René Char Leaves France, 1944

—Southern France

The captive springtime moves on espadrilles
among mimosas flaming into bloom,
their coral lamps illumined through the hills,
investing the Vaucluse with their perfume.

With others, René Char awaits the news
from England, knowing that the final fight
is coming. Orders meanwhile. To refuse
all compromise has been his word. Tonight

he’s flying out for Africa, above
the olive groves and lemon-scented earth
to which his acts are rooted, as in love
inscribing him, beyond the fact of birth,

by poetry and sacrifice for France.
He leaves in secrecy: no fanfares yet;
but down the darkened slopes of the Durance,
where stealthily the shadows cast their net,

his men have lighted fires in farewell,
whose constellations shine along his route
as brilliant sea-marks in the mistral’s swell—
each star fraternal and a last salute.

From The Muscled Truce, Catharine Savage Brosman, LSU Press © 2003. Used with the permission of the author.