A ma fille Adèle

To My Daughter, Adèle

My baby, sleeping close to me, all pink and fresh,
like a tiny drowsy Jesus in his crèche;
In your innocent sleep, so calm and so charming
You do not hear the bird singing in the shadows
Pensively, I inhale all the sweet darkness
of the mysterious heavens.

And I listen to the angels flying above your head;
And watch you sleeping; and over your coverlets
Noiselessly, I strip the leaves from jasmine and carnation;
As I pray, watching over your shuttered eyelids;
My eyes well up full with water, dreaming of things
That await us in the night.

One day, my turn will come to sleep; and my sleep
will be so shadowy, so gloomy, so wild and deep
That I will hear the singing bird no more;
And the night will be black; then, o my dove,
You will return to my tomb,
the tears, prayers and flowers
That I bestrewed by your cradle.

Translated by Valerie Smith

In this poem, Victor Hugo contemplates the circle of life as he sits by his sleeping baby, Adèle who was born in 1830. Adèle was the only one of his children who would outlive him.

French actress Isabelle Adjani portrayed Adèle Hugo as a young woman pursuing British army officer Albert Pinson halfway around the world. Her desperate effort to persuade him to marry her resulted in a mental breakdown. The title of the 1975 film, directed by François Truffaut, is The Story of Adele H

Read Hugo’s poem after the death of his daughter, Leopoldine: Demain, dès l’aube

Victor Hugo Contemporaries
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Walt Whitman
Thomas Hood