The Incorporation of Thought in Victor Hugo’s “Le Satyre”
This article considers how Victor Hugo’s philosophical poem “Le Satyre” incorporates thought into verse. Central to the first series of La Légende des siècles (1859), “Le Satyre” explores the idea of progress through a variety of physical experiences. The faun’s physicality is usually interpreted as a grotesque challenge to the classical gods, symbolizing the Revolution overturning hierarchies, but it is also part of a wider exploration of the embodiment of thought. The satyr’s body, gestures, and feelings shape the poem’s argument, and in his own performance he uses an array of concrete metaphors to express abstract concepts. The famous passage in which he expands into a landscape is just the most striking instance of this synthesis of the conceptual and the material. Attending closely to the way Hugo articulates these connections between ideas and bodily presence ultimately permits a reconsideration of the poem’s political sense.