Articles

Guillaume Apollinaire

Three Poems

translated by Allison Vanouse

My text for these poems is taken from their first publication, Ombre de Mon Amour (Vésenaz-pres-Genève: Pierre Cailler Editeur, 1947). Pierre Cailler was both the publisher and the editor of this first edition of the poems Apollinaire sent as letters to Louise de Coligny-Châtillon from his station at Nimes during the Great War.

The prefatory note from that edition:

        It is almost thirty years after Guillaume Apollinaire's death that one of his principal masterpieces sees the light of day. This case is curious, and without a doubt it is unique in the history of French literature.
        It is easy to understand that the lover who received these poems would hesitate a long while before publishing them. They are too close to her, too full of passion, blood, and war for us fail to comprehend her scruples and her hesitations.
        But time has passed, the years have rolled, other poets have died in another war, and Lou has finally conceded to our solicitations, knowing that she does not have the right to deprive Apollinaire's friends of his masterpiece.

*
        We have followed the original manuscript scrupulously, correcting only a few very apparent errors. Notes and explanations concerning readings of the manuscript we save for a subsequent edition. At the request of the poet's friend, we have suppressed a few erotic verses, which we have replaced with lines of ellipses [points de suspension].

*
        In 1918, with very little time before his death, Apollinaire approached his former inspiration to demand of her the precious manuscript that he wished to edit. He had chosen a name for the collection, Ombre de Mon Amour [Shadow of My Love], which is not our title, but the poet's own.

*
        Some fragments of our collection have already been published, in Caligrammes. But there, amputated, they did not have the authority that they have now.

                                                                                                P. C.

 

VI

                                  Nimes, 29 december 1914.

My Lou night descends you are mine I love you
The cypress blackened and the sky did too
Trumpets sang your beauty my delighted fate
To keep my heart by your heart, until end of days.
I came back softly to the barracks
The good stable smell the alfalfa
The horses' rumps evoke your force and grace
O my golden chestnut mare, purebred of beauty's race
The tower turned on the laureled hill
Danced slowly, slowly took her shade
While lovers descended the hill unseen
The tower danced slowly like a saracene
The wind was blowing but it was not cold
In two days I see you. I am king of the world.
And I love to love you in Nimes of the Romans
Where French take the guard from Praetorian soldiers
The dull old men who can't disguise soldiery
Strut around like bulls, reel like bargefuls of marines
I think about your hair. It is my glory and my pay
of gold in the black nights it lights like day
And your eyes are windows, I want to see
Life and pleasure out of them and death who will set free
The weary soldiers with me eating garlic in their salad
One in a shirt with crossed blue stripes looks like he wears the atlas
I adore you Lou, and without seeing you I still regard
You with a gaze on garlic, wine and chemicals for war
Lou, I adore you, send a kiss or I will never sleep
The sky is full of stars and they are soldiers
They bivouac in heaven like they bivouacked before
But I will be conductor on the day you ascend the skies
Lou, such days of beauty come before their glitter dies
Love me Lou, I love you goodnight
I adore you I love you adieu my Lou, my glory.

 

VII

                                  Nimes, 10 january 1915.

I love you my Lou and by me all love you
The horses who snort their surroundings
The apparatus of monuments considering me
The return of the vigorous, sleepy artillery
The sun setting slowly to make my view
Pale blue infantry leave for the front, and think of you
For O my fiery-haired you are the torch
That lights this world for me. You are my force.
          In the sky the clouds
          Feature forth your face
          The mistral winds that pass
          Bring along these lines
          Yours the sweetest sense
          It is to you they fly
          All day long regard
          Dips from the Alps to Gard
          From Gard into the sea
          And when the day declines
          And sleep takes us away
          In different beds and places
          Our dreams collect two minds
          Two objects in one pocket
          And so we live confused
          In an insane private dream
          My fantasies resemble you.
The branches stir it is your eyes that tremble
And all around I watch your beauty seep
The nails in my shoes shining like your eyes
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O sweetness of my life, it is like when you love me.
          The winter is soft, the sky is blue,
          Remake the world for me
          You are my sweetest mission
          My faction orders duty
          Your love will be my uniform
          Your kisses sweet the buttons
          Gold decorations of another war
          Your arms so pink and long
          I am very certain they are glory's sweetest bars
A man near me eats a white ice-cream.
I think of the taste of your skin and I think of your hips
A young blonde woman reads the Monde
I think of your letters which tell all the news in the world
Sailors pass, the sea dies at your feet
I look at your photo you are the whole universe
I light a match and watch your hair
You are life for me as long as it can last
And you are future and eternity
You my only love, my one beauty.

 

VIII

                                  Nimes, 12 january 1915.

My Lou, I would like to talk to you again about Love
It rises in my heart like the sun rises on day
And the sun agitates the light like lashes
To activate our souls and bind them
My love is only your delight
And your delight is only my decision
Your love must be impassioned and in pain
My will confused desire with beauty's vision
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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If you walk, Splendor, your eyes have a glow
The soft look of a sabre, ready to let blood
If you get into bed, Sweet, you become orgies
of mine. They savor of your liturgy.
If you bend, Lover, like a flame in wind
The wreckage after fire is undeceiving
I am a rocket in your love, a flame
The phoenix who dies to have birth every day.
                    Every day
                    My love's way
                    Goes to my sweet
                    Like a tramway
                    It grinds and squeaks
                    As I go along the rails.
the night sends me these violets
receive her posy when I throw it
the sun is sweetly dead
like the old dead novel
of false loves past.
These are braided violets.
If the sun puts gold around your head,
the night will engarland you, turning.

ALLISON VANOUSE’s translation of Georges Izambard’s reminiscences of Rimbaud is forthcoming in The Battersea Review.