Chanson d'automne

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This article is about the poem by Paul Verlaine. For the albums, see Autumn Song (Mose Allison album) and Autumn Song (Mannheim Steamroller album).

"Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is a poem by Paul Verlaine, one of the best known in the French language. It is included in Verlaine's first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866 (see 1866 in poetry). The poem forms part of the "Paysages tristes" ("Sad landscapes") section of the collection.[1]

In World War II lines from the poem were used to send messages to the French Resistance about the timing of the forthcoming Invasion of Normandy.


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
Monotone. Languor.

This stanza is often erroneously cited with the line "bercent mon cœur" (lull my heart). Charles Trenet notably produced a song from this poem in which he chose to use "bercent mon cœur", presumably to make the text more agreeable. Georges Brassens, in recording his version of Trenet's song, returned it to the original stanza. This was also the choice of Leo Ferré in his adaptation of the same poem.

The rest of the poem consists of the following two stanzas:

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 As if a
Feuille morte. Dead leaf.

Critical analysis[edit]

The poem uses several stylistic devices and is in many ways typical of Verlaine, in that 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.[2] In the second verse, the stop consonant and pause after the word suffocant reflect the meaning of the word. The sound of the words Deçà, delà, in the third verse evoke the image of a dead leaf falling. Verlaine uses the symbolism of autumn in the poem to describe a sad view of growing old.

Use in World War II[edit]

In preparation for Operation Overlord, the BBC had signaled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of the 1866 Verlaine poem "Chanson d'Automne" 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"), meant 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.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ Séries littéraires: Commentaire de Chanson d'Automne (French)
  2. ^ Lloyd Bishop, "Phonological Correlates of Euphony", The French Review, vol XLIX, no 1, Oct 1975
  3. ^ Bowden, Mark; Ambrose, Stephen E. (2002). Our finest day: D-Day: June 6, 1944. Chronicle. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8118-3050-8. 
  4. ^ Hall, Anthony (2004). D-Day: Operation Overlord Day by Day. Zenith. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7603-1607-8. 
  5. ^ Roberts, Andrew (2011). The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. HarperCollins. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-06-122859-9. 

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