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The poem “The Sower” by Victor Marie Hugo is about the struggle of a farmer and his firm determination in doing whatever he can even when all others go away. The poem has been divided into five stanzas having four lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB.
Sitting in a porchway cool, Fades the ruddy sunlight fast, Twilight hastens on to rule-- Working hours are wellnigh past
The poet says that one day he sits on a porchway (entrance) to enjoy the sunset. He watches the ruddy i.e. red sunlight fading away fast. As the evening approaches, the twilight (here it means evening) begins to rule i.e. dominate the light. In other words, the darkness starts spreading all over.
At such a time, when there is no light, people stop their work (here it means working in the farms). They are not seen anywhere as they go back to their homes.
Shadows shoot across the lands; But one sower lingers still, Old, in rags, he patient stands,-- Looking on, I feel a thrill.
There is nothing in the land but the shadows which shoot (spread) all over the places. However, among those shadows, the poet sees one sower (the one who sows seeds i.e. farmer). He lingers (stays) there. He is old, in rags (torn clothes) and stands there patiently. Watching him the poet feels thrilled.
Black and high his silhouette Dominates the furrows deep! Now to sow the task is set, Soon shall come a time to reap.
In the third stanza, the poet says that the sower’s silhouette (here it means the shadow of the sower) is dark and keeps growing as the night approaches. It spreads over deep furrows (i.e. narrow trench made by a plow for sowing seeds) which are now invisible due to darkness.
According to the poet, the sower may be thinking it is the time to sow the seeds and he is doing it. Soon the crops will grow and sower will be able to reap the fruit of his hard labor and dedicated work. This stanza contains a lesson for young people. One should work hard while others give up. This way, they will be able to get fruits of their dedication.
Marches he along the plain, To and fro, and scatters wide From his hands the precious grain; Moody, I, to see him stride.
The sower marches (walks) to and fro (from one end to the other and back to the first one) along the plain (farm) and scatters the precious grain from his hands in the field. The grains are precious as they will grow into crops and will make the sower prosperous. The poet becomes moody i.e. sad by seeing him struggling so much.
Darkness deepens. Gone the light. Now his gestures to mine eyes Are august; and strange--his height Seems to touch the starry skies.
Soon, the darkness deepens i.e. night appears. The daylight is no more. The poet cannot see the gestures (activities) properly. They seem to be strange which he cannot understand now. In the final line, the poet says that the height of the sower seems to touch the starry skies i.e. it becomes so dark that he becomes invisible.