I took a French Literature class last year and LOVED it. My favorite reading, and current favorite poem, was written by Victor Hugo, Demain, dès l'aube. . . (Tomorrow, as Early as Dawn. . .) Hugo was a leading author of the French romantic style. These artists longed for the days of Napoleon, when the monarchy kept order and the institution of religion was respected. The majority of romantic writings longed for the past, but some looked to the future, l'avenir. Past and future were preferred to the present, which inflicted melancholy, weariness, and disillusionment upon the young French, a condition coined mal du siècle, literally maladie of the century, the "spiritual sickness" of the Romantic era (Professor Ceri Crossley, University of Birmingham). Nature, solitude, love lost, and introverted thoughts were the usual subjects of their works. Demain, dès l'aube. . ., composed of most Romantic symbols, is a well-known Romantic piece. Be sure to click on the video so you can listen to it in French while you're reading it. I highly recommend it. I'm a little biased, but I think it comes across most beautifully in French, especially when listened to, in addition to reading the poem. The translation is below the French text.
Demain, dès l'aube...
Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
Tomorrow, as early as dawn, at the hour when the countryside becomes white,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.
I will walk eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Without seeing anything outside of me, without hearing any noise,
Alone, unknown, back curved, hands crossed,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.
I will not look at the gold of the evening which falls,
Nor the faraway sails descending towards Harfleur.
And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb
A green bouquet of holly and flowering heather.
Hugo wrote this in response to the death of his daughter. Tragic and so beautiful. Demain, dès l'aube . . . .