Did you know that the first Thursday in October is National Poetry Day in the UK?

Each year there’s a different theme and in 2019 the theme is ‘Truth’.

poetry-688368 pixabay

As I take my conversation lessons on a Thursday, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to look at some poetry with my advanced class. While planning my lesson, my mind wandered off, remembering one of my favourite poems about Autumn.

As part of my degree we studied some French poets. This included Paul Verlaine who wrote the very haunting poem ‘Chanson d’automne’. This has remained one of my favourite French poems. I believe French children are often required to learn this poem off by heart.

Chanson d’Automne
Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon cœur
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.

Here is a translation from mamalisa.com

Autumn Song
The long tears
Of Autumn’s
Wound my heart
With a monotonous
All suffocating
And pale when
The hour strikes,
I remember
The old days
And I cry…
And I am going away
On an ill wind
That carries me
Here, there,
Just like a
Dead leaf.

During World War II, the BBC and the French Resistance developed a code to signal the start of D-Day, using the first three lines of ‘Chanson d’Automne’ as an alert. When repeated twice, “Les sanglots longs/ des violons/ de l’automne”, meant that operations would start within two weeks. They were broadcast on June 1, 1944. When the poem’s next three lines were transmitted twice, “Blessent mon coeur/ d’une langueur/ monotone”, it meant that the action would take place within 48 hours and that the Resistance should begin sabotage operations. These lines were broadcast on June 5, 1944.