Du Courage?

I have posted several poems on this blog from Francis Jammes, the French poet writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They are mostly pastoral, wistful, gently jocular, nostalgic or celebratory of the poet’s surroundings. You get a sense of a man at peace with himself and with the world. This poem has a very different tone, even more shocking when compared with his other poems (at least those I know). It seems to be an extended cry of pan and suffering, in which the courage of the title has no use nor even a palliative effect.

Du Courage?

Du courage ?

Mon âme éclate de douleur.

Cette vie me déchire.

Je ne puis plus pleurer.

Qu’y a-t-il, qu’y a-t-il, qu’y a-t-il, dans mon cœur

Il est silencieux, terrible et déchiré.

Pourtant qu’avais-je fait que de fumer ma pipe devant les doux enfants qui jouaient dans la rue ?

Un serrement affreux me casse la poitrine.

Je ne puis plus railler…

C’est trop noir, trop aigu.

ô toi que j’ai aimée, conduis-moi par la main vers ce que les hommes ont appelé la mort, et laisse, à tout jamais, sur le mortel chemin, ton sourire clair comme un ciel

d’azur dans l’eau.

L’espoir n’existe plus.

C’était un mot d’enfance.

Souviens-toi de ta triste enfance et des oiseaux

qui te faisaient pleurer, tristes dans les barreaux de la cage où ils piaillaient de souffrance.




Abîmez-moi encore.

Je crève de pitié.

C’est plus fort que la vie.

Je voudrais pleurer seul comme une mère douce qui essuie avec son châle la tombe de son fils.


Francis Jammes

From <http://www.poemes.co/du-courage.html>

The title echoes the words often said to those in pain, or those facing some difficult circumstance – “Be brave”, but the sense is changed by the poet’s addition of a question mark, as if he recognises that this admonition is likely to be rather useless.

The whole poem which follows, with its irregular, staccato lines seems like an extended cry of agony in which declarations of despair are interwoven with images of comfort and hope (smoking his pipe while watching children play in the street; being in love) are immediately dismissed as ultimately comfortless as the poet returns to his dark place of despair, which consists either of an inevitable progression towards death, in the middle of the poem, or, which might be even worse, to the position of a mother crying over the grave over her son, ie a living death.

There is a straight line from a poem such as this to the most desolate works of someone like Samuel Beckett, but fortunately we have plenty of examples of more joyful and positive poems from Jammes.

The Poetry Dude

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