Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Les Lilas et Les Roses...

Darker lilac
 O mois des floraisons mois des métamorphoses
Mai qui fut sans nuage et Juin poignardé
Je n’oublierai jamais les lilas ni les roses
Ni ceux que le printemps dans les plis a gardés

Je n’oublierai jamais l’illusion tragique
Le cortège les cris la foule et le soleil
Les chars chargés d’amour les dons de la Belgique
L’air qui tremble et la route à ce bourdon d’abeilles
Le triomphe imprudent qui prime la querelle
Le sang que préfigure en carmin le baiser
Et ceux qui vont mourir debout dans les tourelles
Entourés de lilas par un peuple grisé

Je n’oublierai jamais les jardins de la France
Semblables aux missels des siècles disparus
Ni le trouble des soirs l’énigme du silence
Les roses tout le long du chemin parcouru
Le démenti des fleurs au vent de la panique
Aux soldats qui passaient sur l’aile de la peur
Aux vélos délirants aux canons ironiques
Au pitoyable accoutrement des faux campeurs

Mais je ne sais pourquoi ce tourbillon d’images
Me ramène toujours au même point d’arrêt
A Sainte-Marthe Un général De noirs ramages
Une villa normande au bord de la forêt
Tout se tait L’ennemi dans l’ombre se repose
On nous a dit ce soir que Paris s’est rendu
Je n’oublierai jamais les lilas ni les roses
Et ni les deux amours que nous avons perdus

Bouquets du premier jour lilas lilas des Flandres
Douceur de l’ombre dont la mort farde les joues
Et vous bouquets de la retraite roses tendres
Couleur de l’incendie au loin roses d’Anjou

Louis Aragon, Le Crève-coeur, 1941

Les Lilas et Les Roses was written by Louis Aragon (1897-1982) to recount the trauma of war that France experienced following the Blitzkrieg advance of the German army in May and June 1940.

 Having crossed the neutral zones of Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg with lightening speed and brute force, within five weeks the Wehrmacht arrived on France soil via Flanders and Sedan.
Charles de Gaulle who organised the Free French Forces from England.
Thousands of citizens were desperate to flee the advancing German army and the Exode was set in motion, as panic-striken inhabitants of towns and cities took to the road to find safer territory. One quarter of the French population fled, giving rise to chaotic, horrific scenes as hordes of people tried to escape yet were blocked in by the sheer volume of human traffic and fell easy prey to the brutal aerial attacks of the Stuka bombers. In the space of a week Paris was largely emptied, by mid-June the French flag had been confiscated as France fell to the Occupying forces. 

In Aragon’s poem the imagery of flowers, and the gardens of eternal France are quickly torn apart by ironic references to the brutality of this hellish spring, this lightning war. 

Pale lilac
 I hadn’t really been thinking of this war poem this morning, the 8th of May, which marks the end of the Second World War, but when my daughter pointed out the lilac growing in the park I remembered it again.

It was actually in Reims that the first Instrument of Surrender was signed on the 7th of the month in 1945, although this was not announced until another had been signed the following day in Berlin.

 As a result we ended up watching the film that I always associate with this period and the poem; Les Jeux Interdits. I still can’t watch this without crying, as even the music sets it off, and this time there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!


  1. I hadn't heard much about the exodus from Paris. Sounds terrifying. I'll have to look up that film

  2. Dare you to watch it without crying! However, the film is also very funny in parts too, which makes it even more moving. Here you have the French with English subtitles. The 'acting' of the puppy at the beginning looks worryingly realistic - I hate to think how they managed to film that.


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