Expansive Poetics – (Verlaine – Chanson D’Automne)

Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)

Marlene Dietrich reading Paul Verlaine’s “Chanson d’automne c.1945

That’s a very delicate little thing (Apollinaire’s “Le Pont Mirabeau”) That’s in a great French tradition of purely musical lyric, with a lot of Heraclitan impact, that is to say, you can’t step in the same river twice. Similar.. It’s a tradition of pure sound in French, also, melodious sound, which is (a) very good background for somebody trying to write an open-form poem like “Zone”, a tradition that Rimbaud’s friend, (Paul) Verlaine was also great at. I don’t know if you know the poemChanson d’automne (“Autumn Song”) “Les sanglots longs,/ Des violons/ De l’automne/D’une langueur/Monotone..”). Has anybody heard that? It’s a very famous piece of pure music –  [Allen proceeds to read the whole poem – Les sanglots longs/Des violons//De l’automne Blessent mon coeur..”]  – It’s all pure pretty vowels, internal rhyme
(So),  the long sobs – Les sanglots longs, des violons de l’automne – the long sobs of the violins of autumn wounds my heart with a..” (“Blessent mon coeur/D’une..”) – with a langour (“D’une langueur“) – monotonous languor, with a langour of monotonous (“Tout suffocant/ Et blême, quand/Sonne l’heure”), all (sorts of) breathless (or suffocating) and white-faced when the clock rings, the hour sounds, the bell sounds (“quand/Sonne l’heure“) – I remember the good old times and I cry (Je me souviens/ Des jours anciens/Et je pleure”) – I remember the good old.. the ancient good times, the.. “Des jours anciens – “Ancien” was a favorite word for youth-time, really. When they say “ancien” (it means) the older, the old times – remember the good old days –  As Rimbaud began the Season in Hell (Une Saison En Enfer) with “ancien”  (again, the same word – “formerly” (something similar to “Jadis”, I guess – “Jadis” was the word in French – “formerly” – “ancien“, “ancien“. (“Je me souviens/Des jours anciens)” – and I, me, go in ill wind (Et je m’en vais/Au vent mauvais) – I me go in ill ill wind (je m’en vais/Au vent) – wicked (mauvais), and I go (“Et je m’en vais”), here, there (Deçà, delà), parallel to a (pareil à la)
dead leaf, or leaf dead (Feuille morte)…

tape ends here..but (briefly) continues  …. (musical settings display the) same melodiousness. But then you get that melodiousness in the actual poem, in the actual prosaic poem, too..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately fifty-nine minutes in and concluding at at approximately 63 minutes in ]

Les sanglots longs/Des violons/De l’automne/Blessent mon coeur/D’une langueur/Monotone.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/ wounds my heart/with a monotonous/ languor/All breathless/ And white-faced when/The hour sounds/I remember the good old days/And I cry/ And I go/In an ill wind/ which carries me/here, there/like a/ dead leaf

One comment

  1. One interesting factoid: the Allies broadcast a reading of Chanson D’Automne as a signal to the French resistance that they were going to invade before D-day.

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