‘Chanson d’Automne’ (‘Autumn Song’) by Paul Verlaine

In preparation for the D-Day Landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944, Operation Overlord, the BBC had signalled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of the 1866 Verlaine poem “Chanson d’Automne” were to indicate the start of the D-Day operations. The first three lines of the poem, “Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l’automne” (“The long sobs of autumn violins”), meant that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks. These lines were broadcast on 1st June 1944. The next set of lines, “Blessent mon coeur / d’une langueur / monotone” (“wound my heart with a monotonous languor”), meant that it would start within 48 hours and that the resistance should begin sabotage operations especially on the French railroad system; these lines were broadcast on 5th June at 23:15 GMT.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of D-Day, let us remember those who bravely assaulted the beaches codenamed ‘Omaha’, ‘Utah’, ‘Gold’, ‘Juno’ and ‘Sword’, and especially those who fell on both sides.

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon cœur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

The long sobs
Of the violins
Of Autumn
Wound my heart
With a monotonous
Languor.

All choked
And pale, when
The hour chimes,
I remember
Days of old
And I cry

And I’m going
On an ill wind
That carries me
Here and there,
As if a
Dead leaf.

– Paul Verlaine

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