The Texture of Jersey

“The island seems to pray like a monk; From all sides, singing its unique song, The abyss and the ocean dancing their ball. A passing cloud weeps, and the tide at its height, Whilst the sea at its feet lets a vessel be wrecked, Retains some of the sky’s water for the little bird.”

“For the third time I see the ripened apples. Land of exile, devoured by waves whose murmurs are deaf, Be blessèd, green isle, with your love of the deep tide! This corner of earth where the soul melts into infinity, If you were my land, you would be my desire. Here, the serene fighter, shipwrecked from life, He thinks, and beneath God’s eye, on this crimson reef, He lets his soul be washed clean, just as the sun bleaches The maid’s washing on the grass.”

“The rocks are fashioned with dreamy gazes; In their caverns, just as in the crannies of a cider press, The foam bubbles and gleams. At nightfall the forest pitches sibylline notes into the wind; The monstrous dolmen dreams on the hilltop, The obscure night turning it into a ghostly sketch; And from its mass the pallid moon brings forth Moloch.”

“The westerly wind sweeps across the beach, In every rocky cranny where villages nest, On the quivering old roofs of fishermen’s abodes, Where the thatch is held in place by towropes, Hanging down the walls with huge stones. The wet nurse with bare breast, lowering her lids, Sings to the child humming a sailor’s tune, The boat on its return is pulled from the tide, And the meadows are enchanted…”


Editor: Axel Wang

Design & Photography: Axel Wang

Words: Excerpts from Jersey (1854), Victor Hugo, published in Les Quatre Vents de l’esprit (1881), translated by Diane Enget (2002)

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