French Poems

French poetry has a rich and illustrious history that has influenced the global literary landscape in innumerable ways. 

From the medieval troubadours to the Symbolist movement and beyond, French poets have embraced diverse styles, themes, and forms of expression. Notable figures such as Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine revolutionized poetry with their exploration of symbolism, decadence, and inner emotional landscapes.

French poetry often focuses on musicality, rhythm, and precise language. It’s capable of capturing the nuances of human emotions and everyday life.

Tomorrow, At Dawn

by Victor Hugo

‘Tomorrow, At Dawn’ by Victor Hugo follows the speaker as they journey to the grave of a loved one, capturing all the ways in which grief has become their sole fixation.

This is a powerfully moving poem from the French writer and poet Victor Hugo: a man dedicated to illustrating the woes of not just other people, such as his countrymen but also the depths of his own. The poem details his profound wrestling with grief and inability to give up the memory or love for their lost loved one.

Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,

I will set out. You see, I know that you wait for me.

I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.

I can no longer remain far from you.

More Strong Than Time

by Victor Hugo

‘More Strong Than Time’ by Victor Hugo is a powerfully romantic poem that declares love as withstanding the withering effects of time.

Hugo was one of the more influential writers to have existed in 19th-century France. His poems express a powerful wealth of and variety of human emotion, but he excels at portraying love and grief alike. Thankfully this poem is enraptured by a positive emotion like love and reveals how much the poet was convinced of its power to alter the world around us.

Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet,

Since I my pallid face between your hands have laid,

Since I have known your soul, and all the bloom of it,

And all the perfume rare, now buried in the shade;


by Victor Hugo

‘Sunset’ by Victor Hugo is a poignant poem that uses the setting sun to explore the speaker’s views on time and life’s various cycles, coming to the conclusion that the grim finality of human life is softened by the continuation of nature’s beauty.

Hugo is regarded as one of the preeminent writers of 19th-century France. Although he might be primarily known outside of Europe for his novels, his poetry offers a wealth of emotion and humanistic virtue that lovers of his other works would no doubt enjoy. This poem offers some of that intelligent wisdom in its contemplation of time and death.

The sun set this evening in masses of cloud,

The storm comes to-morrow, then calm be the night,

Then the Dawn in her chariot refulgent and proud,

Then more nights, and still days, steps of Time in his flight.

After the Battle

by Victor Hugo

In ‘After the Battle,’ Victor Hugo explores compassion amid war, highlighting the moral strength of kindness despite betrayal.

This poem by Victor Hugo is a noteworthy poem, showcasing the poet's eminence in French literature. Its significance lies not only in its exploration of compassion amid conflict but also in its ability to create a vivid narrative with moral depth. While comparing it to other French poems, Hugo's work stands out for its profound examination of human behavior during wartime, offering a timeless message about the enduring value of kindness.

MY father, hero of benignant mien,

On horseback visited the gory scene,

After the battle as the evening fell,

And took with him a trooper loved right well,

The Grave and The Rose

by Victor Hugo

‘The Grave and The Rose’ by Victor Hugo is an intriguing poem that inquires and attempts to answer essential questions about death and change.

Hugo was an important French writer well-known for his novels and poetry alike. Many of his poems deal with heavy themes like death and grief, but they also express a powerful humanism and faith. This is one such poem, as it offers a beautiful glimpse into the poet's views on lofty views on death.

The Grave said to the Rose,

"What of the dews of dawn,

Love's flower, what end is theirs?"

"And what of spirits flown,

Be Drunk

by Charles Baudelaire

‘Be Drunk’ by Charles Baudelaire is a stirring poem meant to incite the reader to passion about life.

This is a short but powerful poem by the French poet Baudelaire who helped champion prose poetry with his breathless and ardent style. It's a poem that best characterizes his decadent and aesthetic values in life-affirming light. One that reveals his belief that poetry's greatest strength was revealing and memorializing beauty. His far-flung influence on poets continues more than a century after his death.

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.


by Hilaire Belloc

‘Fatigue’ uses humor in order to subvert the readers’ expectations of a poet and their ambitions by seeming to value money over love and art.

Hilaire Belloc was a French/English poet whose work is well-regarded today. But, this poem is not especially important in the history of French poetry, and readers are likely to be aware of a few other Belloc poems that rank higher than this one.

I'm tired of Love: I'm still more tired of Rhyme.

But Money gives me pleasure all the time.

Explore more French poems

Historic Evening

by Arthur Rimbaud

‘Historic Evening’ is the poem number 32 or 36 in Les Illuminations, depending on the edition and is a prose poem consisting of paragraphs.


by Aimé Césaire

‘Mississippi’ by Aimé Césaire depicts the importance of perseverance and strength in the face of any kind of oppression.

Sonnet 8

by Louise Labé

The French poet Louise Labé, who wrote Sonnet 8, lived as a middle-class citizen in 16th century France. In this poem, she used the Petrarchan form to explain the positive and negative effects of love.

Tears Fall in My Heart

by Paul Verlaine

‘Tears Fall in My Heart’ by Paul Verlaine describes the emotional condition of a speaker who does not understand why he is feeling unhappy. 

The Hippopotamus

by Hilaire Belloc

‘The Hippopotamus’ by Hilaire Belloc is an amusing short poem that describes shooting a hippopotamus with platinum bullets. 

The Rights of Women

by Anna Lætitia Barbauld

‘The Rights of Women’ by Anna Lætitia Barbauld is a proto-feminist poem that intones the power that a woman might have if she resists social law and rises up to take control over the world.


by Guillaume Apollinaire

‘Zone’ by Guillaume Apollinaire describes a dream-like walk through Paris that spans an entire day, from sunup to sunup.

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