Friday, 14 August 2020

Guillaume Apollinaire: 'Rhénane d'automne'

Rhenish autumn
To Toussaint-Luca

The children of the dead come and play 
In the cemetery 
Martin Gertrude Hans and Henri 
No cockerel has crowed today 

The old women
Walk along slowly with tearful faces
And the good-natured donkeys
Bray hee-haw and start guzzling the flowers 
Of the funeral wreaths

It’s the day of the dead and of all their souls 
The children and the old women 
Light their candles and their tapers
On every Catholic grave 
The veils of the old women 
The clouds in the sky
Are like the beards of nanny-goats 

The air quivers with flames and prayers

The cemetery is a lovely garden
Full of grey willow and rosemary
You often have friends that are here to be buried
Ah! how well you feel in the lovely cemetery
You sodden beggars dead from your beer
You who are blind as fate itself
And you small children dead while at prayer

Ah! how well you feel in this lovely cemetery 
You burgomasters you boatmasters
And you counsellors of regency 
You too undocumented gypsies
Life rotting away in your bellies
The cross growing between your feet
The Rhine wind hooting with all of the owls
It blows out the candles the children always relight
And the dead leaves
Come and cover the dead

The children sometimes talk with their mother
And at times the dead women would even return

Oh! I do not want you to go outside
The autumn is full of chopped-off hands
No no they are only leaves that are dead
They are the hands of our dearest dead
They are your chopped-off hands

We have wept so copiously today
With these dead their children and the old women
Beneath this sky without sun
In the cemetery full of flames

Then in the wind we turned and went back

At our feet the chestnuts rolled
Their prickly shells were
Like the wounded heart of the Madonna
That one doubts ever had the skin
The colour of autumn chestnuts

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