Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Apollinaire, part II

A continuation of my personal encounter with Apollinaire.

Apollinaire uses liquid sounds to evoke the Seine River.

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

The "ooh" sound perfectly fits his subject. You don't have to be a Francophone to enjoy the sonority of this poem. In French, we talk about a distinction between forme (form) and fond (content, literally, depth or bottom). Sous le pont Mirabeau shows Apolinnaire to be a master of the art of forme.

Today, I bought a copy of Shakespeare's complete poems, including the sonnets.

Above, we can see a line of iambic pentameter in French: Et comme l’Esrance est violente. Of course, Shakespeare has the best command of sound of any English poet. The line Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ admit impediments" has been swirling through my brain. Count all the crisp t and d sounds! You can know a poem by its earworms.


  1. Love this. French poetry makes me swoon. I agree that the "ou" sound is well utilized.

    1. Mm. The latin languages make drool-worthy poetry. I totally agree.

  2. I love that you brought attention to the quality of sound in a poem of another language. I took quite a bit of French back in high school, and I can still remember most of the pronunciation, so when I saw your post, I immediately attempted to sound it out to understand what you were saying here. I can definitely hear the long smoothness of the sounds, like a silky river passively running along busy streets. Thanks for your post! I definitely understand better how sound can be a significant contributor to the overall theme of a poem!

  3. Charly. You WOULD post a French poem. You're brilliant. I love it.