Poems from the left

Poems by some of the writers and revolutionaries who appear in Left in Paris

Louis Aragon, Written in February 1943, first published March 11 1943

The Rose and the Reseda

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
Both loved the beauty
Imprisoned by soldiers
Which climbed the ladder?
And which stood guard below?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t?
What matters the name of
This light on their steps?
that one was of the church
And the other baulked from it?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t?
Both were faithful
with their lips, heart, arms
And both said that she will
live, time will tell

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
When the wheat is under the hail
Fool who is fussy
Fool who think of his little quarrels
In the heart of the common combat?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
From the height of the citadel
The sentinel shot
Twice and one staggers
the other falls who will die?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t?
They are in prison
Who has the sadest pallet
Who freezes more then the other
Who prefers the rats?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t?
A rebel is a rebel
Two sobs make a single knell
And when the cruel dawn arrives
They pass on

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
Repeating the name of the beauty
Neither of the two betrayed
And their blood runs red
Same colour same vividness

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
It runs, and runs, and mingles
Into the earth it loved
So in the new season
Muscat grapes would ripen

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
One runs and the other flies
From Brittany or Jura
And raspberries or plums
Crickets will sing again
Flute or cello, tell the story of
This double love that burnt
The lark and the swallow
The rose and the reseda

The Rose and the Reseda read by Louis Aragon

Pierre-Jean de BĂ©ranger, 1839

The Old Tramp (LE VIEUX VAGABOND)

      Here in this gutter let me die:
        Weary and sick and old, I’ve done.
      “He’s drunk,” will say the passers-by:
        All right, I want no pity–none.
      I see the heads that turn away,
        While others glance and toss me sous:
      “Off to your junket! go!” I say:
    Old tramp,–to die I need no help from you.

      Yes, of old age I’m dying now:
        Of hunger people never die.
      I hoped some almshouse might allow
        A shelter when my end was nigh;
      But all retreats are overflowed,
        Such crowds are suffering and forlorn.
      My nurse, alas! has been the road:
    Old tramp,–here let me die where I was born.

      When young, it used to be my prayer
        To craftsmen, “Let me learn your trade.”
      “Clear out–we’ve got no work to spare;
        Go beg,” was all reply they made.
      You rich, who bade me work, I’ve fed
        With relish on the bones you threw;
      Made of your straw an easy bed:
    Old tramp,–I have no curse to vent on you.

      Poor wretch, I had the choice to steal;
        But no, I’d rather beg my bread.
      At most I thieved a wayside meal
        Of apples ripening overhead.
      Yet twenty times have I been thrown
        In prison–’twas the King’s decree;
      Robbed of the only thing I own:
    Old tramp,–at least the sun belongs to me.

      The poor man–is a country his?
        What are to me your corn and wine,
      Your glory and your industries,
        Your orators? They are not mine.
      And when a foreign foe waxed fat
        Within your undefended walls,
      I shed my tears, poor fool, at that:
    Old tramp,–his hand was open to my calls.

      Why, like the hateful bug you kill,
        Did you not crush me when you could?

      Or better, teach me ways and skill
        To labor for the common good?

      The ugly grub an ant may end,
        If sheltered from the cold and fed.

      You might have had me for a friend:
    Old tramp,–I die your enemy instead.