once again?

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Composer

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist of the Romantic era. A musical prodigy, he gave his first concert at only 10 years old, before studying at the Paris Conservatoire.

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Poet

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry and then from his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He also produced more than 4,000 drawings, which have since been admired for their beauty, and earned widespread respect as a campaigner for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.

Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French franc banknotes.

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