Two poems by Paul Granier translated by Ian Higgins

TWO POEMS BY PAUL GRANIER from Cockerels and Vultures

The Andante

The rain, endlessly unravelling;

the rain, shovelling at the mud the whole sullen day;

the rain, unendingly sobbing its toneless chords;

and the whispering wind, crumbling the cloud into drizzle . . .

Why, this evening, am I haunted so

by that majestic andante

from the Seventh Symphony?

Its chords, as magnificently simple

as the triumphal arches of the ancients,

hold me in a vast enchantment.

Its harmony is velvet to my soul,

its murmur a caress that soothes

the melancholy as we pick our way

along the bank of this canal.

The rain has never stopped . . .

The mud is all long, snaking rivulets of agate

and clouded onyx, chopped into splashes

with every drawn-out hoof-fall of my horse.

The rain has never stopped, the whole lead-blue day.

The andante

gently eases my resentment

with its divine serenity . . .

Ah, those Sundays, not two years ago —

the Sunday afternoons,

the lamp-lit hall,

the huge orchestra a single mind and spirit

in every flying bow-tip:

The miraculous fluid

a fountain spreading up to the galleries, then

falling like snowflakes onto souls laid bare,

like springtime sunlight through stained glass

on a girl’s communion veil.

The andante,

the andante is gentle, with a touch of sadness,

like an autumn evening over ponds,

or the voix céleste of an organ;

and my chrysalid soul

weaves itself a wonderful cocoon

from this aching blessedness,

on the purple silk weft of the rain.

Paul Granier, Chauvoncourt road. 1915, translated by Ian Higgins.

 

The Mortars

Juddering iron buckets clanging,

jerking deadweight chains clanking,

the thunderlumbering caravan

labours on, along the baking roads and tracks,

all thunderous crash and clash.

The straining, weary horses

ponderingly nod,

as though to doubt

their onward slog will ever end . . .

Wheels as thick as millstones

mill the crunching road.

And in towns and villages along the way

thunderstruck groups watch

the deadweight cortege of death grind past,

the squat carriages, bolt-stubbled muscles bulging,

and, mute, menacing, brutal,

the black barrels, muzzled and bound like lunatics.

Paul Granier, 1914, translated by Ian Higgins.

Review of Cockerels and Vultures by Paul Granier

FROM AN REVIEW IN GUILD OF BATTLEFIELD GUIDES MAGAZINE

“By 1914 French poetry had come much further along the path of modernism than British poetry. Where many of the British combatant war poets struggled at first to find the language and forms through which to convey their experience of modern industrial warfare, a young poet like Granier could employ a rhythmic free verse with ease and animate his battle scenes and war-torn landscapes with bold original imagery.

These are the poems of a Frenchman in another sense too: they vividly depict a landscape and culture that have been destroyed and their mood varies from pathos to horror as Granier observes processions of refugees, abandoned dogs, burnt-out hamlets and wrecked churches. There is a demonic power in the forces of war that shatter nature and a deadly calm in the war-torn landscapes that result.

They are also the poems of a soldier and an artilleryman. The big guns are portrayed animalistically, in dramatic but fine detail, as they blunder through tiny villages at night, a ‘deadweight cortege of death’ (‘The Mortars’), or in battle ‘rear their black necks like snakes striking,/Spewing

hatred by the mouthful’ (‘The Battle’). And yet, as they ‘stop for breath’, the battle over, the poet cannot refrain from ‘lovingly, gently’ patting ‘the weary guns’. In ‘The Fort’, the determination with which Fort Troyon at Verdun was held in September 1914 is celebrated. The paradoxes of war are here, as well as all its deadly and surreal power.”   -  Vivien Whelpton.

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Paul Granier, 1917. Believed to be the last photograph taken of him. Used by permission of the Albert-Paul Granier Estate.

The discovery of Granier – major French poet of the First World War

The discovery of a major poet of the First World War

Cockerels and Vultures is a book for everyone interested in the poetry of the First World War.

More information below.

Fr cov B 6 8 13

Cockerels and Vultures

The discovery of a major poet of the First World WarThe chance finding of a 90-year-old slim and musty little volume of poetry at a jumble sale in France led to the discovery of a major poet of the First World War. For almost 90 years Albert-Paul Granier was unknown in his own country. The poetry was a revelation to the finder. Granier was soon republished in France and astonished French readers. Granier stands comparison with the best of British war poets.
Now English-speaking readers can encounter this exceptional talent through Ian Higgins’ fine translation.
Cockerels and Vultures is a book for everyone interested in the poetry of the First World War.
Published January 2014 by Saxon Books in paperback at £9-95.
ISBN 978-0-9528969-7-5

Albert-Paul Granier

Albert-Paul Granier was born in 1888 in Le Croisic, on the Atlantic coast of Brittany. He was a talented sportsman, musician and poet. He qualified as a solicitor, but, from 1911 to 1913, he was required by compulsory national service to serve in the army, where he trained as an artillery officer. He was recalled to the army in August 1914 and served on the Western Front. He became an airborne artillery observer and was shot down and killed over the battlefields of Verdun on 17 August 1917. His volume of war poetry, Les Coqs et les Vautours, had just been published in Paris. It was singled out for praise by the Académie Française in 1918 before falling, unaccountably, into obscurity.

The Translator, Ian Higgins

Since the dramatic rediscovery of Albert-Paul Granier the translator, Ian Higgins, has been in close contact with the poet’s surviving relatives, and is uniquely placed to introduce this remarkable writer to English-speaking readers.

FROM A REVIEW IN GUILD OF BATTLEFIELD GUIDES MAGAZINE

Cockerels and Vultures by Paul Granier, Translated by Ian Higgins, Published by Saxon Books
“By 1914 French poetry had come much further along the path of modernism than British poetry. Where many of the British combatant war poets struggled at first to find the language and forms through which to convey their experience of modern industrial warfare, a young poet like Granier could employ a rhythmic free verse with ease and animate his battle scenes and war-torn landscapes with bold original imagery.

These are the poems of a Frenchman in another sense too: they vividly depict a landscape and culture that have been destroyed and their mood varies from pathos to horror as Granier observes processions of refugees, abandoned dogs, burnt-out hamlets and wrecked churches. There is a demonic power in the forces of war that shatter nature and a deadly calm in the war-torn landscapes that result.

They are also the poems of a soldier and an artilleryman. The big guns are portrayed animalistically, in dramatic but fine detail, as they blunder through tiny villages at night, a ‘deadweight cortege of death’ (‘The Mortars’), or in battle ‘rear their black necks like snakes striking,/Spewing

hatred by the mouthful’ (‘The Battle’). And yet, as they ‘stop for breath’, the battle over, the poet cannot refrain from ‘lovingly, gently’ patting ‘the weary guns’. In ‘The Fort’, the determination with which Fort Troyon at Verdun was held in September 1914 is celebrated. The paradoxes of war are here, as well as all its deadly and surreal power.” – Vivien Whelpton.

Exceptional French War Poet

FrenchPoetFirst WorldWarWEBa

Almost Unknown French War Poet

He died in 1917 at Verdun. Wrote war poetry of exceptional quality. Was praised by The Académie Francaise. Was forgotten for ninety years, unknown even in France . . .  but at last you can read his poems in English.

22 November 2013

NOW PUBLISHED by Saxon Books (January 2014):  Cockerels and Vultures (French Poetry of the First World War) translated into English by Ian Higgins

For more information about the book and its author, plus two of Granier’s poems click here.

Fr cov B 6 8 13

Published by Saxon Books at £9-95

More about Cockerels and Vultures and purchasing information.