The internet research hub for Victor Hugo enthusiasts
Thursday evening, January 4, 1827
Goethe praised highly the poems of Victor Hugo. "He is," said he, "a man of decided talent, on whom German literature has had an influence. His poetic youth has unfortunately been disturbed by the pedantry of the classic school; but now he has the Globe on his side, and is thus sure of his game. I am inclined to compare him with Manzoni. He has much objectivity, and seems to me quite as important as MM De Lamartine and De la Vigne. On closely observing him, I see the source of this and other fresh talent of the same sort. They all come from Chateaubriand, who has really distinguished rhetorico-poetical talent. That you may see how Victor Hugo writes, only read this poem upon Napoleon -- Les Deux Isles.."
Goethe gave me the book and went to the stove. I read the poem. "Has he not excellent images," said Goethe, "and has not he managed his subject with great freedom?" He came back to me. "Only look at this passage -- how fine it is!" He read the passage about the storm cloud, from which the lightning darts upward and strikes the hero. "That is fine; for the image is correct: as you will find in the mountains, where we often have the storm beneath us, and where the lightning darts upwards."
"I praise this in the French," said I "That their poetry never deserts the firm ground of reality. We can translate their poems into prose without losing anything essential:
-- Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann -- translated by John Oxenford - 1930.