'Tristesse d'Olympio' and the Romantic Nature Experience

Victor Hugo's "Tristesse d'Olympio" is constructed around the process of interaction between the poet's mind and the natural world. The poem thus constitutes a "nature experience" common to European Romanticism and is related to a cultural context much larger than French Romanticism alone. A new reading of "Tristesse d'Olympio" is reached as it is compared with Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," a paradigm of the extended Romantic lyric centering about a nature experience. Both poets revisit the scene of an earlier ideal experience, but the passing of time causes the self-identity of each poet to be put in question. Wordsworth finds consolation in the constancy of nature and in the power of memory to regulate and control time. Hugo, for whom nature is inconstant, finally comes to a conclusion like that of Wordsworth: the active, conscious self can regulate time and its ravages. Hugo's poem indicates one way in which the Romantic consciousness linked the themes of mutability, memory, and self to the nature experience. (PAW)

Ward, Patricia A
Volume 1978-1979 Fall-Winter; 7(1-2): 4-16.