Short summary - Castigations - Victor Hugo

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Castigations
Victor Hugo

On December 2, 1851, the president of the republic, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, staged a coup d'etat, dissolving the National Assembly and arresting members of the parliamentary opposition. On December 4, the army suppressed the uprising that began in Paris - many unarmed citizens, including women and children, were killed. Victor Hugo was one of a small group of deputies - passionate opponents of the new monarchical system. The December shootings made further struggle impossible. The writer had to flee the country - he returned from emigration only after the inglorious fall of the Second Empire, in 1870. The collection of poems "Retribution" was written in hot pursuit of events. The titles of the books ironically play up the solemn assurances of Napoleon III, the prologue and epilogue are preceded by the symbolic names "Nox" and "Lux" - "Night" and "Day" in Latin.
A pitiful pygmy, a worthless nephew of a great uncle, attacked in the darkness with a knife on a defenseless Republic. The homeland is flooded with blood and filth: the despicable clique feasts in the palace, and under cover of night, the corpses of innocent victims are dumped into a mass grave. When the numb people awaken, the sacred moment of retribution will come. In the meantime, there is no rest for the poet alone: although even the elements call him to humility, he will not bow his head - let his angry muse become a worthy heiress of Juvenal and erect pillars of shame for the villains.
France has fallen, with the heel of a tyrant hammered into her forehead. This bastard will end his days in Toulon - where Napoleon's glory began. Convicts in scarlet jackets and shackles are impatiently awaiting the bandit-nephew - soon he will drag the cannonball on his leg. Reckoning inevitably follows the crime - thieves, cheats and murderers who have dealt a treacherous blow to the homeland will be cursed. But while the venal saints smoke incense for them, their cross serves Satan, and in the chalice it is not wine that glows, but blood. They planned to destroy progress, to swaddle the spirit, to deal with the mind. Martyrs perish in vain for their faith - in France they trade in Christ, crucifying him again with greed and hypocrisy. There is nowhere to cast a glance: the courtiers vying with each other flatter Caesar, the robbers-stockbrokers grow fat on the bones of the people, the soldiers get drunk, trying to forget their shame, and the working people meekly substitutes their neck under the collar. France is now no different from China, and scaffolds have been erected throughout the rest of Europe for her best sons. But one can already hear the iron step of the days to come, when the kings will flee and the trumpet of the archangel will sound in heaven. A joyful song is flowing - the Senate, the State Council, the Legislative Corps, the Town Hall, the Army, the Court, and the Bishops have been born with a hymn of praise. In response, they hear a mournful thousand-legged "Miserere" (Lord, have mercy) - but the madmen do not heed. Wake up, people, rise like the buried Lazarus, for the Lilliputians are mocking you. Remember how on December 4, a soldier drunk with blood fired at defenseless people - look how grandmother weeps over her dead grandson. When rot has penetrated into all souls, it is better to be an exile on the island and admire the free flight of seagulls from a cliff in the ocean. The Holy Republic of the Fathers is betrayed, and this is the work of the army - the very army whose glory has thundered for centuries. The ragged soldiers walked under the banner of Freedom, and old Europe shuddered under their victorious tread. Now everyone has forgotten about these warriors - they were replaced by heroes who playfully cope with women and children. They go to the attack of the Motherland, storm the laws - and the despicable thief generously rewards his praetorians. All that remains is to avenge this shame - to smash the new empire and the beast in the golden crown with a harsh verse.
Oncewas an impoverished prince who deceived himself into the famous Julia. And so he arranged a conspiracy, perpetrated a "wonderful villainy", entered the Louvre in the make-up of Napoleon ... The ancient leaders, the great dictators of past centuries marvel: a swindler in leaky pantaloons flaunts on the pediment of the temple - no, this is not Caesar, but just Robert Maker (the character of the play "Adre's Inn" is a type of cynically boasting robber and murderer). He looks like a monkey that pulled on a tiger skin and engaged in robbery until the hunter restrained her. Those who are the most vile and vile of all were drawn to the foundling of the scaffold - an honest person can only recoil from them with disgust. They fiercely work their elbows, trying to get closer to the throne, and each upstart is supported by his own party: behind one mountain there are footmen, behind the other - corrupt girls. And the peaceful bourgeois grumble with displeasure, as soon as they come across a free article: of course, Bonaparte is a mazurik, but why shout about it to the whole world? Cowardly baseness has always been the mainstay of crime. It's time to settle down in slavery - whoever lies flat on his belly will succeed. All rogues and bandits will find a place near money, and the rest will face severe, hopeless poverty. But you should not appeal to the shadow of Brutus: Bonaparte is not worthy of a dagger - a pillar of shame awaits him. The people do not need to kill a fierce tyrant - let him live, marked with the seal of Cain. His henchmen in judicial robes refer to the certain death of the innocent: the wife who brought her husband bread to the barricade goes to hard labor, the old man who gave shelter to the exiles. And corrupt journalists sing hosanna, hiding behind the Gospel - they climb into the soul to turn out their pockets. Fetid leaves, delighting the saint and prude with tales of miracles, sell the Eucharist and make their own buffet out of the temple of God. But the living struggle, they carry great love or sacred labor into the future, and only through their asceticism the ark of the covenant is preserved. The Coming One hurries along an invisible road in the darkness with an order inscribed in eternal letters - the judgment of the Lord over the despicable gang of robbers and murderers is approaching.
Robert Maker put on the crown, causing a commotion in the old cemetery: all the bandits of the old days are eager to get to the coronation of their brother. And from Paris, a general flight begins: Reason, Right, Honor, Poetry, Thought go into exile - only Contempt remains. The tyrant awaits retribution for suffering and tears, for the death of the martyr Pauline Roland - this beautiful woman, an apostle of truth and goodness, faded away in exile. And the great shadow of Napoleon is bitterly tormented: neither the death of the army in the snow-covered fields of Russia, nor the terrible defeat at Waterloo, nor the lonely death on St. Helena - nothing can compare with the shame of the Second Empire. Dwarfs and jesters dragged the emperor from the imperious column by the legs to give him the role of a king in his booth. Retribution for the coup of the eighteenth Brumaire has taken place - the clowns take an example from the Titan.
The pitiful scum is now called Napoleon III - Marengo and Austerlitz are harnessed to a tattered fiacre. Europe is shaking with laughter, the States are laughing, the cliffs are wiping away a tear: a buffoon sits on the throne embracing crime, and the empire has turned into one huge den. The French people, who once shattered the granite of the Bastilles and forged the rights of peoples, are now trembling like a leaf. Dignity is preserved only by women - they execute the scoundrels with a contemptuous smile. And the poet's thunderous voice is heard: caution - this pathetic virtue of cowards - is not for him. He hears the call of the wounded fatherland - she begs for help. The blackest gloom heralds the dawn: France, harnessed to the cart of a drunken satrap, will be reborn and gain wings. The bent people will straighten up and, shaking off the sticky dirt of the current garbage dump, will appear in all its splendor before the admiring world. The strongholds of Jericho will collapse to the sound of the trumpets of Nun. Thinkers, replacing each other, lead a human caravan: Luther follows Jan Huss, Voltaire follows Luther, Voltaire Mirabeau follows - and with each step forward, the darkness thinns. But sometimes Evil comes out of ambush with its vile offspring - jackals, rats and hyenas. Only a lion - the harsh lord of the desert - can disperse these creatures. The people are like a lion; hearing his roar, a gang of small crooks will scatter and disappear forever. You need to go through the shameful years without staining yourself: the wandering son will not return to mother France while the self-styled Caesar rules in her. Let there be a thousand, a hundred, a dozen stubborn - the poet will be among them; and if all the voices of protest cease, one will continue the struggle.
The holy dream shines in the distance - you need to clear the way to it. A crimson ray, the star of the world Republic, sparkles in the darkness. Free humanity will become one family, and the whole earth will flourish. This will happen inevitably: freedom and peace will return, the slave and the beggar will disappear, love will descend from the sky, the holy cedar of Progress will overshadow America and Europe. Perhaps today's people will not live to see such happiness: but they too, awakening for a moment in their graves, kiss the holy roots of the tree.