French Language Blog

“Chanson d’automne” (“Autumn Song”) Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in Culture

This is the incredible yet little known story of How One French Poem Helped Win the Second World War!

When the allies were ready to land on the coasts of Normandy, they announced the news to the French Resistance by means of this poem, first published in 1866: Chanson d’automne” (“Autumn Song”) by Paul Verlaine, one of the most famous poets of French language, belonging to his “Poèmes saturniens.”

 The first three lines of the poem, “Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne” (“Long sobs of autumn violins”), meant that Operation (dubbed “Operation Overlord“) was to start within two weeks.

Les sanglots longs
The long sobs

Des violons

Of the violins

De l’automne

Of Autumn

Blessent mon cœur

Wound my heart

D’une langueur

With a monotonous




→ These last three lines signaled that the operation was to start within the next 48 hours, thus giving the Resistance le feu vert (the green light) to launch all sorts of sabotage operations against the occupying Nazis. You can hear it here with the voice of Marlene Dietrich.


Tout suffocant

All choked

Et blême, quand

And pale, when

Sonne l’heure

The hour chimes

Je me souviens

I remember

Des jours anciens

Days of old

Et je pleure

And I cry

Et je m’en vais

And I’m going

Au vent mauvais

On an ill wind

Qui m’emporte

That carries me

Deçà, delà

Here and there

Pareil à la


Feuille morte

Dead leaf

To make it a bit softer to the ear, French singer Charles Trenet substitued the line “blessent mon cœur” (“wound my heart”) by “bercent mon cœur” (“lull my heart”)


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  1. Carmel:

    Très intéressant, merci beaucoup:)

  2. Kassovitz Artúr:

    The musicalized version of the Hungarian trasnlation of the poem: