We watch, he and I,
from the cold leaky garret,
the bright snapping flashes
of the blue and red flags
broad slashes along that glad, silent rue.
‘I am not,’ he whispers, ‘a fool, but a madman,
searching for what it fells like as I see it.
And if I have taken more than I have given
than that is poor payment for the pleasure…
but still, it is all that I was given
and is what I have given back to you.’
It should be enough, I think,
and a moment later, again, it should,
but now I am not so sure—it seems
I am never sure about anything anymore.
Below me the blue and red gashes
bleed black like a cacophony of clashes
all along that sad, silent rue.
I look, I hear, I listen;
I remember, I look, I listen;
à Dieu, mon ami, à Dieu!
This is the painting referred to in the post. It is one of several Impressionistic paintings that fueled my love for that school of art in particular and painting in general.
“Bastille Day” by Claude Monet. A painting of Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878.
Luckily, I was able to see the original the last time I was in Paris. Surprisingly, it was not at the Monet family legacy museum, the Marmottan-Monet house. In fact, we found it quite by accident at (I think, the details are somewhat hazy now) the Orangerie Museum, a delightful spot that I highly recommend—after, of course, one has spent the obligatory time at the incredible Musee d’Orsay.
I should point out that English speaking people generally translate ‘adieu’ (the more common, modern spelling) as simply ‘goodbye’ or ‘farewell.’ In French it is much more nuanced than this. It means, literally, ‘to God’ and has a much greater sense of finalism and formality to it, and betokens death or complete separation, often as a result of staunch honor or sacrifice. In other words, ‘my fate is with God; it is in the Hands of the Almighty when next we shall meet again.’
Thank you for reading À Dieu. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.
© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.