As often in its works of the Years 1850, the poem, with the wire of its writing, took unexpected proportions and a significance much larger. Initially in short Apologue, then fable, it grew until becoming an almost autonomous philosophical epopee. After having given up God , Hugo then thought of integrating the Ass into the Legend of the Centuries . For the section of the nineteenth century, it establishes the following plan: the Ocean - the Revolution - the Back of the page - Supreme Pity - the Poor People - the epopee of the Ass . Finally, reaching the wish of the editor Hetzel to reinforce the character epic and narrative First Series, it drew aside from them these principal poems, whose the Ass , but preserves the intention to make them appear in a new series to come. In 1863, working there, it takes again the old project of the First Series: objections of the Ass - Seven wonders of the world (which it has just written) - the Revolution - Supreme Pity . But once again, the force of the things and the context different from the Années 1870 modify this initial intention, and the great poems will be excluded from the New Series of 1877 and finally from the Légende .
the Ass was finally published in 1880, in an isolated way but in the same movement as the Pope , Supreme Pity and Religions and Religion , and forming with them like a kind of will philosophical of Hugo.
The hero of the poem, the Patience ass, which crossed the History, crossed Esope and Apulée and carried the Christ on her back, meets one day Kant and speaks to him. The figure of the ass, untameable and mocker, is characteristic of grotesque the hugolien and symbolizes humble wisdom but vigorously protestor, just like the Satyr to which it yielded its place in the Legend of 1859. It incarnates a voice of the XIXe century, protesting against certain thoughts of its time - those of the excess of science and philosophy, in particular the Positivisme - and finally against the loss of the mystery of the existence and of God.
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