Chanson d'Automne

Chanson d'Automne

Some poems are related to historical events, even when they aren’t written about or for these events. This goes for the poem “Autumn Song” (“Chanson d’Automne”) by Paul Verlaine. This poem is forever linked to the events that took place in 1944 and lead to one of the largest military invasions in history: Operation Overlord.


The poem “Autumn Song” was written long before the Second World War broke out. It was written in 1866 by the French poet Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896). The poem has nothing to do with war. It’s about Autumn or fall. But there is more to this poem. It’s about becoming older. The sadness of growing older.

The poet observes nature and sees that it is Autumn that is responsible for the decay of nature. It makes him melancholic. Life in fact can make one melancholic. Seeing what the impact of age can be, is something that is hard to understand.

The first two sentences of this poem were used by the Allies and were broadcasted in 1944 via Radio London. This was a code to warn the French resistance that an invasion was coming. The first sentence was a code that the invasion would take place very soon. When the second sentence was broadcasted, the invasion would start within the next 24 hours.


The invasion took place on June 6 1944 and we know this day as D-Day.

Chanson d’automne

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.

English version

Since not everyone speaks or reads French well, the poem is translated into English.

Autumn song

When a sighing begins
In the violins
Of the autumn-song,
My heart is drowned
In the slow sound
Languorous and long
Pale as with pain,
Breath fails me when
The hours tolls deep.
My thoughts recover
The days that are over
And I weep.
And I go
Where the winds know,
Broken and brief,
To and fro,
As the winds blow
A dead leaf.

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