To Fallen Comrades

It is one thing to pay one's respects to a fallen comrade-in-arms at their graveside, long after the conflict has raged. It is quite another to see them mortally wounded in a battle in which both of you have fought; to see them take their last breath and face their end as soldiers brave. Whether they die within the Fatherland or on foreign soil, the death of each soldier is both unique and universal. What do you say to your mortally-wounded and fallen comrade, as he looks up from the earth and sees only your face leaning over him, and beyond that, the wide open sky to which he will so soon ascend? Here's one possibility before the Valkyrja arrive to harvest their noble son.

(English translation appears after French original)

'A Une Victime'

Non, ce n'est pas assez que de ne pas te plaindre,
Triomphante victime,
Il faut chanter et célébrer !
Frère plus misérable encore que moi-même,
Mais qui fendis l'argile muette ainsi qu'un dieu
Pour être avec nous tous sous le grand ciel vacant
Le tendre éclatement de la parole humaine
Et ces yeux grands ouverts où se connaît le monde !

Qu'un mal nouveau ce soir t'arrache d'autre larmes,
Que le destin s'acharne et traque, impitoyable,
Ta suprême raison de croire et d'espérer,
Tu n'auras pas un mot de haine ou de colère ;

Mais conduit par la peine à l'ivresse essentielle,
O vivant traversé par un songe immortel,
Alors que montera du fond de ta mémoire
Cette ancienne chanson à la gloire des hommes,
Enflammé par l'orgueil d'être et d'avoir été,
Tu ne connaîtras plus que ton éternité !

Car tu sauras toujours
Au plus épais de l'ombre
Inventer la clarté

Et jeter d'une voix sonore
Sur le lieu même du supplice
Une louange véhémente.

René Arcos, ‘Le Sang des Autres’ 1916.


To A Victim

No, it is not enough that you not be pitied,
Triumphant victim,
One must sing and celebrate!
Brother more miserable than myself,
But who cleaved the mute clay as would a god
To be with us all under the big vacant sky
The soft bursting of human speech
And these wide open eyes in which the world knows itself!

As a new pain pulls other tears from you tonight,
As Destiny hounds and hunts, pitiless,
Your supreme reason to believe and to hope,
You have no words of hate or anger;

But driven by pain to this essential drunkenness,
Oh living man crossed by an immortal dream,
Where from the bottom of your memory emerges
This former song to the glory of men,
Flaming in the pride of being and having been,
You will only know your eternity!

Because you will always know
That the deepest shadows
Bring forth light.

And throws a resonant voice
Even in this very place of torment
A vehement eulogy.

René Arcos, ‘The Blood of Others’, 1916
[English translation: Sardonique Schadenfreude Rictus / Dr. Bathybius, 2008]