Legend has it that during the Second World War, the RAF (British Aircraft) parachuted thousands of copies of the poem ‘Liberte‘ over occupied France. It was written in 1942 by French bohemian poet, and founder of the surrealist movement, Paul Eluard (1895-1952).
This act illustrates the social and spiritual power of poetry in the face of terror, and the delicacy and beauty of hope founded in effective words, which unite, inspire and console people.
Paul himself, was a sickly man; a wounded and scarred (mentally and physically) soldier of the First World War, at one point writing up to 150 letters a day to families, announcing the death of fellow soldiers.
The War soon over, he wrote home in 1919, ‘We will now fight for happiness after having fought for Life.’
He found solace in poetry and in friendships with other writers.
His wife, Gaia, helped him with his poetry verses, and gave him the confidence, encouragement and security he needed to achieve her own belief, that he would be ‘a great poet.’ Never underestimate the power of the woman behind the man.
‘Liberte’ is a poem of 21 short stanzas with 4 lines per verse, each ending with
‘I write your name’
The verses reflect on daily life: ‘my dog greedy,’ ‘the lamp that gives light,’ ‘the sill of my door,’ ‘the wakened paths,’ ‘desk and the trees’ as well as incorporating powerful images such as ‘naked solitude,’ ‘marches of death,’ ‘soldiers weapons.’
The final verse states:
‘By the power of the word
I regain my life
I was born to know you
And to name you
When Paul died in November 1952, ‘the whole world was in mourning,’ stated Robert Sabatier. He was buried at Pere-Lachaise cemetery, just outside Paris, where a crowd of thousands had spontaneously gathered in the streets to accompany his casket to its final resting place.
Freedom, Equality, Democracy, Love, Brotherhood and Peace.
For this we fight (and so we write) every day.
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