Strange Arts & Visual Delights
Henry-Jacques (1886 - 1973) was many things--writer, sailor, French musicologist. I know him as the author of a book of poems on the First World War, La Symphonie Héroïque. Despite the laudatory comments in the French Wikipedia article (http://www.nosanscries.fr/poemes-henry-jacques-la-symphonie-heroique/), he does not appear to be well known in France or elsewhere. I have translated or adapted a number of his poems, including "Complaint," a poem that reminds me of Thomas Hardy's Satires of Circumstance:
The two of them were combat pals,
together surviving gas and shell.
The first deceived himself with love,
It’s all the boy could ever talk of.
Life had beat the second down
like an old dog, hope dead and gone.
Before they left for the attack,
The first said, If I don’t come back,
Swear to me you’ll tell my lover
My dying thoughts were all of her.
The second man, sure he would die
Instead, promised offhand-like.
But on that day of fear and murder
The bitch death took the loving soldier,
And the other soldier, his heart torn,
Remembering what he had sworn
And full of grief, without leave ran
Pushed by death to find the woman.
She looked him over, laughed, and said,
I’ve taken a new man to my bed.
Sadder and sadder, the poor old boy
Walked to the grave and, speaking low,
So’s not to wake his buddy crying,
Said, You did a good job dying.
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