La Légende des Siècles eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 268 pages of information about La Légende des Siècles.

fauves, here ‘terrible’.

A chapter might be written on Hugo’s bold and occasionally strange uses of this word.  Its primary meaning is either ‘dull red’ or ‘tawny’, but in Hugo’s poetry it is used rather as a somewhat vague epithet to suggest darkness, gloom, cruelty, savagery, or oppressive power.  It never denotes merely a physical quality; in such expressions as ‘leur fauve volee’, speaking of the ravens in La Fin de Satan, ‘le desert fauve’ (Androcles), ‘son bec fauve’, of the vulture (Sultan Mourad), the suggestion of wildness or ruthlessness predominates.  Usually the word is used in a wholly figurative sense.  Thus in La Fin de Satan the fallen archangel, flying from Jehovah, is ‘fauve et hagard’, Barabbas stumbling against the Cross is ‘fauve’, and of the lunatic in the tombs it is said:  ‘fauve il mordait’.  In all these cases the meaning is ’wild’,’savage ‘.  In Dieu we have `Venus, fauve et fatale’ (’cruel’), in L’Ane les canons dont les fauves gueulees’ (’terrible’), in L’Annee Terrible’un hallier fauve ou des sabres fourmillent’ (’wild’), and France is called upon to be ’franchement fauve et sombre’ (’fierce’).  In the following passages we have bolder uses still: 

  Le progres a parfois l’allure vaste et fauve (’awe-inspiring’)
  Et le bien bondissant effare ceux qu’il sauve. (Dieu.)

If man had been unselfish,

  L’ombre immense serait son fauve auxiliaire. (Ibid.)

Of war,

Elle chantait, terrible et tranquille, et sa bouche Fauve bavait du sang dans le clairon farouche. (Changement d’Horizon.) La fauve volupte de mourir. (Mangeront-ils?)

It is applied even to sound.  ‘Le fauve bruit’ is used in L’Ane of the battles of primeval monsters, and more mystically in La Vision d’ou sortit le livre of the passing of the Spirit of Fatality.

Also of smell

  Que l’homme au ciel s’egare ou qu’il fanatise
  Avec la fauve odeur des buchers qu’il attise.
  (Religions et Religion.)

Nor must the strange well-known line in La Bouche d’Ombre be forgotten

  Le fauve Univers est le forcat de Dieu.

Fauve is always used of what is dark and gloomy, just as vermeil is always applied to what is bright and pleasant.

cimier.  See note on LE MARIAGE DE ROLAND.

melusine.  A heraldic figure, half woman, half serpent, bathing in a basin.  Taken from the name of a fairy, celebrated in the folklore of Poitou.

alerion, a heraldic figure, representing an eagle without beak or claws.

le manche d’une guitare is the small end.

bourguignotte, a small helmet without throat-piece, so called because it was first used by the Burgundians.

Diane eblouissait le patre:  a reference to the `old sweet mythos,’ as Browning calls it, of Diana, the goddess of the Moon, stooping from heaven to kiss the shepherd Endymion, as he lay asleep on Mount Latmos.

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La Légende des Siècles from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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