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Victor Hugo’s “The Poor Children” has left me an overwhelming feeling of concern for children. His way of touching the senses and imagination of the readers with his use of descriptive details provides a clear view of how highly he thinks of children. In this poem, Hugo clearly indicates how children are associated with God. This is not surprising from an artist such as Victor Hugo who was devoted Catholic. His seemingly sacred reference to children as beings who are deemed to be the most important to God is illustrated in the first two lines of the poem.

“Take heed of this small child of earth; / He is great; he hath in him God most high” (Hugo lines 1-2). The singular form of the child in the first two lines can also be an allusion to Jesus Christ as he is the only son of God. This is further highlighted in the succeeding lines where Hugo writes, “Children before their fleshly birth / Are lights alive in the blue sky” (3-4). However, in these lines, “children” are already in plural form, but it is noticeable that the description of lights being “alive” in the sky can be a reference to the birth of Christ at Nazareth where a bright star was witnessed in the night sky.

The speaker’s voice in this poem is presented in an omniscient view as if the speaker is God Himself who is patronizing the children. It is also important to take note that the words such as “Heaven,” “Paradise,” and “God” starts with a capital letter which is a symbol of respect and reverence. “If they are hungry Paradise / Weeps, and, if cold, Heaven thrills with pain” (11-12). Clearly, the presence of these words in relation to the children shows how the speaker believes that children are like the extension of God here in this world.

However, the speaker still reminds the readers of the mortality and cruel reality of Earth. “In our light bitter world of wrong / They come; God gives us them awhile” (5-6). Yet, Hugo gives emphasis on the fact that these children are what makes this mortal and sometimes cruel place a good place because through them God is communicating with the rest of us. “His speech is in their stammering tongue, / And his forgiveness in their smile” (6-7). The poem states that through the children, God is seen and felt.

It is also reasonable to conclude that the children are the proof that God exists. He speaks through them and forgives through them. This is why a good couple is always delighted to have them. Hugo’s usage of metaphors to compare these children to something more like a gift that God has given shows how the speaker feels for them. The sincerity is felt among the lively words that Hugo used. This is quite understandable upon having a closer look at Hugo’s biography. He had several children who he adored, and he probably had thought of them as inspiration for this poem.

Victor Hugo’s “The Poor Children” is a short poem that presents children in a sacred view which is completely related to the concept of God. Clearly, this piece would probably still apply to readers in this age as child abuse is still widespread in our society today. I find the poem to be very interesting and touching as it deals with the spiritual concept of children. Upon reading the poem, it is likely that a reader would think highly of children and believe that they have an extraordinary value that God has given. It is a poem that is worth the read, for it reminds the readers of how children should be treated.

It definitely has a context that is necessary to address present child abuse issues. Its structure can be easily comprehended by readers most especially due to its short length. Also, its constant inclusion of terms related to nature gives an impression to the readers of a paradise where children might have come from, which strengthens the fact that children should be treated with reverence too.


Hugo, Victor. The Poor Children. Poetry Archive. Retrieved March 31, 2009, http://www. poetry-archive. com/h/the_poor_children. html

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