Luxembourg 1939

This Luxembourg morning, this Luxembourg autumn,
As I walk back and forth upon my youth,
No strollers, no fountains, no boats in the water,
No children, no flowers.
Ah! September flowers and the sunburnt shouts of children
Defying the coming winter.
Now only two old fellows trying to play tennis.
This autumn morning without children—the children’s theater closed!
This Luxembourg where I no longer find my youth,
The years as fresh as cut grass.
Comrades, my dreams are vanquished in despair, are they not?
Here they fall like leaves with other leaves,
Older, mortally wounded, trampled, bitter with blood,
Gathered together for what common grave?

I no longer know this Luxembourg, those soldiers at attention.
They set up cannons to protect the Senators’ aimless retirement
They dig trenches under the bench where I learned about
The sweet budding of lips.
This sign, ah! yes, of dangerous youth! . . .
I watch the leaves fall into these false shelters, into graves
Into trenches where the blood of an entire generation flows
Europe is burying the nations’ leaven
And the hope of new races.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, “Luxembourg 1939” from The Collected Poems, translated by Melvin Dixon. Copyright © 1998 by The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia on behalf of the University of Virginia Press. Reprinted by permission of The University of Virginia Press.
Source: The Collected Poems (The University of Virginia Press, 1998)
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