The Little Car

Guillaume Apollinaire

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The 31st day of August 1914

I left Deauville a little before midnight

In Rouveyre’s little car

 

Counting his driver there were three of us

 

We said good-bye to an entire epoch

Furious giants were rising over Europe

Eagles were leaving their aeries expecting the sun

Voracious fish were rising from the depths

Populations were rushing to know each other intimately

The dead were trembling with fear in their dark dwellings

 

The dogs were barking toward over there where the frontier is

I went bearing within me all those armies fighting

I felt them rise up in me and spread out over the countries they wound through

With the forests the happy villages of Belgium

Francorchamps with l’Eau Rouge and the mineral springs

Region the invasions always come through

Railway arteries where those who were going off to die

Saluted one last time this colorful life

Deep oceans where monsters were moving

In old shipwrecked hulks

Unimaginable heights where men fight

Higher than the eagle soars

There men fight men

And suddenly fall like shooting stars

I felt in myself new and totally capable beings

Build and organize a new universe

A merchant of amazing opulence and astounding size

Was laying out an extraordinary display

And gigantic shepherds were leading

Great silent flocks that were grazing on words

With every dog on the road barking at them

 

I'll never forget that night trip when none of us said a single word

 

O

dark

departure

when our

three head

lights were

d y i n g

O

ten

der

pre-

war

night

O

vil

lages

with

h i n g  t h e  r u s

 

BLACKSMITHS ORDERED TO GO

BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND ONE IN THE MORNING

 

o

v  e  r

t o  LISIEUX

the  very

b l u

e

 

or to

 

o

v  e  r

s  a  i  l  l  e

s  the  go

l d

 

and we stopped 3 times to change a tire that had blown out

 

And when having passed that afternoon

Through Fontainbleau

We arrived in Paris

Just as the mobilization posters were going up

 

We understood my buddy and I

That the little car had taken us into a New epoch

And although we were both grown men

We had just been born

Guillaume Apollinaire, "The Little Car," from Zone: Selected Poems. English Translation Copyright © 2015 by Ron Padgett. Reprinted by permission of New York Review Books.
Source: Zone: Selected Poems (New York Review Books, 2015)