Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Great Signal

The French poet, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), never dreamed of the role he would play in a great drama that would take place exactly 100 years after his birth.  Sixty-seven years ago today, the French Underground tensely awaited the great signal that the Allied invasion of Normandy -- the greatest amphibious operation in history -- was immanent.  This signal was the first stanza of Verlaine's poem, Chanson d'automne. 

Les sanglots longs
Des 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.

The long sobs
Of the violins
Of autumn
Wound my heart
With a languor

All suffocating
And pale when
The hour strikes
I remember
The old days
And weep

And I go away
In the ill wind
that carries me off
This side and beyond
Like the
Dead leaf.


  1. Thank you, Anita!! When "The Longest Day" came out about 1962, my dad and mom took me to see it. The Day profoundly affected their lives, as well as hundreds of thousands of other lives. I think it's sad that so few of the young folks I know appreciate the importance of this day and this poem. I remarked yesterday (June 4) that on that day in 1944 the Allied forces marched into Rome; one of my young neighbors said, "Who cares?" to which I retorted "I do!"

  2. Dang, I forgot the liberation of Rome -- and half of my people are from there!

    Gen. Mark Clark visited Pope Pius XII to pay his respects and apologized for disturbing him with the noise of his tanks. The Pope replied: "General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like!"