Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Liberty by Paul Eluard

I don’t think I read this wondrous poem before, perhaps because it was originally written in French. The poem is Paul Eluard’s Liberté. Legend has it that thousands of flyers of the poem were parachuted over occupied France by British RAF in the summer of 1942, to give a hope for Nazi resistance.

I heard the poem, for the first time, in the new David Cronenberg film, ‘Maps to the Stars’ (2014). Cronenberg and his screen writer use the poem as the central motif of their messy and somewhat psychotic narrative involving incest, paranoia and death wish, all within the glitzy world of Hollywood.

And, among the rubble of the film, glitters this poem, astoundingly, even when the film seems to point to this liberty as death by suicide, the only possible escape from this life that doesn’t make sense.

The poem, which reads like a fervent love lyric, however, is much more optimistic, much more life-affirming.

Liberty by Paul Eluard (1895 - 1952)

On my school notebooks
On my desk and on the trees
On the sands of snow
I write your name

On the pages I have read
On all the white pages
Stone, blood, paper or ash
I write your name

On the images of gold
On the weapons of the warriors
On the crown of the king
I write your name

On the jungle and the desert
On the nest and on the brier
On the echo of my childhood
I write your name

On all my scarves of blue
On the moist sunlit swamps
On the living lake of moonlight
I write your name

On the fields, on the horizon
On the birds’ wings
And on the mill of shadows
I write your name

On each whiff of daybreak
On the sea, on the boats
On the demented mountaintop
I write your name

On the froth of the cloud
On the sweat of the storm
On the dense rain and the flat
I write your name

On the flickering figures
On the bells of colors
On the natural truth
I write your name

On the high paths
On the deployed routes
On the crowd-thronged square
I write your name

On the lamp which is lit
On the lamp which isn’t
On my reunited thoughts
I write your name

On a fruit cut in two
Of my mirror and my chamber
On my bed, an empty shell
I write your name

On my dog, greathearted and greedy
On his pricked-up ears
On his blundering paws
I write your name

On the latch of my door
On those familiar objects
On the torrents of a good fire
I write your name

On the harmony of the flesh
On the faces of my friends
On each outstretched hand
I write your name

On the window of surprises
On a pair of expectant lips
In a state far deeper than silence
I write your name

On my crumbled hiding-places
On my sunken lighthouses
On my walls and my ennui
I write your name

On abstraction without desire
On naked solitude
On the marches of death
I write your name

And for the want of a word
I renew my life
For I was born to know you
To name you


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