Parallel lyrics from Les Misérables, the Musical.
Valjean’s “What Have I Done” and Javert’s “Soliloquy”
by Herbert Kretzmer.

Yes, there are spoilers here if you don’t know the basic plot.


What have I done?/Who is this man?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?/What sort of devil is he?
Become a thief in the night,/To have me caught in a trap
Become a dog on the run/And choose to let me go free?
And have I fallen so far,/It was his hour at last
And is the hour so late/To put a seal on my fate,
That nothing remains,/Wipe out the past,
But the cry of my hate,/And wash me clean off the slate.
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,/
All it would take was a flick of his knife.
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?/
Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!
If there’s another way to go/
Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief.
I missed it twenty long years ago./
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
My life was a war that could never be won./
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked.
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean/
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face.
When they chained me and left me for dead,/
There is nothing on earth that we share.
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread./
It is either Valjean or Javert!
Yet why did I allow that man/How can I now allow this man
To touch my soul and teach me love?/To hold dominion over me?
He treated me like any other./This desperate man that I have hunted,
He gave me his trust./He gave me my life.
He called me brother./He gave me freedom.
My life he claims for God above!/I should have perished by his hand.
Can such things be?/It was his right.
For I had come to hate the world,/I was my right to die as well.
This world that always hated me/Instead I live – but live in hell.
Take an eye for an eye!/And my thoughts fly apart.
Turn your heart into stone!/Can this man be believed?
This is all I have lived for!/Shall his sins be forgiven?
This is all I have known!/Shall his crimes be reprieved?

One word from him and I’d be back/
And must I now begin to doubt,
Beneath the lash, upon the rack./
Who never doubted all these years?
Instead he offers me my freedom./
My heart is stone and still it trembles.
I feel my shame inside me like a knife./
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
He told me that I have a soul,/
Is he from heaven or from hell?
How does he know?/And does he know
What spirit comes to move my life?/
That, granting me my life today,
Is there another way to go?/
This man has killed me even so?
I am reaching, but I fall,/I am reaching, but I fall,
And the night is closing in/And the stars are black and cold,
And I stare into the void,/As I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin./Of a world that cannot hold.
I’ll escape now from that world,/I’ll escape now from that world,
From the world of Jean Valjean./From the world of Jean Valjean!
Jean Valjean is nothing now./There is nowhere I can turn.
Another story must begin!/There is no way to go on.


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

10 responses to “Crossroads

  • Colleen

    Wonderful. Amazing. Thanks.

  • bekindrewrite

    Oh my goodness. Beautiful. I just saw the movie on New Year’s Day. The “he called me brother” line was the exact moment I started crying, and hardly stopped through the whole thing.
    Have you seen it yet? What did you think?

    • jubilare

      When I realized the songs were parallel, I had to see the lyrics side by side, and once I did, I decided that I ought to share them. In the film, they cut one stanza from Javert’s song (third stanza), but the echoes are still striking.

      I saw it last weekend. It’s hard to say what I think because there’s so much. It definitely blew me away, though. I haven’t been moved that much by a film for a long time. The immediacy of the raw singing and the close camera angles creates great intensity.
      Interesting thing. I saw it, twice, with three of my friends. I barely knew the plot, going in. One of my friends had read the book and knew the musical, another knew the musical backwards and forwards, and the other knew more of the plot than I did and had seen the Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush film version. We all had the same reaction to this new film. :)

  • bekindrewrite

    I loved it. I was familiar with the Liam Neeson version, but it had been years since I’d heard any of the music. The one review I saw said the singing wasn’t great and the closeup shots were overused, but I agree with you. We got to see every emotional twist of the actor’s faces and really concentrate on the lyrics. I mean, good gosh, Anne Hathaway’s song? Everything she’s feeling just screams at you from the screen. I have way more respect for her now. And I’ve never seen Hugh Jackman play a part quite like this before; he was almost unrecognizable, he was so good.

    • jubilare

      I completely agree. And this is the first film where I actively appreciated Crowe. The emotional thread is harrowing, but in a good way. ;) My only objections are to the shaky-cam (I hate shaky-cam, but in this case, the rest of the film was so powerful that it only proved a minor annoyance) and the fact that, when Valjean and Javert have their final encounter, I can’t see the expressions on the former’s face because of the muck. There are moments when a little realism needs to be sacrificed for the sake of expression.

  • bekindrewrite

    Shaky cam doesn’t bother me. They usually only use it during violent scenes when I don’t want to see detail anyway. I agree about the muck, though. He could have squeegied his hand down his face as a gesture of stress, and then we would have seen fine.

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