Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Today we are back in early 20th century Paris with Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem, “Le Pont Mirabeau”. This may be his most famous poem (although how would I know?). It has a personal resonance as, when I first moved to live in Paris, I lived a couple of blocks from the river Seine at the Pont Mirabeau crossing (at the southern end of the Ile des Cygnes, where the 15th arrondissement meets the river), and often used to walk there on a Sunday or in the evening.

Here is the poem

Le pont Mirabeau

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante
L’amour s’en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l’Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

 

From <http://unix.cc.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/fr/Mirabeau.html&gt;

 
There is a sense of a specific place in this poem, with the River Seine flowing under the Pont Mirabeau, in Paris, but the poet uses this to illustrate the ever-changing nature of life and love, which flow along like the water in the river, and you can never reclaim or relive lost love or past experience. We can think our love is everlasting “les mains dans les mains restons face a face”, but time will pass, things will change and the water will flow under the bridge.

The repeated refrain however draws us back to what is always there – the individual, the poet who has all the experiences of life and love. At any moment we are the sum of our interactions with the world, with our loved ones, with everything that happens in the passage of time or the flow of life’s river. The repetition of these two lines seems to add new meaning at each place in the poem, as the different aspects of the passage of time and the impermanence of love are evoked.

This is a poem to come back to again and again…

 

The Poetry Dude

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