Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day 2011

The last of the Great War veterans are passing from direct to historical memory. Little children who survived and can still remember the catastrophe are a hundred years old or more. This post is for all of them, and for us now.

The poet Guillaume Apollinaire fought in the 1914-1918 war, was wounded and survived his wounds -- only to die in the Great Influenza Pandemic, two days before Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, a date now memorialized as Remembrance Day, and as Veteran's Day.    

"Ombre" by Guillaume Apollinaire (1916)

Vous voilà de nouveau près de moi
Souvenirs de mes compagnons morts à la guerre
L'olive du temps
Souvenirs qui n'en faites plus qu'un
Comme cent fourrures ne font qu'un manteau
Comme ces milliers de blessures ne font qu'un article de journal
Apparence impalpable et sombre qui avez pris
La forme changeante de mon ombre
Un Indien à l'affût pendant l'éternité
Ombre vous rampez près de moi
Mais vous ne m'entendez plus
Vous ne connaîtrez plus les poèmes divins que je chante
Tandis que moi je vous entends je vous vois encore
Ombre multiple que le soleil vous garde
Vous qui m'aimez assez pour ne jamais me quitter
Et qui dansez au soleil sans faire de poussière
Ombre encre du soleil
Ecriture de ma lumière
Caisson de regrets
Un dieu qui s'humilie

Here's a rough and dirty transliteration:

You're here again about my memories
Of my companions, war dead 
Olive of time
Memories that make one more
As one hundred furs make a great coat
As thousands of injuries make one story in a newspaper
Intangible and dark apparitions who have
Taken the changing form of my shadow
An Indian lookout from eternity's shadow
You feel me but you do you hear me anymore?
You know more divine poems that I sing
While I hear you, I still see you
For multiple shadows that the Sun keeps
You that may love enough to never leave me
And dance in the Sun
Without dust, shadow
Shaded ink of the Sun 
Writing of my light
Caisson of regrets
A god that humiliates

Today's Rune: Strength.


Charles Gramlich said...

I was talking with a fellow faculty member just yesterday, and about how humans have such a distorted view of time. Even within a lifetime we have a hard time remembering how things have happened, much less across lifetimes.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wouldn't be nice if there were no more veterans.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks for the comments! Patti, only the dead have seen the end of war, according to Plato.

Charles, I've got a pretty good conceptual grasp of the last 100 years, but it gets murkier beyond that, despite a general lifelong study of history and memory.