The Little Car


On the 31st day of August in the year 1914
I left Deauville shortly before midnight
In Rouveyre's little car

Including his chauffeur there were three of us

We said goodbye to a whole epoch
Furious giants were looming over Europe
The eagles were leaving their eyries expecting the sun
Voracious fishes were swimming up from the abysses
Nations were rushing together to know each other through and through
The dead were trembling with fear in their dark dwellings

The dogs were barking in the direction of the frontiers
As I went I carried within me all the armies that were fighting
I felt them rising within me and spreading out over the regions through which their columns
     wound
With the forests the happy villages of Belgium
Francorchamps and Eau Rouge and the pouhons
A region through which invasions are always taking place
And the railway arteries along which those who were going away to die
Saluted one more time a life full of colours
The deep oceans where monsters were stirring
In old carcasses of wrecks
The unimaginable heights where men fight
Higher than the eagle soars
Man fights there against man
And falls suddenly like a shooting star
I felt within me new beings full of dexterity
Building a new universe and running it as well
A merchant of unheard-of-opulence and of prodigious stature
Was setting out an extraordinary display of stock
And gigantic shepherds were driving forward
Great dumb flocks grazing on words as they went
And at them barked all the dogs along the road

I shall never
                  forget this journey by night during which none
                                                                                       of us said a word
      O
      dark                    O                                                                       u
      departure              tender                     O                                    h    r
      when our 3            night of                   vil       towards which    d        r
      headlights failed     before the war        lages                                e    i
      B L A C K S M I T H S  R E C A L L E D

                                                                                                    E M O R N I N G
      B E T W E E N  M I D N I G H T  A N D  O N E  I N  T H
                           n                                                     V
                     e    a    r                                            e r s a
                   L i s i e u x                  or else              illes the
                     the very                                             g o l d
                        blue                                                   en

                                                                                               r s t  t y r e
a n d  3  t i m e s  w e  h a d  t o  s t o p  t o  c h a n g e  a  b u

And when having passed through Fountainbleau
During the afternoon
We got to Paris
At the moment at which the mobilization posters were going up
We understood my comrade and I
That the little car had brought us into a
New age
And that although we were both already fully grown men
We had nevertheless just been born


                                                                             French; trans. Oliver Bernard


Guillaume Apollinaire, French, trans. Oliver Bernard, Selected Poems: Apollinaire.