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The Rose and the Mignonette

 

For Gabriel Péri and d’Estiennes d’Orves,
as well as Guy Moquet and Gilbert Dru

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
Both loved a beauty
Imprisoned by soldiers

Which climbed the ladder?
Which stood guard below?
The one who believed in heaven?
The one who didn’t?

What matters the name of
This light that clarified their steps?
What matters that one went to church
And the other rejected it?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
Both had faith
In their lips, hearts, arms

And both vowed that she
Must survive, no matter their fate
The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t

When the wheat is under the hail
Who but a fool would
Quibble and
Think of his little quarrels
In the middle of common combat?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
From the height of the citadel
The sentinel shoots twice

One staggers
The other falls
The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t

Now in prison
Which gets the worse cot
Which freezes more
Which likes the rats more?

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
A rebel is a rebel
Two tears, a single knell

And at the cruel dawn
They pass from life to death
The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t

Repeating the name of the beauty
Neither of the two betrayed
Their blood running red
The same bright red

The one who believed in heaven
The one who didn’t
It runs, and runs, and mingles
Into its beloved land

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 in raspberries or plums
Crickets will sing again

Flute or cello, tell the story of
This burning double love
The lark and the swallow
The rose and the mignonette


Louis Aragon (1897 — 1982) was a member of the Communist Party (from 1930 till his death), as well as a poet, novelist, and essayist.  This poem, “La Rose et le Réséda,” was first published in 1943.  Aragon added the dedication to four resistance fighters, two of whom were Communists and the other two were Christians, in 1944.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).




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