C’est la chaude loi des hommes 

Today’s poem from Paul Eluard is a hymn to human potential, creativity and progress. The title Bonne Justice is not easy to render in English, I think of it as something like Justice as a force for good, for improvement and progress.

 

Bonne justice
C’est la chaude loi des hommes
Du raisin ils font du vin
Du charbon ils font du feu
Des baisers ils font des hommes

C’est la dure loi des hommes
Se garder intact malgré
Les guerres et la misère
Malgré les dangers de mort

C’est la douce loi des hommes
De changer l’eau en lumière
Le rêve en réalité
Et les ennemis en frères

Une loi vieille et nouvelle
Qui va se perfectionnant
Du fond du cœur de l’enfant
Jusqu’à la raison suprême.

From <http://eluardexplique.free.fr/divers/justice.html&gt;

The poem is made up of four four-line stanzas. The first three enumerate three of the poet’s “laws” of humanity – the hot law, the hard law and the sweet law, each leading to a transformative phenomenon of human achievement and progress – making wine out of grapes, fore out of coal, men out of kisses in the first stanza. In the second stanza, humanity is resistant to the forces of war, misery and death. In the third stanza, man changes water to light, dreams to reality and enemies into brothers. The final stanza sums up this optimistic view of humanity, portraying man as becoming ever more perfect from the child’s heart to the force of supreme reason.

Aspiration or reality? Eluard was writing in the first half of the twentieth century, the time of the most violent and destructive wars in human history. It was brave and counter-intuitive to be optimistic at that time, and I applaud the sentiment.

The Poetry Dude

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