“Je reste roi de mes douleurs.”

“Je reste roi de mes douleurs.”

zhuh ray-stuh rwah duh may doo-LUHR. Click below to hear this.*

“I remain king of my sorrows.”

Pop quiz, answer number 3!

So goes the haunting refrain in a beautiful poem by Louis Aragon, written in 1940. It echoes a line from Shakespeare’s play Richard II (Act IV, scene 1), in which the deposed king surrenders his throne but holds to his right to grieve over his losses. You can find the scene here. Aragon makes a near-quote of these lines:

HENRY BOLINGBROKE: I thought you had been willing to resign.

KING RICHARD II: My crown I am; but still my griefs are mine:
You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs; still am I king of those.

Aragon, in his poem, refers to the defeat of France by Nazi Germany, in May-June 1940, likening his heartbreak to Richard’s. It’s a rich and evocative piece, which warrants much more than the few words I can give it here. I think I will come back to it one of these days.

In the meantime, here’s the complete text of the poem. See those pencil scribbles all over the pages? They are from the very thorough college class I had on 20th-century poetry:

And if you want to hear Louis Aragon himself reading this poem, you can buy an MP3 on Amazon.com for a mere US $0.89. Link here.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

je_reste_roi_de_mes_douleurs1.mp3

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