French Language Blog

Chanson d’automne Posted by on Oct 8, 2021 in Literature


C’est l’automne! Fall is officially here, and as such I’d like to share one of the best known poems in the French language; Chanson d’automne (Autumn Song) by Paul Verlaine. Published in 1866 in Verlaine’s first collection Poèmes saturniens, using the symbolism of fall, it is a sad and melancholic view on growing old.

The first 2 verses were used by General Charles de Gaulle, future president of the liberated France, as a way to warn the French Resistance about the timing of the forthcoming invasion of Normandy.

The BBC’s Radio Londres had signaled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of the poem  were to indicate the start of D-Day operations. The first three lines of the poem, “Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l’automne” (“Long sobs of autumn violins”), would mean that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks. These lines were broadcast on 1 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 5 June at 23:15.

The poem uses several stylistic devices that are typical of Verlaine. It employs sound techniques such as consonance (the repetition of “n” and “r” sounds) that also creates an onomatopoeic effect, sounding both monotonous and like a violin. In the second verse, the stop consonant and pause after the word suffocant reflect the meaning of the word.


Chanson d’automne

Paul Verlaine

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

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.


Autumn Song

Paul Verlaine

The long sobs
Of violins
Of autumn
Wound my heart
With a monotonous

All breathless
And pale, when
The hour sounds,
I remember
The old days
And I cry;

And I go
In the ill wind
That carries me
Here, there,
Like the
Dead leaf.


Here’s a great slow reading of the poem to help with your French pronunciation:


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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Client Engagement for Transparent Language.