Friday, October 14, 2005

historical poetry

Chanson d'automne

Les sanglots longs
Les violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà
Pareil à la feuille morte.
Paul Verlaine

This is the poem I am charged with memorizing for my French class. We were told that this ode to the changing of the season is well known in France, and children have been learning it in school for ages. This made me think fondly of my eighth grade English teacher who had a love of Whitman, Poe and Frost. That was when I learned "The Road Less Traveled," by Robert Frost, and if a life can be shaped by a poem, this one has certainly shaped mine. Something about those last three lines lodged itself in my thirteen-year-old brain and has guided me every since.

But this isn't about Frost, it's about Verlaine. Yesterday, I asked Steph if he remembered this poem, and after looking at the first line, was able to rattle off the first verse from memory. But then he remembered something else which I found extraordinary. "This is the poem from D-Day!"

It was only a month ago that we bought a DVD of The Longest Day ("Le jour le plus long") and settled in to watch three hours of war, chronicling the events leading up to D-Day and the invasion itself. As soon as Steph made his announcement, I remembered that this was the poem that was read on the radio the day before the invasion, which was a signal to the French Resistance that the Allies were on the way.

So there you are: a lovely poem with historical significance. Lucky for me, this is the kind of stuff that excites me to no end. As soon as the excitement of this discovery fades, I'll be off and running for the next one.

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