Victor Hugo: Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance

Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance which transfigures the wretched.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), Les Misérables (1862), Book V, ch 13; translated by Charles Wilbour

La grande douleur est un rayon divin et terrible qui transfigure les misérables.


Wordsworth: The Affliction of Margaret

War_nurse_bkred_at_flickr

Where art thou, my beloved Son,
Where art thou, worse to me than dead!
O find me, prosperous or undone!
Or if the grave be now thy bed,
Why am I ignorant of the same
That I may rest; and neither blame
Nor sorrow may attend thy name?

Seven years, alas! to have received
No tidings of an only child;
To have despair’d, have hoped, believed,
And been for evermore beguiled;
Sometimes with thoughts of very bliss!
I catch at them, and then I miss;
Was ever darkness like to this?

He was among the prime in worth,
An object beauteous to behold;
Well born, well bred; I sent him forth
Ingenuous, innocent, and bold:
If things ensued that wanted grace
As hath been said, they were not base;
And never blush was on my face.

Ah! little doth the young-one dream
When full of play and childish cares,
What power is in his wildest scream
Heard by his mother unawares!
He knows it not, he cannot guess;
Years to a mother bring distress,
But do not make her love the less.

Neglect me! no, I suffer’d long
From that ill thought; and being blind
Said ‘Pride shall help me in my wrong:
Kind mother have I been, as kind
As ever breathed:’ and that is true;
I’ve wet my path with tears like dew,
Weeping for him when no one knew.

My Son, if thou be humbled, poor,
Hopeless of honour and of gain,
O! do not dread thy mother’s door;
Think not of me with grief and pain:
I now can see with better eyes;
And worldly grandeur I despise
And fortune with her gifts and lies.

Alas! the fowls of heaven have wings,
And blasts of heaven will aid their flight;
They mount—how short a voyage brings
The wanderers back to their delight!
Chains tie us down by land and sea;
And wishes, vain as mine, may be
All that is left to comfort thee.

Perhaps some dungeon hears thee groan
Maim’d, mangled by inhuman men;
Or thou upon a desert thrown
Inheritest the lion’s den;
Or hast been summon’d to the deep
Thou, thou, and all thy mates, to keep
An incommunicable sleep.

I look for ghosts; but none will force
Their way to me: ’tis falsely said
That there was ever intercourse
Between the living and the dead;
For surely then I should have sight
Of him I wait for day and night
With love and longings infinite.

My apprehensions come in crowds;
I dread the rustling of the grass;
The very shadows of the clouds
Have power to shake me as they pass;
I question things, and do not find
One that will answer to my mind;
And all the world appears unkind.

Beyond participation lie
My troubles, and beyond relief:
If any chance to heave a sigh
They pity me, and not my grief.
Then come to me, my Son, or send
Some tidings that my woes may end!
I have no other earthly friend.

(1807)    --William Wordsworth (1770-1850)


Górecki, Polish folk song: Where has he gone, my dearest son?

Unknown_grave_by_mel_b_at_flickr

Where has he gone,
My dearest son?
Perhaps during the uprising
The cruel enemy killed him

Ah, you bad people
In the name of God, the most Holy,
Tell me, why did you kill
My son?

Never again
Will I have his support
Even if I cry
My old eyes out

Were my bitter tears
to create another River Oder
They would not restore to life
My son

He lies in his grave
and I know not where
Though I keep asking people
Everywhere

Perhaps the poor child
Lies in a rough ditch
and instead he could have been
lying in his warm bed

Oh, sing for him
God's little song-birds
Since his mother
Cannot find him

And you, God's little flowers
May you blossom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily

                

   --Polish folk song in the dialect of the Opole region, set to music by Górecki in his Third Symphony; translated by: Unknown [Please tell me if you know]


Kajze mi sie podziol
moj synocek mily?
Pewnie go w powstaniu
zle wrogi zabily.

Wy niedobrzy ludzie,
dlo Boga swietego
cemuscie zabili
synocka mojego?

Zodnej jo podpory
juz nie byda miala,
chocbych moje stare
ocy wyplakala.

Chocby z mych lez gorkich
drugo Odra byla,
jesce by synocka
mi nie ozywila.

Lezy on tam w grobie,
a jo nie wiem kandy
choc sie opytuja
miedzy ludzmi wsandy.

Moze nieborocek
lezy kay w dolecku,
a moglby se lygac
na swoim przypiecku.

Ej, cwierkejcie mu tam,
wy ptosecki boze,
kiedy mamulicka
znalezc go nie moze.

A ty, boze kwiecie,
kwitnijze w okolo,
niech sie synockowi
choc lezy wesolo