French war poet, Albert-Paul Granier, 1888-1917
French, German and other poetry of the First World War
French Poetry of the First World War
Until a hundred years after the First World War extremely few French poems of the First World War had been translated into English and published. Guillaume Apollinaire was almost the only French poet of the war known in the English speaking world. It was as if the French had not written any war poetry in the First World War.
But in France, as in Britain (and other European countries) there had indeed been a huge poetic response to the war, a great outpouring of war poetry, much of it powerful, and moving, and comparable with British war poetry of the period.
Now a substantial body of French poetry of the Great War is at last available in English translation
The book cover illustration is taken from a contemporary post card and shows the burning of Rheims' cathedral - a crime which caused immense offence and anger in France.
French Poems of the Great War
102 poems by 27 poets
Translated by Ian Higgins
The first substantial collection of French poetry of the First World War translated into English.
The poets, men and many women, mainly unknown to British readers, reveal the varied but highly charged responses of French soldiers and civilians to the ordeal of the war.
Published by Saxon Books
190 Pages paperback
ISBN 978-0-9528969-9-9 £11-95
Ian Higgins, translator
French Poems of the Great War is available from book sellers worldwide. Do support your local bookshops.
War dead, France, 1917
Three French poems of The Great War,
translated by Ian Higgins
The horrendous suffering at Verdun was expressed in the following poem by Anna de Noailles
(1876 - 1933), a woman whose husband fought in the war from beginning to end and whose only son was 14 start of the war.
Silence shrouds the noblest name on earth:
Verdun, wrapped in endless aftermath.
Here, the men of France came marching, man by man,
One for every second, every day,
To prove the proudest and most stoic love.
Now, the ordeal over, they sleep their last sleep.
Verdun, their immortal widow, trembles and weeps;
Or sobs to heaven above for their return,
Her two high towers like supplicating arms.
Passer-by, think not to extol
The city hosts of angels shielded, sprung
From every inch of France’s soil. So much blood
Has run: let no vain human voice ever
Adulterate with feeble, keening pain
The incense misting endlessly from this loam.
Acknowledge, in the slashed and battered plain,
The fathomless and hallowed power of France,
Whose noblest hearts now lie buried in her soil.
The death they died here no word can name,
So consentingly was each man’s sacrifice made.
Soaked and sated, earth is made man.
O passer-by, still your voice, stay your hand:
See; feel; pray; revere them for the price they paid.
ANNA DE NOAILLES
Reproduced from French Poems of the Great War translated by Ian Higgins.
Only for rare, short moments do I ever understand, at last, my dearest
brother, that you are dead.
For me, you left months ago and I simply think you have been away
And I live my life as if I were sure they are holding you there in their
But I believe you will come back on the day when the bugles sound
And I wait for you, and wear no black veils, and when friends’ eyes fill
with pity, I am all stubborn poise.
And they wonder that I can be so brave – but where is the bravery,
when I still believe you will come back to me,
When I believe that I shall see you walk back in one day through this
old porch, in the pale blue uniform you wore when you left, that
Together, we had walked out along the path through the peaceful
And you, as you often do, had your hand on my shoulder, gentle and
And we walked along, as one, in perfect step, as night fell round us.
– And that evening, perhaps, more than ever, was when we felt our
love’s full force.
You left with a smile, and said to us all: ‘Back soon!’
– So how should I think you will never come back, when every
promise you ever made you have kept?
It would be the first time you had ever deceived me…
– And how pointless loving you would be, and how paltry my love,
If it failed to bring you back to me, back from where they say you lie
amongst the dead!
No one has shown me proof that you are amongst the dead,
And I place no reliance on their flimsy affirmations.
And I sit waiting for you, for there must always be a woman to watch
Lest the sick man think he is alone and the soul depart the body.
Can you perhaps, if you’re still alive, can you perhaps sense the still,
From across the ravaged provinces that lie between us?
Sleep, my silent one; and rest; have no fear for the light, it shan’t go
I feel I shall wait for you, month in, month out, my whole life long;
When my hair is white, I shall still be hoping to see you walk back in
through this porch.
Only for rare, short moments can I ever, sometimes, understand
that you are dead.
Reproduced from French Poems of the Great War translated by Ian Higgins.
O gentle fellow dreamers,
how fondly do you charm the dreams,
how skilfully ride the will o’ the wisp;
how your peaceable heroic souls
thrill to breathe among the galaxies . . .
— O you devoted lovers of the stars, we have now
to turn our backs on the spellbinding sight
of dreams dancing shimmering into magic flight,
the roomfuls of calm and well-wishing,
the still inwardness of reflections in their mirrors,
the ministering lamp’s caress of gold . . .
Ah, those soft, silent, lampglow evenings
coaxing the play of sheen and sparkle,
like a woman looking at jewels,
from the gleam of verse white-cushioned in its book;
the fevered nights, drunk on thought,
intent over poems
as gem-cutters over stones . . .
— All that! We have to leave it all behind!
We, the nectar-gatherers of the mind, have now
to grasp that old, long-wearied longbow of the will,
and flex and tense it
and let fly Hatred, stinging shafts of Hate!
Hate! Hate! How the word hurts!
Hate, we have to hate!
Hatred unto ecstasy.
Reproduced from Cockerels and Vultures, Poems of the First World War translated by Ian Higgins.
We Are the Dead, Poems of the Great War
NICHOLAS BEAUDUIN Offertory
NICHOLAS BEAUDUIN Orison
LUCIE DELARUE-MARDRUS To Norman Lads
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER Hate
EDMOND ROSTAND Burning Beehives
HENRI-CHARLES THUILLIER Force of Habit
HENRI-CHARLES THUILLIER The Shrapnel-Burst
GABRIEL-TRISTAN FRANCONI The Vandal’s Death
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER Squall
JEAN COCTEAU When it’s Us ‘Who Were in the War’
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER Exodus
EDMOND ROSTAND The Cathedral
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER The Cathedral
GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE The Bleeding-Heart Dove and the Fountain
HENRIETTE SAURET Under the Yoke
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER War Song
PIERRE JEAN JOUVE For my Immeasurable Love
HENRI-CHARLES THUILLIER God With Us
JEAN-PIERRE CALLOC’H Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER The Volunteers
LUCIE DELARUE-MARDRUS Regiments
CÉCILE PÉRIN ‘Eighteen, and singing songs…’
HENRIETTE CHARASSON Perhaps the End is Still Far Distant…
ANNA DE NOAILLES To my Son
EDMOND ROSTAND Horizon Blue
GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE Driver Gunner
ANDRÉ MARTEL Execution
ANDRÉ MARTEL Concert
ANDRÉ MARTEL The Rains
ANDRÉ MARTEL Bruiser
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER Nocturne
CÉCILE PÉRIN ‘I always thought…’
CÉCILE PÉRIN Wartime April
PAUL CLAUDEL For as Long and as Often as You Wish, Sir!
PAUL CLAUDEL The Precious Blood
GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE The Horseman’s Farewell
GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE Earth Ocean
GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE What’s Where
GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE Festival
LUCIE DELARUE-MARDRUS All Souls’ Day
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER Poor Dogs
MARCEL MARTINET Military Bands
ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER The Attack
FRANÇOIS PORCHÉ From The Poem of the Trench
GABRIEL-TRISTAN FRANCONI The Young Man’s Death
MARC DE LARREGUY DE CIVRIEUX The Flag of Revolt
JULES ROMAINS ‘The lieutenant is asleep…’
JULES ROMAINS ‘Anxiety…’
GEORGES CHENNEVIÈRE Fresh Supplies
MARC LECLERC The Passion of Our Brother the Poilu
GEORGES CHENNEVIÈRE Marching
GEORGES CHENNEVIÈRE The Flame
MARCEL MARTINET The Ladies Speak
HENRIETTE SAURET The Womenfolk
MARCEL MARTINET Riverside Walk
CÉCILE PÉRIN ‘And you sleep in peace…’
CÉCILE PÉRIN Market
HENRIETTE SAURET The Ladies’ Peace
MARC DE LARREGUY DE CIVRIEUX ‘Since the Marne…’
MARC DE LARREGUY DE CIVRIEUX ‘Everything’s so dear…’
NOËL GARNIER Still Raining…
GEORGES CHENNEVIÈRE The Stranger
NOËL GARNIER The Wake 122
MARC DE LARREGUY DE CIVRIEUX Epistle from a Monkey in the Trenches to a Parrot in Paris
JEAN COCTEAU ‘The cellar’s low…’
JEAN COCTEAU Delivering Souls
EDMOND ROSTAND A Twelvemonth of Grief
ANNA DE NOAILLES Verdun
MARCEL SAUVAGE A Race for Life
HENRIETTE CHARASSON To Cam
HENRIETTE SAURET Mobilisation
PIERRE JEAN JOUVE Ant-Hills
PIERRE JEAN JOUVE The Tank
GABRIEL-TRISTAN FRANCONI Ritornello: The Corporal of France
NICOLAS BEAUDUIN Progress Report
RENÉ ARCOS Undermanned
RENÉ ARCOS The Dead
RENÉ ARCOS ‘The Gentle Lamb is Risen…’
HENRY-JACQUES Of Certain Men
PIERRE JEAN JOUVE ‘And if you delayed…’
NOËL GARNIER Moments
LUCIE DELARUE-MARDRUS Eve of Battle
EDMOND ADAM Peticion
EDMOND ADAM Krieg und Liebe [War and Love]
EDMOND ADAM Geschaerfter Stahl [Honed Steel]
EDMOND ADAM To Myne Censor
EDMOND ADAM Gamecocks
JEAN COCTEAU Roland Garros
MARCEL MARTINET Medals
PIERRE JEAN JOUVE ‘What a man full-grown is…’
MARCEL MARTINET Monday 11 November 1918
ANNA DE NOAILLES ‘Victory, whose calm gaze…’
MARCEL SAUVAGE Recall-Up
MARCEL SAUVAGE Thou Shalt not Kill
MARCEL SAUVAGE Result
MARCEL SAUVAGE The Castigation
MARCEL SAUVAGE Consent
CÉCILE PÉRIN ‘I think of those…’
MARCEL SAUVAGE Homesick for the War
ANNA DE NOAILLES Young Shades
NOTES ON THE POEMS
NOTES ON THE POETS
French Poems of the Great War is available from booksellers worldwide. Support your local bookseller if you can, but there is always Amazon.
Also translated by Ian Higgins, a book discovered after 90 years of obscurity:
Cockerels and Vultures
The discovery of a major poet
of the First World War
The chance finding of a 90-year-old slim and musty little volume of poetry at a jumble sale in France led to the discovery of a major poet of the First World War. For almost 90 years Albert-Paul Granier was unknown in his own country. The poetry was a revelation to the finder. Granier was soon republished in France and astonished French readers. Granier stands comparison with the best of British war poets.
Today English-speaking readers can encounter this exceptional talent through Ian Higgins’ fine translation.
Cockerels and Vultures is a book for everyone interested in the poetry of the First World War.
Published 2013 by Saxon Books in paperback
About Albert-Paul Granier
Albert-Paul Granier was born in 1888 in Le Croisic, on the Atlantic coast of Brittany. He was a talented sportsman, musician and poet. He qualified as a solicitor, but, from 1911 to 1913, he was required by compulsory national service to serve in the army, where he trained as an artillery officer. He was recalled to the army in August 1914 and served on the Western Front. He became an airborne artillery observer and was shot down and killed over the battlefields of Verdun on 17 August 1917.
His volume of war poetry, Les Coqs et les Vautours, had just been published in Paris. It was singled out for praise by the Académie Française in 1918 before falling, unaccountably, into obscurity.
The Translator - Ian Higgins
Since the dramatic rediscovery of Albert-Paul Granier the translator, Ian Higgins, has been in close contact with the poet’s surviving relatives, and is uniquely placed to introduce this remarkable writer to English-speaking readers.
FROM A REVIEW IN GUILD OF BATTLEFIELD GUIDES MAGAZINE
Cockerels and Vultures
“By 1914 French poetry had come much further along the path of modernism than British poetry. Where many of the British combatant war poets struggled at first to find the language and forms through which to convey their experience of modern industrial warfare, a young poet like Granier could employ a rhythmic free verse with ease and animate his battle scenes and war-torn landscapes with bold original imagery.
These are the poems of a Frenchman in another sense too: they vividly depict a landscape and culture that have been destroyed and their mood varies from pathos to horror as Granier observes processions of refugees, abandoned dogs, burnt-out hamlets and wrecked churches. There is a demonic power in the forces of war that shatter nature and a deadly calm in the war-torn landscapes that result.
They are also the poems of a soldier and an artilleryman. The big guns are portrayed animalistically, in dramatic but fine detail, as they blunder through tiny villages at night, a ‘deadweight cortege of death’ (‘The Mortars’), or in battle ‘rear their black necks like snakes striking,/Spewing
hatred by the mouthful’ (‘The Battle’). And yet, as they ‘stop for breath’, the battle over, the poet cannot refrain from ‘lovingly, gently’ patting ‘the weary guns’. In ‘The Fort’, the determination with which Fort Troyon at Verdun was held in September 1914 is celebrated. The paradoxes of war are here, as well as all its deadly and surreal power.” - Vivien Whelpton.
Amazon link to Cockerels and Vultures is below, but any Amazon link on this website will take you to Amazon and you will be able to find this book (or any other) from there.
French and German war poetry of the First World
We Are The Dead
was published by the Red Horse Press and edited by David Roberts.
This book is exceptional in that it contains poems by English, Irish, Canadian, Australian, French and German poets of the First World War. AND it is illustrated in full colour with war paintings done by the war artists of the various nations. Originally priced at £25-00. I believe this book may be going out of print and the last few copies are going cheap. - DR