I read 2 quotes written by Victor Hugo by change like this:

  1. Life is the flower of which love is the honey.

  2. Life is the flower for which love is the honey.

Which of the sentence is correct?

Assume that the sentence 1 is correct, so can I rewrite that sentence like below?

Life is the flower which love is the honey of

But It sounds weird for me?

  • 1
    Do you please have any sources ? I assume Victor Hugo is famous enough to provide us a reliable source of your quote. – Ced Mar 16 at 16:11

The bests translations would be:

Life is a flower, and love is the honey of this flower.

Life is a flower, and love is its honey.

The original quote from Victor Hugo (which is a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement.) is:

La vie est une fleur, l'amour en est le miel.
C'est la colombe unie à l'aigle dans le ciel,
C'est la grâce tremblante à la force appuyée,
C'est ta main dans ma main doucement oubliée.

Source: Le Roi s'amuse (1832), Victor Hugo

  • 2
    I think both your own and SamBC's answer really just reflect the fact that the brevity / precision of the original French syntax simply can't be replicated in English without it sounding a bit weird. But you can have my upvote, 'cos you went to the trouble of including the original (with link, ty). With my somewhat imperfect command of French, I can't really tell how "natural" (as opposed to "poetic") the word en is there. I think the construction is probably not that common, but what do I know? (Rightly or wrongly, I'd probably have tried to squeeze dont in there somewhere!" :) – FumbleFingers Mar 16 at 18:08
  • What's wrong with 'Life is a flower, and love is its honey' or even 'Life is a flower, and love is the honey'? The best translation doesn't seem very lyrical or elegant – Au101 Mar 16 at 19:17
  • Well as @FumbleFingers correctly said I don't think there is a good way to say the "l'amour en est le miel." french part in english without sounding a bit weird, There is just no translations in english to say it. However 'Life is a flower, and love is its honey' doesn't sounds that bad, I will add it as a possible translation thanks for the feedback ! – Ced Mar 16 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Au101: Haha - what this goes to show is that translators (esp of poetic text) should probably work in teams, even though the poets themselves usually work better alone! – FumbleFingers Mar 16 at 19:29
  • Translating poetry is a nightmare, or so I'm told. Never actually tried to do it. Interpreting it is another matter. – SamBC Mar 17 at 14:31

Well, I imagine the composition of those was down to the translator, seeing as Victor Hugo was French. The translator will have tried to render the idea, the meaning of Hugo's writing into English.

That doesn't matter too much for this question, though. Let's rewrite both sentences into more conventional modern word order and phrasing.

Love is the honey of the flower that is life.
Love is the honey for the flower that is life.

You see, the life/flower and love/honey combinations are metaphors. Life is represented by a flower, and love is represented by honey. So, let's get rid of the metaphorical association and just use the honey and flower:

The honey of the flower.
The honey for the flower.

Of is used genitively here, meaning it is the honey that comes from the flower (or belongs to it, or is associated with it closely - but we know that honey comes from flowers, albeit via bees). It makes more sense to talk about honey coming from a flower than it does to have honey being for a flower.

So, yes, number 1 is correct.

As to your rewriting, you can rewrite it that way as long as you're not showing it to someone who subscribes to the old "don't end a sentence with a preposition" thing. The phrasing is such as it is in your examples due to people trying to follow that rule. Personally, in this case (not always), I find the example more pleasing than the rewrite. It is harder to follow, though, and trying to always follow that rule can end up with very, very strange sentences and is, as is frequently noted, "the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put" (variants of that phrase are often attributed to Churchill, with no clear basis in fact, but the actual point is a good one).

  • @SamBC.Can you rewrite the following sentence using relative pronoun in shorter way? Life is a flower, and love is the honey of this flower. – Pham Van Duc Mar 17 at 8:36
  • If you consider the of genitive, and understand possessive pronouns as genitive (and people might argue about that), you can say "Life is a flower, and love is its honey". – SamBC Mar 17 at 9:44
  • @SamBC.What about the sentence "Life is the flower of which love is the honey.". In my opinion, it means : * Life is the flower and the love of the flower is honey* . So I think the translated sentence from Victo Hugo's quote is wrong? The true translated sentence is as you said above – Pham Van Duc Mar 17 at 13:45
  • No, it means "love is the honey of that flower". It's just a word order that can be confusion, but it's straightforward to rearrange. You take "love is the honey", move the "of which" to the end, and replace "which" with its antecedent. – SamBC Mar 17 at 13:49
  • You mean we can rewrite that sentence: Life is the flower love is the honey of which. And the sentence "Life is the flower of which love is the honey" is grammatically correct? – Pham Van Duc Mar 17 at 14:19

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