AFTER DECADES as a major force in punk rock — dating back to her shows at CBGB’s and her 1975 LP Horses — Patti Smith has earned a considerable reputation as a literary figure as well. She has introduced books of poems by Blake and Rimbaud, published several volumes of her own verse and song lyrics, and won the National Book Award for Just Kids, her 2010 memoir about her crucial early years with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
Smith’s new book is Devotion, a slim volume that is — at once — an ode to her favorite French writers, a short story or fable about a mysterious young ice skater, and a meditation on the creative process. (It is based on a speech Smith gave at Yale and is part of Yale University Press’s Why I Write series.)
Read full interview: All the Poets (Musicians on Writing): Patti Smith – Los Angeles Review of Books
“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
Poem: “Chanson d’Automne” by Paul Verlaine
Charles Trenet “Verlaine”
The legendary French crooner Charles Trenet added music to Verlaine’s poem and recorded the song twice, first in the early 1940’s and again in the 1950s with a slower arrangement adding a string section. Here’s the original jazz version.
Word War II Resistance Code
The song’s lyrics include the line “les sanglots longues des violons de l’automne blessent mon coeur d’un langueur monotone” which translates as “the long sobs of the violins of autumn wound my heart with a monotonous languor”.
These words were used in 1944 to form the code phrases that alerted the Resistance to the Allied invasion of France, and were depicted in the earlier epic World War II movie The Longest Day (1962).